It is not too melodramatic to call the next week and half exactly that. With Chelsea and Manchester United playing tonight, a Sky super-duper-fandabidozie Sunday this weekend and the visit to Bolton the weekend after, the debate about just how costly the eight points dropped from the last four Premier League games have been might well be settled. On the other hand, it might be.
You would expect United to win at home to Bolton this evening. The days when Allardyce forged a team of upstarts reminiscent of the ‘Crazy Gang’ days of Wimbledon seem long gone. Indeed, I would not be surprised if Gary Megson wrote off the match and decided to rest a few players for their final run-in. Chelsea meanwhile travel to White Hart Lane. Revenge might well be on the visitors minds but more importantly, the three points that would draw them level with Arsenal will be foremost in their thoughts.
If the results go as expected, it sets up Sunday as perhaps a defining moment. Neither Arsenal nor Chelsea can afford to lose the game, especially if United beat Liverpool. That would mean a gap of six points before kick-off; similarly, in those circumstances, a draw would not be much use either. A gap of five points on Sunday evening heaps a lot of pressure onto the following week’s games. Arsene and the squad acknowledged as much in recent days, agreeing that they cannot afford to lose another game this Premier League season if the title is to return to the club. I would go one-step further; the four draws mean that it is unlikely that they are able to draw another game.
That is not to concede the title, something that I will not do until it is mathematically impossible to win. Some might view that as naïve or optimistic but by the end of the evening we might even be top, six points clear of Chelsea and five ahead of United so it is realistic not to give up now.
We can debate until the cows come home about weaknesses, real or perceived, within the squad. You may feel free to say that we need this striker or midfielder but it is all irrelevant for this season. No one is joining right now or until June at the earliest. The fact is that the squad we have is the one that you are stuck with for the next two months whether you like it or not.
The squad are not giving up though. Kolo Toure believes that the result at Chelsea is far from settled
We are still in the title race
News to some, eh Kolo? You must have thought we were out of it in the last few days the way debates have been raging. He went on,
We know that we can go anywhere and win – we have shown that in Milan. We need to repeat that kind of performance next week and then we can beat Chelsea. The most important thing is to be confident and play your game, stay strong in your mind and believe that until the end, it is not finished
Robin van Persie concurred,
I am not a daydreamer. I really think we can win the title and Champions League this season. Why not? We have the qualities. We have to stick together and believe in it, belief can take you very far. We have everything to play for. Every game for me now is like a final
If it is, then I hope that nerves do not strike him or anyone else down as they do in the real thing on so many occasions.
Tomas Rosicky’s injury is one frustrating aspect of this and last season as well. The Czech international is not yet fit to undergo training,
There is nothing I can do but wait and hope that the injury goes away
You would hope that if surgery is needed to cure the problem that neither the player nor the club will put that on hold to satisfy his Euro2008 aspirations. I am sure they will not but his injury has been dogging him for some time now and it is a time when the squad could do with some of his wizardry.
The one thing that is clear that the players and Arsene are talking the talk. Now they have to walk the walk to make get some reward from the season.