By Tony Attwood
On 28 December 2015, Crystal Palace were talked up on the radio and TV as being serious challengers for a Champions League place. Not Europa mark you, Champions League.
On that evening they were fifth, above Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool etc.
Today I have just read an article about them being dragged into a relegation fight. About how Pardew’s teams always falter in the last part of the season. Today they are 12th after a run of five successive defeats followed by a draw with Swansea.
So it goes, react to the latest, never take the broader perspective, exaggerate up or down, claim to know more than the people doing the job. So it goes.
This weekend it seems however that Crystal Palace have been left to their own devices, and the world is focussing on life at the top, and of course who will win the league.
As you undoubtedly well know, I am not a fan of fortune telling, so I don’t pretend to have a clue, but since I am on my lunch break, here are my thoughts…
The argument for Leicester is that they are enjoying their football, taking in the ride… just like Newcastle in 1966. Ooooops. A win on Sunday could spur them on, but any injuries and hiccups that everyone else is used to all the time, could have a bigger impact. It is also said that they experienced real pressure when they were fighting relegation, but I think not. When they were fighting relegation they were doing what everyone expected. Fighting relegation. Now they are doing what no one expected. That is when the pressure comes along.
So yes they have the team spirit but that is a fragile thing and indeed most commentators recognise this, for everyone tipping Leicester says something like, “If Leicester City win at Arsenal on Sunday they should win the Premier League. Even if they draw it should be on.” But a defeat – hell they will still be two points clear. But no, then the view is, they will fall.
Certainly you do need to have enough of your players who have played at this level. And because of that even if they were to win on sunday, I don’t see them coming through. Even though they have no European games. Mind you it will be fun to see how they cope with that next season, for surely they at least have to get into the Europa – although the Champs League is more likely.
As Mr Wenger said, telling your manager he is off before the end of the season either boosts the club or takes it down several levels, and the answer of how Man C would react as shown last weekend seems to be the latter.
They are certainly no longer at their best, they need a transformation, and several of the team know that this is the end of the line for them. China beckons guys, whether you like it or not.
Yes they have the experience of winning the league, but Arsenal have won two FA Cups on the trot. Not the same, but still pressure. Yes they have come up from behind before, but I don’t think they will again, not this time. Where is the core feeling of being Man City? The fact that some pundits are reduced to saying that it will be City because they win the league in even years shows how desperate they are to find a reason, any reason, to give the title to City.
Like Arsenal they are still in the Champions League, and have an easier draw than Arsenal. I expect them to go through – and that adds to the pressure a bit more.
Tottenham have not won the league for 55 years, not won the FA Cup for 25 years, not won the League Cup for eight years. Hell they haven’t even won Division 2 since 1950.
But Pochettino is good, and for the first time in a very long time the shadow of the chairman isn’t hanging over him. He’s been honest enough to admit that times are going to be very tough as the club spends much the same amount on its stadium as Arsenal did, but with the extra risk of an untried design (as many Tottenham fans pointed out last time we covered the issue, Arsenal had the benefit of building a stadium the design of which had already been tried out in Portugal. A clever way to avoid the design errors and teething troubles.).
But Tottenham are variable, off and on, sometimes flamboyant sometimes yuk. It is said they are under far less pressure than Leicester, but I wonder why. This is their best chance to win the league in 55 years – doesn’t that count as pressure?
The biggest thing they have going for them is the fact that until they crept up to second no one noticed them as challengers outside of their own support. Now they have been spotted. And they are still in the Europa.
On the other hand they have the aaa on their side (see below).
Arsenal did the wobbly bits early, and got all the injuries in, in one go. Hell, even Danny is back in training and could come on as a sub in the cup match against Hull.
And normally we then pick up and do quite well in the latter part of the season – at least until it doesn’t matter any more. Plus if we do well but lose gracefully to Barcelona that’s the Champs League out of the way for another year. (Mind you if we did knock out Barce my screams would be heard from here to their children’s training camp in Chad).
A win against Leicester on Sunday will help us nicely along the way, but unlike other commentators I don’t think it is essential. What will hurt though is the usual wild ravings of the aaa whose vindictive public attacks on the manager and the squad can do enormous damage. If it were Tottenham supporters doing it against Arsenal, everyone would shrug it off, but the nauseating way the aaa act upon every defeat really does do damage. And it shows where their loyalties lie, since they must know it does huge damage.
However we have Petr Cech and Ozil, and Ramsey. And Coquelin. Plus at any moment Alexis is going to come back to fulsome life. If Santi Caz and/or Jack W comes back for a final few games that could be good news too.
And we have Giroud, who I am sure half the centre backs who play against him ignore him because they have read and believed the propaganda. Big lump, can’t move, shit where did that ball come from, how did Ozil do that, oh look Giroud has just scored….
So what could stop us? The aaa, as I have said, plus the referees. We have seen two referees get scores of under 50% in matches, and as explained in an earlier piece, a robot giving out decisions at random ought to get at least 50% of them right.
Those games showed a side of refereeing in the Premier League that was so utterly extreme that I now accept that anything can happen. Anything at all. All we can do is hoist those most atrocious appalling failures that refereed under 50% on a board of eternal shame and warn any other ref that stoops to that level of what will come their way.
But that is for later. For now, I think we will win the league – and indeed the FA Cup simply because the squad is strong, they are used to winning trophies, there are no managerial changes about to happen, and they will probably drop out of the Champions League.
Just don’t read the papers guys, nor the bloggettas.
12 February 1937: Laurie Scott signed for Arsenal. Ernest Tuckett went to Bradford City in part exchange. He played 115 games for Arsenal before moving on to Crystal Palace in 1951.
12 February 1938: Arsenal v Preston – the fourth ever 70,000+ crowd to see Arsenal. Arsenal lost 0-1 to the team rivalling them for the championship. However Arsenal won the league, while Preston came third.
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