With just 7 games, 8 for some, left to be played in the EPL, several teams are beginning to scramble for those final undecided positions in the league. The EPL is coming to a crescendo, so sit tight and enjoy the madness that pops up the screens in the next few weeks.
For Man Utd, the league is all sewn up and any climax in that regard would be to the delight of their fans. They can start celebrating. There is also the relegation battle and in that mix is QPR, Wigan, Reading, A.Villa, Sunderland. It would be interesting to see how that pans out.
However, my focus will be firmly on the top 4 battle over the duration of the remaining games. Going to the weekend’s EPL fixtures all set for the same time, Chelsea led the pack with a point ahead of Spurs and 5 above Arsenal.
However, after some disasterous results for us, that all changed over the course of 90 minutes.
The Gunners had it really easy against Reading and I think this would have been their most straightforward game of their season. Reading were totally unproductive that at a point, possession read 95% – 5%, a perfect illumination of Reading’s ‘quota’ in the game. After much pressure and missed chances (Arsenal really should have scored early on but for their own wastefulness), Arsenal would finally score, as easy as pie. Gervinho was at the end of squared pass that evaded a cluster of Reading players to tap in. The goal opened the floodgates for more and the game ended 4-1. How Arsenal managed to concede only goes to show how vulnerable they are at the back.
It was vital Arsenal won, anything but that would have undermined their chances of getting a spot in the top 4. The win put them 2 points closer to Chelsea and if they are to make that quartet, the Gunners will have to win more consistently, even if ugly. The win against Reading belied the scoreline, it was anything but eye-catching, nevertheless what counts at the end is qualification and not the manner of it. Time for Arsenal to put the shine out if they have to, the win is more important.
“If they are to make that quartet, the Gunners will have to win more consistently, even if its ugly”
Prior to our game, Rafa made his displeasure known towards the busy schedule the team would have to deal with in the coming weeks. I guess that was an indication of what was to come. The line-up was vastly shuffled with Mata rested, as well as Hazard, Ramires, A.Cole, and Ba all benched for the game. Not many were confident about the line-up comprising of Marin, Moses, and Bertrand amongst others and so when Chelsea conceded after a neat one-two pass was cooly converted, their fears felt justified. Although Terry equalized with a header some minutes later, a stunning free-kick from Lambert re-awakened those fears. Chelsea conceded both goals in the first-half but couldn’t get an equalizer even when Hazard and Ramires were brought on.
I must admit I wasn’t really comfortable when I saw the line-up but you’ve got to understand Rafa’s motive. With a host of games lined up in the space of a month, resting some key players for Southampton shouldn’t prove too costly, so you’d think.
However, the grouch I hold against Rafa is his conviction and self-assurance behind that gameplan. Surely if you are going to play Marko, Oscar and Moses in a competitive game for the first time, a training regime organised to suit and blend the trio into a cohesive whole should have been well practised and strategies drummed into that set. What I saw were individuals evidently playing in a strange set-up, with no particular role-play or position to switch and when to. The midfield didn’t help matters. Lampard and Mikel made up a bad combination against an energetic Southampton side. The message is clear, we cannot afford to play a fringe side against any opposition no matter how lowly.
“What I saw were individuals evidently playing in a strange set-up, with no particular roles or positions to switch, or even keep to”
Spurs collected a much needed win after failing to win their last 2 EPL games. The influence of Gareth Bale could prove to be the difference if Spurs do get a Champions League spot as the team is literally leaning on his ingenuity for drive. Although Vertonghen got their first goal, cleverly side-footing past Vorm, it was through Bale’s vision and precision that the ball was lobbed on for Vert to score. And just to re-emphasize his influence, Bale typically latched on to a pass outside the box and spinned the ball into the top-corner even when he appeared unbalanced. Just great, Bale. Swansea did get a goal in the 2nd half but Spurs held on to the 3 points.
It was inevitivable Spurs would get back to winning ways, but with us and Arsenal having a game in hand, Spurs will have their work cut out if they are to make the Champ League spot. They lead Chelsea with 2 points and Arsenal with 4, but the advantage is slight and if it’s more of Gareth Bale’s moment that would get them the spot, then they better hope his rein of form continues.
Personally, I don’t think it will, and with games running out, we will see if our rotation policy pays off, as the freshness in our team may well help compared to our London rivals.