Monday, 16 March 2015

Arsenal See Off West Ham And Close In On Second a Place

It's been a pretty good weekend for Arsenal with another three league points secured while most of those in and around them in the table dropped points. Arsenal got things underway on Saturday afternoon with a 3-0 win over West Ham and that was quickly followed by second placed City losing 1-0 away to struggling Burnley. The results on Sunday were pretty good too with Chelsea only drawing at home to Southampton and Spurs losing 3-0 away to United.

While I could never cheer a Spurs victory I could probably have stomached them taking a point off United, but they were well beaten and United stayed only one point behind Arsenal. Spurs dropped back to seventh behind Southampton on goal difference after that result and they're now seven points behind Arsenal with nine games left to play. I'm certainly not counting any chickens, but there's just a slight sniff of St. Totteringham's Day in the air. 

The defeat for City was a great result for Arsenal and it means they have moved to within one point of second place. Chelsea's draw means they are only seven points ahead of Arsenal too and while I think the league is Chelsea's to win they are certainly faltering a little at the moment. Arsenal are the form team of the three of them and if they continue on their current path second place is a real possibility and first place is not completely out of the question for the moment at least.

Of course United will see themselves with just as much of a chance as Arsenal as they are only one point behind them and Liverpool can't be written off either. Liverpool play their game tonight away to Swansea and a win would see them move within three points of Arsenal and certainly they would be challenging for second place too. Liverpool play at home to United next weekend in a huge game for both clubs and Arsenal have a chance to pile the pressure on both of them before that game when they travel to Newcastle the day before that game.

Before Arsenal can even think of Newcastle they have the small matter of a trip to Monaco on Tuesday night and a huge uphill task to overcome a 3-1 deficit. They have to score at least three goals or they will exit at the last 16 stage yet again and Monaco have the art of defending down to a tee at the moment. They only conceded one goal in their six Champions League group games and it won't be easy for Arsenal to break them down often enough to get the goals they need. 

The defeat at home to Monaco was an awful performance from Arsenal, but unlike previous seasons they bounced back right away and have won every game they have played since that game. In previous seasons Arsenal have gone to pieces after bad defeats, but this season they seem to have found the resilience to bounce back straight away. The only time I can remember the team not bouncing back was when they drew 3-3 at home to Anderlecht after leading 3-0 and went on to lose their next two league games away to Swansea and at home to United.

They have grown in strength since then and came back right away after the defeats to Stoke, Southampton, Spurs and Monaco. The performances haven't always been utterly convincing, but they have got the results they needed and that's what matters most. In Arsenal's last nine games they have both Liverpool and Chelsea at home and they travel to United too and I think those three games could decide their fate in the league this season. I don't think they can win it, but the longer they continue their winning streak the more convinced I am that second is their's for the taking. 

I know there is no trophy for second place, but if they were to get it that would be real progress in my book. They have finished outside the top two in every season since 2005 and to take that step back into the top two has to be seen as real improvement. If they can retain the FA Cup it would be even better and there is certainly an awful lot to play for with only two months left in the season.

I think Arsenal are benefiting from a squad with a lot of options right now and they are also varying their approach to suit the game and the opponents. It hasn't always gone to plan since the turn of the year, but it has done so on the vast majority of occasions. If they can continue in that vein it promises to be a very exciting end to the season.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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