Just how close are the Emirates side to ending their trophy hoodoo? COS Contributor Don McMahon delves deeper.
As Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel states, a bell tolled at Fratton Park the night Portsmouth’s sputtering hopes for safety took another blow at the hands of Arsenal, on the heels of the English Revenue bandits nasty New Year surprise only hours earlier. This game wasn’t so much about a surging Arsenal squad working inexorably towards challenging Chelsea and Man.U. for EPL supremacy, as it was a grim reflection on a disheartened and desperate Pompey club facing possible extinction at the end of this season (or sooner).
Arsenal are clearly capable of handling the bottom half teams, home or away, even while missing their top strikers and midfielders. The real issue is whether they could do the same against City,United, Spuds, Chelski and Liverpool and Villa. So far it is 50-50, with key wins against Spuds,Liverpool,and Villa but significant defeats to United, Chelski and City. The bell may have tolled for Portsmouth that evening but it didn’t for the Gunners and won’t until they cross the finish line in May, either EPL or FA Cup champions and maybe Champions League winners or without silverware for a 5th year.
It was and still is far too soon for the fans to sign “We will win the League” but there are some very positive signs since Arsenal’s home defeat to Chelski. The kids have come in and shown they can dominate against the bottom half teams. Fabregas,Bendtner, Denilson, Rosicky, and Clichy should all be returning within the next month and will be enthusiastically challenged by these same youngsters for starting spots. In fact Bendtner, Rosicky and Clichy can expect bench duties while things are going well. Walcott is injured again but should be back in 10 days, along with Fabregas.
Looking at the fixtures list over the next month, show the Gunners facing WestHam away (a good chance for a win), Bolton at home (a likely win), Everton at home (a possible win), Bolton away (a likely win), and then things get tough in late January and all of February. Villa away ( they’ll want revenge), ManU at home (a must win),Chelsea away ( tough game at Stamford Bridge), Liverpool at home (a must win), etc. making this month the tightest and hardest of the season so far. With luck and opportunism, the Gunners can get all 15 points in January and 7 of 9 in February’s top 4 derby. If that happens, all of Islington and North London can start the bells ringing…but let’s be realistic, we can’t count any chickens before they hatch!
A final word on Portsmouth. They deserve better than they are getting. They were scuttled by ‘ Arry Hotspur and his machiavellian duplicity and by their poor management and financial misdirection and are now paying the price. It seems likely that they will be demoted and possibly crushed out of existence in the new year by the UK Taxmen’s demands but as a Football aficionado, I sincerely hope they survive and revive their fortunes in the New Year.