23 February 2014

Our rivals squeak by; we waltz. Guess who's written off?

Richard Jolly, writing for ESPN after Liverpool eked out a victory over Swansea, had this to say about the title-chase:
[Liverpool's] is an unusual title challenge, but it is a title challenge nonetheless. Liverpool have momentum and match-winners, confidence and the invaluable asset of being the underdog when the burden of being favourites lies on the shoulders of Chelsea and Manchester City.
Nowhere does he go on to mention the second-place team, the team that has until recently held onto first place for two-thirds of the season (18 of 27 weeks, plus five other weeks in second place). To an extent, I get it. On one hand, Man City and Chelsea have each won a Prem championship recently—Chelsea in 2010 and City in 2012—and finished second the year following, while we cling to a 2004 championship almost like a toddler to his comforter. On the other hand, we have Man City (again) and Liverpool scoring goals as if it's a pub league. Lost somewhere in the shuffle is boring, old Arsenal.

Despite having roundly thumped Sunderland, the story of the week focuses on how Chelsea (a dodgy Ramires dive from drawing with Everton), Man City (scorers of one goal in three matches), and Liverpool (who are conceding almost as fast as they're scoring) are vying for the championship. What gives? After all, of the four of us, who's been most wasteful in the new year? We've drawn at home with Man U, drawn away to Southampton, and lost away to Liverpool, it's true, but contrast that against our rivals (opponents' table position at time of match)
  • Chelsea: away-draw with West Brom (18th), home-draw with West Ham (18th).
  • Man City: away-draw with Norwich (15th), home-loss to Chelsea (1st)
  • Liverpool: away draw with West Brom (15th), home-draw with Aston Villa (11th), away-loss to Chelsea (3rd).
The race has tightened, certainly, but it's hard to see that we've been any more wasteful than anyone else vying for the championship. So what gives? Is it that we're the only ones to have been trounced (and twice, at that)? Is there a conspiracy against us? Do we lack something that others possess?

With apologies to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, I say, to my fellow Gooners, we have been persuaded by some who are skeptical of our credentials to take heed how we commit ourselves to this title-chase, for fear of failure, but I assure that I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving Gunners. Let tyrants like Mourino fear, I have always believed that I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good skill of these players, and I am therefore come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my own recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to chant and cheer amongst you all, to lay down for my squad and my Arsenal and my Gooners, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and distant American, but I have the heart and stomach of a Gooner and think foul scorn on Stamford Bridge or Etihad or Anfield or any other team of Europe should dare to invade the borders of this realm; to which, rather any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms.

Let Man City and Liverpool try to outscore everyone in sloppy orgies of goals. Where will they be when the goals dry up? The losses and draws will come, mark my words. Let Chelsea try to stupefy opponents with boring, boring footballing. To them too will losses and draws will. Let the media write us off and talk us down. It'll be all the more satisfying when we emerge, end of the season, top of the table.