Are Arsenal destined for fourth or is the meme a myth?

Ahead of Arsenal v Bournemouth LIVE on SBS we take a look at a popular running joke on social media - Arsenal and fourth - but is there any actual truth behind it or is the meme all a myth?

Andrey Arshavin

Andrey Arshavin celebrates scoring his Arsenal's and his fourth goal during the Premier League match aginst Liverpool at Anfield on April 21, 2009 Source: Getty Images

The internet has allowed people all over the world to be connected and communicate at a near-inconceivable speed. 

And what do so many people use this incredible technological advancement for? Making fun of Arsenal.

On Monday morning (AEDT) Olivier Giroud produced an incredible moment of brilliance to finish off a wonderful team-move to give the Gunners the lead over Crystal Palace.

It's goals like this that make people's jaws drop, that make strangers hug one another, that make young children fall in love with the game. 

But because of the age we live in there is no way we could allow a moment of magic to be universally celebrated - undercutting other people's joy for the purpose of 're-tweets' and 'likes' is just too tempting.  

Arsenal and fourth is a running joke that goes through a cycle of being funny, then over-done, then funny, then over-done again. Probably about 25 per cent of the time it's actually funny - or you know, a fourth of the time. 

And it's only really going to be funny if it's based on some kind of truth. So let's crunch the numbers from this season.

Arsenal are currently in fourth position, on 40 points, on the Premier League table. Hard to argue with that, but let's look a little deeper.

Fourth best goal difference: Arsenal
Fourth most wins: Arsenal
Fourth most touches: Arsenal
Fourth most passes: Arsenal
Fourth most assists: Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal)
Fourth most own-goals: Arsenal (equal)
Since Patrick Vieira left 2005 Arsenal have finished fourth six times in 11 seasons. How many times have they finished third? Four. 

You know how modern clubs want a top-down approach to youth development? Where the first team's tactical structure is replicated in every youth team under the club's umbrella. 

Well guess where Arsenal's under-18 side are placed? It's fifth actually. But should they win just one of their two matches in hand they'll move up to fourth. 

If you look at the 2016 Premier League table - which combines the second half of the last season and the first half of this season - Arsenal are, of course, fourth. 

This consistency is incredible and should be respected. But while shareholders are no doubt delighted with how the club is so steadily run, fans continue to be frustrated - and in the case of Arsenal FanTV on the verge of a mental breakdown. [LANGUAGE WARNING]

Since 2005, when the Invincibles were broken up, Arsenal have never had a significant drop in a season like Chelsea and Manchester United have, but they also haven't been able to win the title like those sides have - repeatedly. 

Arsenal fans will argue that in 13 out of 20 seasons under Arsene Wenger they finished in the top three. But these jokes are a much more recent phenomenon and the evidence becomes hard to argue with. 

Will this season be different? It seems unlikely. 

Economics professor and author of the best-seller Soccernomics, found that ""

Arsenal have the fourth biggest wage bill this season. Every now and again a team will find a way to upset this balance - see Leicester last season - but it doesn't usually last - see Leicester this season - and the Gunners who are so consistent seem so unlikely to produce something so inconsistent.

Tomorrow morning - LIVE, FREE and in HD on SBS - Arsenal go away to Bournemouth, a side they have played - sorry, Gunners fans - four times previously.

They've won all four matches too, and they're favourites heading into the game - but Bournemouth have produced upsets this season including a (reference to four unintended) 4-3 victory over Liverpool. 

Australians Adam Federici and Brad Smith could, although are unlikely to, feature against the Gunners who are likely to be without star playmaker Mesut Ozil. 

Arsenal fans desire more than fourth, a win tomorrow would actually put them in third, but given Tottenham and Manchester United are both just one point behind, the Gunners should be careful what they wish four for.

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4 min read
Published 3 January 2017 at 1:12pm
By Nick Stoll