The F365 Bantercomputer has spoken: Glory for Arsenal as Newcastle *and* Man Utd miss out on top four

·8-min read
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard celebrates his goal Credit: Alamy
Arsenal captain Martin Odegaard celebrates his goal Credit: Alamy

Regular Mediawatchers will know that here at F365 we’re enormously fond of the ol’ Supercomputer and its assorted football predictions. Sometimes those predictions are plain nutty. Other times they are so prosaically obvious that you wonder why anyone would even bother.

And sometimes they’re not actually from a Supercomputer at all, but just some poor sod in a bookmaker’s press office trying to dress up a list of odds as something exciting and profound.

Our own Supercomputer is much better. It asks not ‘What will happen, then?’ but instead takes as its starting point ‘What would be the funniest outcome from here?’ The F365 Bantercomputer had a go at the relegation battle a month or so ago, concocting a borderline-plausible scenario in which the bottom nine all ended level on 38 points. Reality has, as it so often must, sadly now kicked that one right in the bollocks.

But we go again. With Liverpool resurgent, Arsenal proudly displaying their gigantic non-bottled cojones, Newcastle and Manchester United wobbling, and Tottenham being Tottenham, we consider what is the funniest way for the top eight picture to resolve itself over the remaining weeks of the season.

And the answer is this. We will be taking no further questions.


1) Arsenal
Now: 2nd, P35 W25 D6 L4 Pts 81

Showed some big old balls at Newcastle and now there is just the tiniest chance that Arsenal, having bottled the league like great big bottlers – twice – could yet ram a hundred thousand Lucozade-based TikToks and a million Twitter memes right back down everyone’s throats by actually winning the league. You have to admit it would be funny, even if you think it would be dreadful.

They’ll pretty much definitely have to win all three remaining games (as well as hoping for not one but two favours from City as outlined below) but the performance at Newcastle showed the way. Brighton – even at the Emirates – is obviously no gimme but if you can out-shithouse Newcastle then Brighton shouldn’t be a problem. Nottingham Forest did draw with City earlier in the season – which is now very important to our simulation but doesn’t mean they’re about to repeat the trick against Arsenal. Then it’s Wolves on the final day with a win needed to pinch the title. We’re thinking 97th-minute winner, we’re thinking Martin OdegAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRDDDDDD, we’re thinking you’ll never see anything like this ever again.

Final: P38 W28 D6 L4 Pts 90


2) Manchester City
Now: 1st, P34 W26 D4 L4 Pts 82

Now we are going to be asking you to accept a few things that might be considered a stretch and arguably none bigger than the idea of Manchester City in their current pomp dropping points in two of their last four games. But they’ve not been entirely convincing in beating either Fulham or Leeds recently and now have a couple of quite important games against Real Madrid by way of distraction. It won’t stop them beating Everton, obviously, but former City legend Frank Lampard puts a spanner in the works of his beloved former club by leading his plucky £600m band of Chelsea underdogs – now so bravely free of the threat of relegation – to a stubborn draw at the Etihad.

A stressed-out defeat at top-four-chasing Brighton duly follows and a final-day win at Brentford cannot deliver the Aguero moment.

Final: P38 W28 D5 L5 Pts 89


3) Liverpool
Now: 5th, P35 W18 D8 L9 Pts 62

This is actually the easiest one of the lot. Having been mostly and often inexplicably bad, Liverpool are now once again good and beating pretty much everyone. The insistence on doing so only by a single-goal margin is a curious choice, but one we enjoy. Three more one-goal wins await against Leicester, Villa and a long-doomed Southampton to send Liverpool scurrying all the way up to third. That does admittedly require other teams to do some things that are a bit less likely, but still. They were eighth a month ago.

Final: P38 W21 D8 L9 Pts 71


4) Brighton
Now: 7th, P33 W16 D7 L10 Pts 55

Okay, full disclosure. The first draft of this was written before the Everton game and we don’t mind admitting we kind of thought they would probably win that one, rather than losing it 5-1. But the beauty of a bantercomputer set-up where you work backwards from the outcome you’ve already decided you want is that you can still make it work.

In both our make-believe universe and the real one (again, we originally had ‘boring’ in here, but 21 goals in a three-game Barclays Bank Holiday can make anyone reassess), Brighton’s influence is going to be keenly felt at both ends of the table. Defeat to Everton reshaped the whole relegation picture while Brighton still have the chance to bounce back and derail Arsenal’s title bid once and for all at the weekend (which for our purposes it’s obviously vital they don’t achieve) before making their mark on Newcastle’s top-four hopes, Southampton’s admittedly minuscule survival chances, City’s title dream and Villa’s Europa Conference ambitions.

And after losing to Arsenal they’re going to plop all over that lot of them like actual Seagulls, pipping Manchester United to fourth on goal difference. Maybe it’s what United need to learn their lesson and stop losing 7-0 and such. Brighton are going to be in the Champions League, and that’s all there is to it.

Final: P38 W20 D7 L11 Pts 67

Brighton hammer West Ham Credit: Alamy
Brighton hammer West Ham Credit: Alamy

5) Manchester United
Current: P34 W19 D6 L9 Pts 63

United will beat Wolves this weekend but then stumble to a draw at Bournemouth thanks to a costly last-minute equaliser conceded when a 45-yard throughball beats the hologram of David De Gea’s right glove to find the bottom corner. That result turns a home game against Chelsea into a must-win affair, but United lose it 2-0, the first goal coming as a result of a slip from Harry Maguire. They then lose to Fulham on the final day because needs must and that is again, full disclosure, a result that was not in the first draft.

Fifth is definitely better than sixth, though, so United are still able to point to meaningful and significant progress under Erik Ten Hag before losing the FA Cup final 8-2 against Manchester City, who also win the Champions League. Despairing United fans are duly forced to spend the rest of their days thanking Actual Arsenal for preserving the uniqueness of the 1999 Treble. Many conclude this is in fact worse than the alternative.

Final: P38 W20 D7 L11 Pts 67


6) Newcastle
Current: P34 W18 D11 L5 Pts 65

If you find yourself getting thoroughly shithoused by Arsenal, the last thing you need is a trip to Sam Allardyce’s Leeds at Elland Road. We would say Big Sam will have been given plenty of ideas by Arsenal’s approach at St James’ Park, but it’s frankly an insult to the great man to imagine he needed any such outside help. That one’s a huge win for Leeds in their battle to beat the drop and more importantly earn Allardyce a cool £2.5m for keeping them up. When oh when will English managers get opportunities, eh?

After that, defeat to Brighton is but an inevitability as the top-four terrors truly kick in and a high-scoring loss as Leicester decide to actually make a last-gasp bid to not get relegated duly follows. Finally, Frank Lampard signs off from his glorious interim spell as Chelsea manager with a draw against Newcastle that condemns the Magpies to the Europa League. Entire football media landscape spends five minutes pretending we’re all absolutely gutted that Everyone’s Second Club And The Acceptable Face Of Sportswashing won’t be going to the Big Dance after all then instantly pivots to insisting Lampard should get Eddie Howe’s job.

Final: P38 W18 D12 L8 Pts 66


7) Tottenham
Now: 6th, P35 W17 D6 L12 Pts 57

Predictable defeat at Aston Villa rekindles hopes that Spurs can dodge the Poisoned Europa Conference Chalice, but Ryan Mason remains determined to make his point and closes out the season with wins over a beach-bound Brentford and a deliriously safe Leeds, whose manager is far too busy counting out his bounty to worry about the final day. It’s off to the Conference for Spurs as they try to emulate West Ham’s achievement in winning it while spinning on their cocks. Spurs will, of course, go out in the group stage. Their final total of 63 points also feels like the precise points total Spurs get every single season, but would in fact represent their first exactly 63-point season since 1989/90, when that total was somehow enough to take a Gascoigne-and-Lineker-inspired team all the way to third.

Final: P38 W19 D6 L13 Pts 63


8) Aston Villa
Now: 8th, P35 W16 D6 L13 Pts 54

Victory over Tottenham inspires renewed hope that Unai Emery’s resurgent side could be headed for Europe after all, but alas Villa are necessary fall guys in our story because their two other remaining games are against Liverpool and Brighton, whose needs are – for our purposes at least – greater. Also, Liverpool and Brighton will probably beat them anyway even if it wasn’t the banter outcome. It’s a bit disappointing, but we’ve weighed it up and also decided that Spurs being in the Conference again is actually funnier than them not being in Europe at all, so that’s that unfortunately. Next season, though. That could be a great one for Villa. We’re all looking forward to that one. Especially when Emery gets sacked after winning just one of his first 14 games because football is just fundamentally an awful bastard that hates hope.

Final: P38 W17 D6 L15 Pts 57

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