As the new EPL champions take the throne, the fight for third and fourth place thickens, and Ooi Kin Fai sets up the stage for Van Persie's return to London
It comes down to the final 5 (or 6) matches left for the Premier League season of 2012/13. For all intent and purposes of this article, the focus is on the third and fourth spots. Only one point separatesthird from fourth and fourth from fifth. It isn’t going to get tighter than this. At the moment Arsenal sits on the top of this pile but situation can change dramatically, considering the tiny gap.
If someone told me before last weekend that Arsenal won’t benefit after the completion of the weekend’s fixtures, I would find it hard to believe. As Chelsea were to visit Liverpool and Tottenham entertaining Manchester City, even the most pessimistic of risk analysts would predict that one of these two would drop points.
It almost didn’t happen. Thankfully the “flesh-munching” Luis Suarez came through and grabbed the bite at the last minute to ensure that Chelsea didn’t go home with three all points. With Chelsea and Tottenham still to meet, it provides some form of breathing space for us. Not to forget the distinct advantage that we have in terms of goal difference.
For that to happen, we will have to do our part. If we were to go through the rest of the season in the manner that we did against Fulham, it’s something that most Gooners can live with. It was a callous and ponderous performance, but ultimately emerging with all three points. At the crunch end of the season, the final outcome is what that matters.
With that said, I doubt Arsene Wenger will be best pleased with the performance. There was hardly any urgency in our game and the zest in which we displayed during the prior unbeaten run. Fitness looked to have caught up with the likes of Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, a common theme with foreign players adapting to their first season in the English league.
As such, perhaps Wenger could do with a little refreshing when it comes to team selection. The bench on Saturday provided some indication that we could afford to change things around. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could come in for Cazorla and likewise, Lukas Podolski for Giroud. The latter may well happen now that Giroud is suspended for picking up a needless red card in the final minutes of the win at Craven Cottage.
The team will have to find that energy once again, as the task for this weekend isn’t going to get any easier. It’s the visit of the just-confirmed league champions, Manchester United to the Emirates on Sunday. It sickens us fans to see the players affording the champions a guard of honour before the start of the match but we can take comfort in the fact that United did the same to us 22 years ago.
Which United side that will turn up remains to be seen. Will they complete the rest of the league fixtures with holidays in the back of their mind or would Alex Ferguson force his troops to pursue that record point haul? Whichever the case, there can only be one matter on the minds of Gooners this week – the return of a former captain.
Robin van Persie (as this could be read by the impessionable, I’ll refrain from name calling) will return to the Emirates for the first time since his summer departure. It was an acrimonious split from the club that nurtured him to be one of the best in the world. Some fans will claim that he left to achieve bigger things. However, I’m firmly entrenched in the camp that thinks that his relationship with us diminished the moment he penned that statement last July.
I hope he gets catcalls for the entirety of this weekend’s match. I hope the boos echoes in his ears for all eternity. That his act of disrespect towards the club and the manager that made him, will not be tolerated from the fans that once adored him. However, there’s a certain part of me which thinks that Ferguson will save him from the expected abuse by resting him.
Which will be a shame.