The Premier League is all sewn up. Another title for Manchester United, their noisy neighbours will finish second, and there’s only one relegation more spot up for grabs.
So the real battle is for 3rd and 4th places, and qualification for next season’s Champions League. And this year it’s tighter than ever, as three bitter London rivals, that have only William Gallas in common, fight over two spots. Arsenal 63 points, Chelsea 62, and Tottenham 61. The last two have a game in hand, but it’s between each other.
So here is the view from each camp; impartial as always of course.
Last Sunday’s results in the League were bittersweet for Arsenal supporters. The miraculous comeback by our ‘friends’ up the road versus Man City, closed the 5 point gap down to 2, but ensured that a United win over Villa meant there was no risk of ‘Campeones’ being chanted on The Emirates this Sunday. No big club ever wants a rival clinching the title on their ground, just as the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ did at White Hart Lane on Anzac Day 2004. Instead, we’ll just have to politely form a guard of honour, and then the crowd can focus on relentlessly booing a certain grey haired Dutchman’s every touch. The late ‘events’ (one way to put it) at Anfield also ensured Chelsea remained 1 point behind in 4th.
Manchester United (H): With the title clinched and Rio Ferdinand’s twitter pics of their party celebrations firmly in mind, I hope this is a perfect time to play United and nab, admittedly, a rare win over them. Although, the fact they can still beat Chelsea’s record points total (95) under Mourinho, means they still have something to play for. The 3 game suspension of Giroud could prove an issue, with little depth in the ‘pure’ striking position. I will take a draw at least, meaning 3 wins from the final 3 a must.
Queens Park Rangers (A): It’s pretty much all over for QPR, and if that isn’t confirmed this weekend in the cellar dweller match versus Reading, then Gooners will delight in relegating ‘Arry at Loftus Road. Expect a big win, with QPR players busy focussing on how to escape from their contracts.
Wigan (H): Another side that could already be relegated, although Wigan do usually perform miracles at this time of year. At home for the last time, I expect us to be too strong and bank another 3 points.
Newcastle (A): A tricky final day away fixture. Especially if they are sucked back into the relegation battle by Wigan. Hopefully, they are safe, and the entire squad are already looking forward to returning home for a summer on the French Riviera. Arsenal have averaged 3 goals versus Newcastle in their past 10 fixtures and scored 7 the last time they played. Another win, in a close one.
That’s 10 points out of our remaining fixtures and would see us end up on 73 points. Hopefully, enough for 3rd or 4th, and delivering Wenger another coveted Top 4 ‘Trophy’.
One word sums up Chelsea’s end of season run: Congestion.
Five League games and at least 2 Europa League games (including an away trip to Basel and possibly another to Amsterdam) in little over 3 weeks make for a finish tighter than the proverbial fishes bum with 2 stitches, in which everyone must contribute.
Luckily, everyone bar Romeu, seems fit with Cole and Cahill back from injury; although concern still hangs over Brana as to whether Eva was able to administer the rabies jabs in time after Suarez took the Rogers directive to play with more hunger a little too literally on Sunday.
Looking at the League run-in, Chelsea look to have the toughest task: 3 out of 5 games are against top 6 teams, compared to Spuds and the Gooners who each have 1 game vs top 6 teams.
The game in hand over the Gooners could be vital and there will be no shortage of motivation for JT, Lamps and co. to stick one up their old “mate” AVB when Spurs visit for a massive game in early May.
I figure at least 11 points (assuming other results go to form) are a must to finish in the top 4. That means gaining maximum points against Swansea (H), Villa (A) and Everton (H) will be vital.
The real worry is United away, though the 2-2 Cup result at Old Trafford and resulting 1-0 win in the replay should provide huge confidence. A little complacency on the part of United wouldn’t go amiss either.
The keys will be keeping Mata and Hazard fresh, getting more out of the masked and seemingly re-energised enigma that is “Zorres” (who really is under that mask?!) and rotating players without too much disruption; the loss to Southampton shows the Fat Spanish Waiter simply cannot make wholesale changes.
There’s no shortage of motivation. A Champions League spot plus the added allure that brings when tempting another potential interim boss for next year, the chance of another European trophy and meanwhile the great Bobby Tambling’s record still beckons for Super Frank.
Now, after all that, I guess it’s time to put the cock on the block and make a call. It’ll be tight but fuck it, I say lock it all in: Top 4, Europa League Champions, Frank gets the record and Jose comes home for next seaon.
Time to show why we’re the pride of London!
Up the Chels!
Here we go again. Into the last few weeks and Spurs lies one point outside the Champions League. In the background there are rumours of the manager being linked with a flashier job. Worryingly familiar.
There are signs this year may be different though. The win over Manchester City showed that this side still backs itself, Bale is back from injury, Lennon is on his way back, and Defoe scored a cracker against City. This would be a good time to validate the “Defoe scores in clumps” theory.
The big game to come is clearly the postponed fixture against Chelsea. Stamford Bridge has not been a happy hunting ground over the years; in fact the last time Spurs got the three points there was in 1991. However, on the bright side Chelsea will be coming off about a month’s worth of two games a week and will hopefully an eye on a Europa Cup final
But let’s not look too far ahead. Next up it’s Wigan away. Plucky Wigan; sitting in the drop zone as they tend to do. But it’s in the last month of the season that Plucky Wigan start their desperate scramble; they do it every single year. Late April is not the ideal time to make that trip, but AVB will be well aware of that.
Things, in theory get a little easier for the next match. At home to Southampton who are now safe from relegation and will hopefully be looking forward to a summer break. Bale will score in that one. Then it’s the Chelsea six-pointer followed by a tricky trip to Stoke.
No team likes going to Stoke and Tottenham’s record there is not good. The purveyors of anti-football can drag any side down to their level and being currently on the fringes of the relegation battle, that trip looms as another match that will be harder than it should be.
Then, on the final day of the season it’s Sunderland at home. Surely the Paolo Di Canio honeymoon will be over by then?
It is five matches of chewed fingernails to come; nothing new there.
Little known fact. Last season Tottenham actually finished fourth; only to have Champions League football taken away courtesy of Chelsea’s victory in Munich.