Tottenham could decide the Championship
The final weeks of the 2009/10 season are shaping up to be fascinating. When was the last time we had 3 teams in serious contention for the Championship at this late a stage in the season AND at the same time saw the battle for 4th, and the final Champions League spot, as congested and wide open as it presently is? And in the middle of it all is Arsenal, much to the disappointment of many in the media.
After losing to Chelsea on 7 February, the media were lightning-quick to write off our chances. I never thought that to be the case. I personally thought that if we could come out of our nightmare run of matches (Villa, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool) within 6 points of the lead we might even be favorites for the Championship.
Instead we were 9 points behind, a big gap but by no means insurmountable given our run-in. However, even I have been staggered at how quickly the gap has been narrowed again, and in some ways we might indeed have to be considered favorites at this point (although I HATE saying that!!).
If we had a fully fit squad I wouldn’t hesitate to call us favorites. Another assumption made after the Chelsea match was that we would have to win the remainder of our games to be Champions. I didn’t think that was the case then and I certainly don’t think that is the case now. Points will be dropped by everyone. How many points each team will drop is the real question.
The game most people are looking at to “decide” the Championship is Chelsea-Man Utd on 3rd April. Sky will certainly build that one up to be a “Championship Decider” as they do. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard it all before. Let’s assume a draw in that one. If that’s the case then it effectively brings us even with the teams above us. I don’t think Chelsea will win that one, so the only other result I can see is a Utd win, and if that is the case I don’t think Chelsea will last the pace (that is just a feeling I have, there is no rational reason why!). My prediction is a draw however. So what of the other fixtures remaining for each team?
We’ve examined Arsenal’s fixtures in great detail. Most of us would agree that all of our home matches should be wins, with the only tough one being Manchester City’s visit towards the end of the season. A lot will depend on how they are doing in the League at that point. Will that game be essential for them finishing 4th or not? Our away matches are a mixed bag, with Hull, Birmingham, Tottenham, Wigan, and Blackburn presenting us with a selection of potential banana skins. The Spurs match is the one that stands out however.
Chelsea’s matches are just as interesting. Their only tough home match remaining is the visit of Aston Villa. However Chelsea still have trips to Old Trafford (where we already assumed a draw), Anfield, and White Hart Lane to come (as well as Blackburn and Portsmouth – ho hum, six points there).
Manchester United have a very interesting run-in as well. They have Spurs, Liverpool, Fulham (a bogey team), and Chelsea to come at home and still have a trip to Manchester City (as well as Sunderland, Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves away – more of those potential banana skins I’d say).
The presence of Tottenham on each schedule, in 3 consecutive weeks in April, is the most interesting part of the run-in as far as I am concerned. We get them first, then Chelsea and finally Manchester United. I’d give the advantage to Manchester United in that case, because when we play them they’ll still be fighting for 4th place, something they may no longer be doing two weeks later. But it could also work the other way as well. Tottenham have Manchester City for their final match of the season, so they will know that even with a poor result or two, they can still make up for it with a strong finish to the season (just as we followed losses to Utd and Chelsea with a win against Liverpool, salvaging that run of games).
One way or another, the 3 weekends from 10 April to 25 April look like they could go a long way towards deciding the Championship. Tottenham may not qualify for the Champions League, but they might just decide the Championship! How scary is that thought???
ARSENAL IN THE FUTURE
- Predictions for the rest of the season: the start of the new golden era.
- The manager’s resigned, the league’s ending… Where next for Arsenal?
- Wellington Silva is the future of Arsenal
- The media are starting to realise they got it wrong
- Complete review of EPL clubs’ debts, and why it is getting worse.
ARSENAL IN THE PAST…
- The days when football journalists could write, entertain and make us laugh (a true newspaper report about Arsenal in the 1930s)
- “Making the Arsenal” – the novel. The most extraordinary book about Arsenal ever. And that’s unofficial. Available from Amazon.co.uk and from the publishers direct.
- Charlie Buchan’s first appearance for Arsenal.
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