The Math is Getting Tricky
Let’s face it, if we want to make the champions league at this point we’re probably counting on winning it this season or a total Aston Villa collapse. And if that collapse is coming, any signs of it tomorrow would be most welcome. Unless that happens, we should be eight points out of fourth place by tomorrow evening and drifting closer to fifth than fourth.
Interestingly, I don’t think today’s game was shameful. We created chances, and as a result of our aggressive play, there were chances for Fulham at the other end. Arsene started an attack minded squad and it was another case of failure to take chances. Realistically, the Roma game was actually more of the same from Arsenal rather than the respite we all took it for. We didn’t score from open play in that game. And we haven’t done so in the league for over a month. Unlike earlier matches this season where we failed to carve out meaningful chances, they have been there the last few weeks. What’s been missing is the finishing touch. Van Persie has come off the boil since his January hot streak and without Eduardo or Adebayor up front, there’s no one to really pick up the slack. Arshavin looks like he can be something special, but realistically he needs time to assimilate.
I’m not worried by some of the openings in the defense today. We were never going to be the best defensive side in the league. But if we don’t find our shooting boots soon, it’s Uefa Cup for us.
Around the league today we saw more of the topsy turvy stuff that’s made this installment of the EPL so perplexing. It’s not just Arsenal struggling against the perennial also rans. Liverpool lost 2-0 away to a Middlesborough side that really should have done the double over them but let the first game slip through there fingers. Chelsea were moments from a draw with Wigan but were saved by Lampard. So we must keep perspective. Fulham, Sunderland and even West Ham are not punching bags this season and when they play the compact stuff we’ve seen, it’s not completely fair to villify Arsenal for failing to break them down. Other top sides have similarly struggled.
Here’s an interesting reality now. We are getting some world class players back in the side in the next three weeks. We will undoubtedly be a better side by leaps and bounds. By that time, however, it may be too late to salvage a top four league campaign. But with Fabregas, Walcott, Adebayor, Eduardo and possibly Rosicky back, it may not be too much to suggest that we can challenge for the Champions League title this season. It will be the sole chance at redemption for many of these players and could pose the kind of challenge they need to perform at their best. Remember, if it weren’t for one horrendous penalty non-call, or one horrendous penalty that was called, we would have been in the semifinals last season. Ironically, it’s not too much to suggest that Arsenal could finish fifth or sixth in the league this season while winning the FA Cup and Champions League. (Leave me alone I’m in my happy place right now.) What a bizarre twist it would be. And I would feel just terrible for Aston Villa if that were to happen…
But the league is not a forgone conclusion just yet. I think O’Neil’s side is weakening under the pressure and the weight of a long season for many of his players. (Most of whom start every game.) There will be some openings for us down the stretch and our chance at the top four will likely come down to our performances in the games against Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United. Realistically, anything less than six or seven points from nine, probably ruins us.
I’m not completely distraught just yet. Once the goals start coming, we could be a tough team to face down the stretch.
Until tomorrow…Come on Stoke! (gulp.)