12 May 2013

Race for 4th: Acorns and Latics and Potters, oh my...

Well, shucks. Two 2-1 scores went the wrong way this weekend, and as disappointing as that may be, neither result was much of a surprise. The only real surprise was that Stoke and Aston Villa scored at all, not to mention that each scored first. Each game, therefore, flirted with our ardent hopes that Chelsea and Spurs could drop the kind of points that would have made a huge difference in the battle for 3rd and 4th. Had Chelsea drawn, we'd have a chance to match them at 70 with a win over Wigan. Had they lost, a win would put us in third. Had Spurs lost or drawn, it would have all but closed the door on 4th for them. Instead, we have to put up with the (hopefully temporary) indignity of seeing both of them ahead of us as we fidget in 5th place until we face Wigan.

Each game had its moments, from Benteke's goal and his first yellow (which could have been red) to Terry's own should've-been-red and, of course, Benteke's second yellow. Chelsea comes out a bit worse for wear after Ramires was sent off with a second yellow late in the game, and both Terry and Hazard left with injuries, Terry being stretchered off and probably unavailable for their Wednesday Europa League final. In other words, we have seen the last of John Terry in Chelsea blue. At 32 and looking increasingly brittle and slow, I wouldn't be surprised (or disappointed) to see him leave. Maybe he could join Galatasaray, where EbouĂ© could once again break his foot. I'm not recommending it, just pointing out that it is a possibility. At any rate, Chelsea's qualified for the Champions League next year unless we win both of our games and Spurs win their final by at least 17 goals, plus or minus the score of Chelsea's last match with Everton. Shucks. Benitez, I've been sympathetic to your plight, but no more. You've given Abramovich something he craves, and for that there can be no forgiveness.

It's no better with Spurs. Stoke went ahead after only three minutes but let Spurs win it after some truly horrific defending allowed Dempsey to chip Begovic, who had come out to the top of the box to clear a ball only to see defender Marc Wilson slide in front of him to clear it himself, but straight to Dempsey. All he had to do was one-time it as Begovic watched on helplessly. This could be just the kind of goal that could convince Begovic once and for all to get out of there. By the time Charlie Adams was sent off for a ridiculous tackle of Vertonghen, it was looking like Spurs would pull this one out. Sure enough, Adebayor went on to score. By that point, I had to give up. No team that allows Adebayor to score deserves to win, simple as that. I haven't seen one team benefit from so much luck/stupidity than have Spurs in the last few weeks. Nothing else to report from this one, really. Bale was quiet, but no injuries or red-cards to slow them down.

Nothing has changed since I woke up (games start here in Chicago at about 7am), then. As nice as a few dropped points would have been, we're right where we were and still control our own destinies. As long as we don't slip up against Wigan, there's little to worry about. A few more teams look to have climbed far enough away from relegation that Wigan's chances are dwindling down to "slim" or "none." They can only get to 41, and Norwich and Newcastle are now there with one game to play. There are now only four other teams that could get relegated: Southampton, Fulham, Aston Villa, and Sunderland. In this sense, I think Aston Villa's loss actually works in our favor as it keeps that Aston Villa-Wigan match in contention for both teams, and this makes Wigan's task all the harder. Had Villa won, Wigan might have been emboldened coming into Tuesday by thinking that Aston Villa would arrive at the DW Stadium on May 19th complacent and secure. Now, all three teams--Arsenal, Wigan, and Aston Villa--still have something to play for, and this works against Wigan and for us.

That's really about as much as I want to say. No offense to the hard-working players and their long-suffering fans, but I feel a little grimy after spending so much time rummaging around in that cellar. Let's just win on Tuesday, please, and let the relegation settle itself after that.