15 May 2013

Chelsea's slippery grasp on 3rd place--could Arsenal pry it from their hands?

After a right thrashing of Wigan on Tuesday, our eyes turn naturally to the table. Instead of peeking nervously in the rear-view, we are now close enough to Chelsea's bumper to start trading a little paint. Sorry to mix my sporting metaphors, but it's apt. Chelsea now sits a mere two points above us, and this position looks increasingly fragile. We'll face Newcastle on Sunday, safe and sound mid-table, while Chelsea has to face Everton, a stubborn team whom we had to draw twice. Chelsea did manage to beat them 2-1 at Goodison Park, but the Toffees still offer a stiff challenge. Chelsea will have to host after their Europa League final on Wednesday and may be suffering from euphoria (well, "euphoria" might be a bit strong) or deflation, not to mention a little fatigue. They'll be without Hazard and perhaps Terry (update: Terry looks to be fit) for that one and perhaps against Everton as well. Ramires will definitely miss the Everton match after seeing red against Aston Villa. In other words, fragile. If we win, they'll have to win as well. A loss obviously drops them to 4th, but a draw sees us both finish at 73. The tie-break is then goal-differential; if we're tied on that, we go to goals scored. Chelsea has 38; we have 37. If we're knotted up there, we share 3rd place. According to the BBC, there could be a play-off to determine Champions League qualification, with the winner claiming 3rd place and qualification and the loser taking 4th and having to play in. With Chelsea playing Man City May 23 in the US, scheduling would get complicated, to say the least. Therefore, a few scenarios.

As you can see, we can only take 3rd through a combination of us winning and Chelsea losing--or drawing in a certain way depending on our outcome. Of course, if we don't win, nothing else matters.

There's an old saying that, um, says, "may you live in interesting times." Well, here we are. Instead of the boring security of having already secured a top-four spot, we are in the "interesting" position of still needing to secure 4th place while also striving for 3rd. Interesting times, indeed. The American writer Mark Twain once said, "those of you inclined to worry have the widest selection in history." Will we beat Newcastle? What will happen without Arteta? Should Wilshere start in his place, or is he too forward-thinking? Can we count on Sunderland or Everton to snatch points?  These are tense times, no doubt, almost enough to make you wish we could have "saved" a goal or two to use against Newcastle to ensure victory.

I don't feel like I'm being overly optimistic in asserting that we might just overtake these filthy chavs. whether we do so outright or if it comes down to a playoff. Chelsea has already play 93,000 matches this year, and with Benitez set to leave, they look ripe for the plucking. How brilliant would that be after this up-and-down season?