Arsenal: Time To Edge Spurs Out Of The Top 4
With the title race all but over, if it wasn’t already, a lot of attention in the coming weeks will not only be paid to the action at the bottom of the Premier League table, but also to what’s going on beneath the two Manchester clubs, in the race to claim Champions League football next season.
Chelsea and Tottenham currently occupy third and fourth position, but after a massive win over Swansea City last week, you’d be foolish to write off Arsenal’s chances of making the top four and securing Champions League football for a 16th consecutive season.
After a victory over Bayern Munich in at the Allianz Arena that was as taxing as it was impressive, if ultimately not quite enough, the team could have perhaps been forgiven for turning in a below-par performance. Some would argue that’s what they gave in the first half but sustained pressure ultimately wore down a very good Swansea side who, lest we forget, are still riding the wave of their League Cup triumph.
Nacho Monreal and Gervinho (yes, you read that correctly) were the goalscorers and the magnitude of the celebrations from fans, players and staff alike proved just how crucial this three points was. Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski ran into the opposition half to congratulate the much-maligned Ivorian, who desperately needed a goal as a confidence boost. Likewise Fabianski himself received a warm embrace from fellow Polish goalkeeper, Wojciech Szczesny, who has been left out of the last couple of games. Two consecutive clean sheets seem to prove it to be a shrewd decision by manager Arsene Wenger.
But if nothing else, these celebrations suggested a real aura of togetherness amongst the squad. Theo Walcott was quoted as saying that, for the first time in a while, the team are communicating better on the pitch; that the leaders Arsenal are perhaps notorious for lacking are at long last stepping up. To put it bluntly, Arsenal are more of a team now. Responsibility seems to be more evenly shared than in the past when there was perhaps too much emphasis on players like Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie to perform and dig their teammates out of holes.
After a very forgettable season thus far, maybe, much like last campaign, this is the beginning of an upward curve for the Gunners, just when it really matters. The win over Swansea, when combined with Tottenham’s loss at Liverpool and at home to Fulham means that the North London Derby defeat, which many felt would prove to separate the teams indefinitely, has been cancelled out.
Spurs love an end-of-season collapse, and with a tough-looking run-in, they’re by no means home and dry and can easily be caught. Similarly, Chelsea have still got tough games in the league as well as an FA Cup replay and more Europa League football to negotiate. Liverpool and Everton may also still consider themselves in the mix, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the race go down to the wire. Whichever way the pendulum swings, it’s sure to be exciting.