Was it the worst-best or best-worst result last night? I think the latter, anything but a Tottenham victory last night meant that they have to win at Stoke on Saturday and such is the paucity of The Orcs this season, that it looks a straightforward victory. As it is should Arsenal win their final matches of the season, that will be enough to finish in the top four, may even be enough to finish third. Even one win might be enough such is the superiority of Arsenal’s goal difference.
Two wins from the last two games is within the capabilities of the squad. Wigan cannot be relegated by the time of kick-off at The Emirates on Tuesday but victories for Newcastle, Norwich and Sunderland will make that a distinct probability. Three points for The Barcodes at Loftus Road would certainly make life easier a week on Sunday for Arsenal, opponents who have nothing to play for are often – not always – supine in their mentality, especially at the releasing of pressure as would be the case with their safety ensured.
The nature of football is such that you are always reliant upon slips by rivals, whether you are close to landing the title, fighting relegation or trying to finish as high in the table as possible; some scenarios leave you more dependent on their failings than others. Even then your own form requires that you take advantage of their mistakes or inability to accumulate enough points to compensate for tough fixtures in the run-in.
Part of that improved form has been recognised with Aaron Ramsey being a clear winner of the club’s Player of the Month award. The Welsh international has filled the role of cartoon villain, the scapegoat for the inconsistent form of the squad. Most of that came as he played out of position, subsuming his own ego for the betterment of the team and taking the flak for performances which were considered sub-standard.
Playing in his favoured central midfield role, Ramsey has covered more miles than an AA repair van as Arsenal have become masters of their own destiny. It is a remarkable turnaround where his detractors have been relegated to the role of troll whilst he finds appreciation of his work. A similar path was trodden by Alex Song following a disastrous performance at Craven Cottage to one where he was pivotal to the side last season.
It is not fanciful to talk of a midfield built around Ramsey and Wilshere in the future, one where an outright attacking midfielder of Rosicky’s ilk in the current formation or as the central pairing in a quartet.
And I suppose that this is the point where I am to eulogise over the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. Yes, he is the most successful manager in the English game to date but contrary to the media, he is not the greatest. His enduring legacy is for Manchester United only, nothing which has changed football beyond his own club. It is more a signal of the eradication of football’s history in the Sky era that Herbert Chapman has been all but forgotten in spite of being more visionary than Ferguson, foreseeing changes that impacted the game as a whole.
The Manchester United manager would have replaced Don Howe had the Arsenal board got their way. Before his fall from Grace, Graham’s record stood comparison to Ferguson in terms of trophy hauls. Where the latter offered a better long-term bet was the overhauling of the backroom staff and set-up in the early years of his reign. The Roll of Honour shows some sort of equality but Graham had lost his way, events taking the chance to return to his footballing roots, if he could at all.
As for future, maybe this Summer will be trickier for Arsenal with United looking for players in similar positions. Rumours of Ronaldo and Rooney moving will deflect away from Everton’s fire sale if Moyes leaves for Old Trafford. Marouane Fellaini has long been considered the type of midfielder Arsenal should sign; gossip has his path to London ending in a more So’ Westerly direction. Baines linkage with United may eventually come to fruition, to the chagrin of some.
New commercial deals and vaunted budgets tell us that Arsenal will have significant activity this transfer window. You would hope so, one where Arsenal might have a free run at some of their targets without losing key players. That tells you more about the current squad than anything else; there are no ‘stars’ of world football and with the consistency of the Premier League run since defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City, that is no mean feat. We should not however, ignore the weaknesses on display before January.
If anyone does not understand the difference in financial muscle between United and Arsenal. The former may lose their most influential and highest paid player. And replace him with one who will no doubt cost more to buy and demand a higher salary.