Arsenal Fourth By Monday And Third By May?
I’m not one for match previews as regular readers will know but I’ve been having my usual Friday go at the BBC predictor and I have a feeling that we’ll be fourth come Monday morning which will be nice for me because it’s my birthday on Monday. And no, you can’t ask how old I am.
I’ve been getting quite annoyed recently with pundits, journos and sports presenters talking about Arsenal’s “challenge for fourth”. We are not in a challenge for fourth, we are in a challenge for a top four finish. There is a difference, a big difference in my opinion. Third is not out of reach considering Spuds are only 4 points ahead having played a game more. Heck, even second is reachable for Arsenal, Spuds and Chelski. If United win on Monday as most expect them to and Arsenal win then the gap is just 6 points with Man City and Tottenham still to play one another and City heading to Swansea on International Star Wars day (May the Fourth) the same day Chelsea line up at Old Trafford. City then finish the season with games against Reading and Norwich who may still be fighting to stay up. So a 6 point gap is very closable.
Realistically though, 3rd or 4th is probably where we’ll finish and I’m confident that it will be 3rd.
West Brom are no mug team and Arsenal will have their work cut out at The Hawthorns Saturday but should come away with the points. We are just two points behind Chelsea and I honestly expect them to draw with Sunderland.
Sunderland isn’t a great team but with a character like Di Canio at the helm I expect their players to have a little more confidence in themselves. Di Canio and O’Neill have contrasting footballing philosophies and the Sunderland players will want to make an impression on the new boss for the rest of the season to secure their Sunderland futures for next season.
Steve Clarke’s lads have won three of their last six league games and most of their points have come against teams that play attacking football. The Baggies seem to have struggled recently against teams who play physical or with a lump up top so we need Giroud to use his physique to our advantage. Contrary to popular believe, Arsenal play a lot of crosses but delivery has either been poor or not capitalised on so we’ll need our wide-men to be accurate.
West Brom are strong at home and Arsenal’s away form has been patchy but have a decent record at The Hawthorns and boast the best away defence in the league. Arsenal are favourites with the bookmakers to beat WBA and are marginally (like 2 decimal places) behind Spuds to finish top four. I’m going to stick a few more quid on it because come Monday I’m pretty certain that Arsenal will be marginal favourites for 3rd.
The form table suggests that Arsenal will come away with all 3 points and Spuds and Everton will draw. Arsenal are second in the form table, unsurprisingly behind the champions elect, and apart from Spuds in fourth place our other top four rivals are way off the pace in ninth and twelfth.
Spuds’ next few games include a tough fixture against Everton this weekend, followed by a must win away leg in Basel, a home game against Man City (who by then may be worried about a 2nd place finish) and a rearranged (probably midweek) fixture against Chelsea. All this and probably without Bale or a fully fit Bale who was injured against FC Basel. It’s not exactly looking rosy for them.
Chelsea don’t have it much easier and if rumour is to be believed then Benitez is prioritising winning the FA Cup to boost his CV as he won’t be staying at Stamford Bridge past May.
Third or Fourth isn’t a trophy, let’s be honest about that, however it does give us the stability to push on. This summer will be the first time in years that we don’t have to worry about losing our best players and can actually strengthen rather than replace. Priority number one this summer for the club will be/should be (delete as you prefer) to consolidate the team by extending contracts that need extending and clearing out space in the squad by securing quick moves out for those that no longer feature in the bosses plans. Priority number two will only work fully if we have squad space and free money for transfers and wages (wages are often forgotten) and priority number two is strengthening the squad with the purchases Arsène has had lined up for months.
So, if we achieve a top four finish again we should celebrate it. Not as a sign of fallen standards or acceptance of “mediocrity” but as the platform to success we’ve been trying to build for years but was Cesced/Nasried/RVPed off.
If the defence stays solid and maintains concentration then the attack will do their job and put WBA to bed early. 3-0 win.
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