Two Horse Race?



Victories for the Premier League’s top two have led some to conclude that the title fight is now a straight scrap between Arsenal and Manchester United. Without wishing to count anyone out of the most unpredictable title fight in years, maybe it’s time to face the facts. We are United’s only real challenger.

Should one of the top two collapse, it’s hard to see the other doing the same and allowing City or even Chelsea back into the fold. The league leaders have displayed an efficiency which leads to inevitable conclusions about their winning mentality. We, on the other hand, have had so many ridiculous results this year yet are only 4 points off the top. We are beginning to play some exceptional stuff which really does suggest that our first league title since 2003/04 is there for the taking.

It could be argued that we have got most of our hard games out of the way. We’ve played away at United, Chelsea, City and Liverpool and we’ve entertained Chelsea, City and Tottenham. Our toughest away trip is only up the road and presents a massive opportunity to restore some pride. Other than that we have home games against Liverpool and a potentially decisive encounter with our biggest threat, Manchester United. The Mancs, on the other hand, have to play a double header against Chelsea and more games away than they do at Old Trafford. If they are to surrender their position at the summit, it might just be the unconvincing away form that does it.

Although Chelsea still have the aforementioned battles with Manchester United, the current deficit does seem a bridge too far. City have a reasonably tough run in too with games scheduled against Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool. Mancini never really seemed certain of a serious title push and appears to be more concerned with the self preservation a top 4 finish would offer. With this in mind, it’s hard to disagree with the idea that Premier League trophy will be adorned by red ribbons rather than blue this season.

The fact of the matter is that Arsenal need to maintain real consistency. Title winning consistency. Title winning sides go on unbeaten runs of 10 games or more. Last year Chelsea lost 1 in their last 10 to win the league and, the season before that, United went unbeaten in their last 8.

Despite the spectre of schizophrenic form which still hangs over the side, admittedly not helped by the concession of a 4-0 goal lead at Newcastle, we are actually in very good form. We are currently unbeaten in 10 league games dating back to mid December.  We have a squad which is closer to full fitness than it has been at this stage for years and have displayed mental characteristics that many thought we didn’t posses.

The league title was won by its current leaders in 08/09 with 90 points and last year won by Chelsea on 86. The league is now even more competitive and, given the games left to play, a total somewhere closer to 80, might just be enough to win the title. We have 53 on the board with 36 left to play for.

Despite City and Chelsea looming in the background, if anyone other than Vidic or Fabregas lifts the trophy come May, it will be due to astonishing profligacy from the current favourites, not because the other challengers are sufficiently threatening. Our biggest challenge is to avoid a late season collapse which has done for this side in previous years.

If United do put their foot down and race to yet another title, we must make sure that it is their quality which has won them the spoils and not a lack of killer instinct which has deprived us yet again.