There is a real opportunity for Arsenal to put some distance between themselves and the chasing pack at the moment. Spurs continued their recent slump with a draw away to Sunderland at the weekend, and their defeat at home to Norwich on Monday was a real blow to their Champions League chances. Chelsea fared a little better by beating Wigan on Saturday before dropping two points when Fulham got a late equaliser against them on Monday night.
Spurs and Chelsea play each other in the FA Cup at the weekend, and it means there will be no Premier League action for either club. Arsenal play away against Wolves tonight, and then they have a home game against Wigan next Monday. Arsenal currently lead Spurs by two points and Chelsea by four with a game in hand on both teams. By the time both of those clubs play in the league again Arsenal will have played a game more than each of them, and their lead could be increased by six points too.
Those two games for Arsenal are against teams in the relegation zone, and the recent defeat to QPR showed how dangerous they can be. Arsenal didn't approach that game in the right manner, and they ended up in the wrong side of a 2-1 result. Hopefully the lessons of complacency were learned in that defeat, and Arsenal will have the correct approach against both of their struggling opponents.
The first hurdle for them is the trip to Wolves, and it's a game Arsenal really should win. Since Wolves sacked Mick McCarthy they have gone into free fall, and relegation looks to be almost a certainty for them now. They are six points adrift of safety with only six games left, and vastly inferior goal difference.
Wolves have lost their last six games in the Premier League, and conceded more goals than any other team so far this season. Their last clean sheet was 29 games ago, and they seem destined for life in the Championship next season. Even when they have taken the lead in recent games they have been quickly pegged back before going on to lose.
Arsenal have won eight of their last nine games, and the rewards for a victory are clear for them to see. If the lessons of the defeat to QPR really have been learned then Arsenal should take full points from both Wolves and Wigan, and it should hopefully put enough points between them and the chasing pack to ensure third place in the league. The next game after both of those games is at home to Chelsea, and a victory could seal the top four finish Arsenal crave.
Chelsea are coming to a stage of the season where they are playing twice a week every week, and every game is a very big one for them. Their games against Barcelona, Spurs and Arsenal will be huge for them in terms of their future and their final status this season. I can't see them finishing third or beating Barcelona which only leaves the FA Cup as a real target for them.
The best scenario for Arsenal is a draw and a replay between Chelsea and Spurs in the FA cup semi final. If that happens the pressure of games on Chelsea could prove to be too much, and they might end up achieving none of their targets.
Newcastle have to be considered in the run in too, as they have won their last five games and are level on points with Spurs. It would be quite fantastic if Arsenal finished third and Newcastle claimed the final Champions League place, but they do have a few tough games before the season ends.
I'm predicting a 4-1 win for Arsenal tonight with Robin van Persie ending his mini-drought by getting on the scoresheet again. I think the Wolves player Arsenal have to watch out for is Michael Kightly who has done well in a wide right role, and scored in their last two games. Even if Wolves do manage to score I just cannot see their defence standing up to what Arsenal will hopefully throw at them.
In team news the Arsenal defence will have to change because Kieran Gibbs is injured, and Laurent Koscielny suspended. It should see the inclusion of Andre Santos and Johan Djourou, but hopefully it won't affect the recent defensive stability. Koscielny will miss the game against Wigan too after receiving his tenth yellow card of the season against City on Sunday.
There is every possibility of the six players ahead of the defence remaining the same, but equally Aaron Ramsey or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could come in for Yossi Benayoun. Whoever plays I'm sure Arsenal will still have enough to get the three points, and I have a feeling it will be Ramsey as Arsenal are away from home. He has played on the left in the last two away games, and he will probably get the nod again despite his performances in those games.
It would be fantastic to be sitting here next Monday night with some real space between Arsenal and the other teams challenging for third place. The ability to do so will surely show that the team really are learning their lessons, and acting on the lessons learned. Hopefully classes will start tonight with a stirring performance, and a few goals to match it.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.