Let’s start with the facts. As things stand Arsenal sit second on the Premiership table, level on 67 points with Manchester United but trailing due to an inferior goal difference of +36 compared with +44. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side of course have a game in hand, while the only other challengers for the title, Chelsea, sit a further three points back from the leading pair. However, like Manchester United they have played one less game than Arsenal but have a slightly less positive goal than Arsene Wenger’s side, that of +31.
Breaking things down a little further, assuming that both Chelsea and United win their game in hand that will see the Manchester side go three points ahead of Arsenal at the top with a far superior goal difference while Chelsea would go level on points with Wenger’s side but most likely stay third due to a mildly inferior goal difference. What this essentially means is that going forward, if either Arsenal or Chelsea are to win the title they are going to have to score four points more than Manchester United in the run-in.
Looking at the fixtures, this is not impossible task, but results will have to go the right way in the games between the top three sides. Indeed, each of the leading three teams will play each other once more, with Arsenal having the most difficult task of traveling away to both United and Chelsea while Avram Grant’s side have it the easiest with two home ties against their main rivals. Manchester United, of course play Arsenal at home but Chelsea away. The other club that will be expected to steal some points of the leading pack are Liverpool, who play both Arsenal and Manchester United in the run-in. Arsenal will host Liverpool in a couple weeks time while Manchester travel to Anfield this weekend.
Update: As has been pointed out, United are in fact hosting Liverpool at home this weekend, not traveling away. Unfortunately you would back them to get all three points in that one so Arsenal are erally going to have to beat Chelsea.
Given that Chelsea also host Arsenal on the same night that Liverpool host United, this weekend could go a long way to determining who will walk away with the Premiership this season. If either Arsenal or Chelsea lose their match they will virtually be out of the race, while the other will be right back in it, especially if Liverpool can steal two or three points off Manchester United. If Ferguson’s men take all three points home from Anfield and Arsenal and Chelsea draw then the Premiership is as good as United’s. There’s a lot of ‘ifs’ an ‘buts’ to take into account, but at the end of the day this weekend is about as big a weekend as there is going to be in the Premiership this season.
A big weekend coming up
So what does it all mean for Arsenal? I mentioned yesterday that after the draw with Middlesbrough, for the first time this season I really feel like the Premiership could be slipping away. Of course, a win away to Chelsea and a helping hand from Liverpool would mean Wenger’s side would be right back in the race again, but I have to say I’m still a little worried. Grant’s side are yet to lose at home this season and it’s going to take a monumental effort and performance from Arsenal to get the win they so badly need. Given that a loss for Chelsea would be nothing short of disastrous for their title aspirations, it’s going to be one hell of a battle at Stamford Bridge this Saturday.
The benefactor of any points dropped by Arsenal or Chelsea will of course be Manchester United, but there is still a very real possibility of them dropping points of their own away to a Liverpool side who have lost just once at home this season. Given United’s tendency of losing rather than drawing games when things don’t go so well and Fernando Torres’ amazing run of form of late and it not impossible that they will drop all three points at Anfield.
In short, this means that if things go Arsenal’s way this weekend then they are still every chance to win the title. It remains a big ‘if’, but supporters should not lose hope yet. However, a poor result against Chelsea and a win for Manchester United against Liverpool and the title race is all but over. Unfortunately this is a very real possibility, perhaps the most likely of all the scenarios, so I will be hoping for the best but expecting the worst this weekend.
As fans, all we can do is keep supporting. Things may look bleak but the reason why Arsenal are such a great club is that they continue to try and win whilst playing wonderful football. When the trophies don’t come and the wins dry out people will always begin to question what the priority is at the club but I think that would be missing the point. Just because Wenger wants his side to play romantic football does not mean he has lost his winning edge. Indeed, this side has been as competitive as any Arsenal side has been in the past three seasons and supporters should remember that.
What do you think?
Have your say on Arsenal’s season by leaving a comment.