25 April 2014

What's a good Gooner to do? Thumb-twiddling, perhaps. Rooting against other clubs, for certain.

It's going to be a long, lonely weekend 'round these parts. We'll have to wait until Monday for some proper footballing action, what with the Canaries traveling to Stamford Bridge to face down the Blues. In the meantime, there's—oh, wait. Almost forgot we do play, also on Monday. However, that's a long, long time from now, so long that we can probably sort out once and for all just how poor Giroud has been, where we'd be had Ramsey not gone down, and just who might replace Arsène (and how soon we'd turn on him). That said, there are a fair number of matches scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, and some of those have some impact on us. Here, then, is a quick set of suggestions of who to root for—or, more accurately, who to root against.

Leading off, if only chronologically if not significantologically, is Everton's trip to face Southampton. Should they win, they climb, however briefly, back into fourth. Whatever pressure this creates for us is open to speculation. I don't see Newcastle offering much in the way of resistance, not with an injury-list that exceeds our own in number and significance or with Newcastle's slow slouch into slumming. Five losses in a row. Five. I digress. Everton know that they need to win this one to keep alive any chance of overtaking us permanently; after their trip to St. Mary's Stadium, they host Man City, still vying for first in the Prem. Should they drop points against Southampton and City, well, that's all she wrote as far as fourth place is concerned. Long story short, for those living under various rocks or deep inside other, equally various caves: root for Southampton. Or against Everton. Either, or.

Next up, we have Stoke hosting Spuds. On one hand, it's fun to root against Stoke. On the other, it's fun to root against Spuds. A St. Totteringham's Day may hang in the balance. Then again, Shawcross. So many choices, so little time. A Spuds loss gifts us our St. Totteringham's Day. I'm not so sure I like that; I'd prefer we win it on our own, without help.  In an ideal world, both squads would be bound and gagged and the points gifted to, say, Southampton so that they can finish above Man U. Sadly, I've asked around in the shadier corners of the internet, most of which are apparently in Russia (who knew?), and this just can't be arranged on such short notice. Give them two or three days' lead-time, and, well, [content deleted under advisement of barrister]. That said, I suppose a draw draws the finest balance of misery for both clubs, permitting Pulis's Palace to potentially pass the Potters and dangling dangerously the idea of a white London delectably but definitely out of reach.

Our merry little parade pays a quick visit to Old Trafford to see what might transpire once Norwich arrives. Meh. I suppose I should care, but I just can't summon the feeling. Go figure. Eh, go Canaries. I guess. Whichever.

On to Anfield. Now, we're talking. This is where the fit hits the shan. Of course, Liverpool have already reached 80 points, to we can't overtake them, and there's little point in rooting against them. Then again, Scousers. Mugsmashers. Liverputians. Insufferable bunch, aren't they? If only there was some way to deny them the Prem title. The idea of seeing Suarez hoist silverware brings the bile to the back of my throat, to be honest. Then again, so too does the idea of Terry doing the same. Something having to do with racism. More seriously, if Chelsea lose, so much the better. This would leave them at 75 points with two matches to play. We'll never overtake them on goal-differential (they're +41 to our +21), but it's not inconceivable to suggest that we could simply overtake them. They still have the Champions League to distract them, after all. A Liverpool win would all but confirm them as Prem champions, and I couldn't think of a better outcome than for Mourinho to specialize in finishing behind Arsenal, if only in this season. Go. Liverpool. (Sorry I can't muster up any exclamation points there).

Last but not least, we have Man City's trip to face Crystal Palace. There's little reason to root for City and many to root against. I won't list them here. Suffice it to say, a City loss would be fantastic as it increases our chances of finishing second, distant though that outcome may be. City do have a game in hand and a four-point lead on us, and it would take an epic collapse on their part to allow us to reel them in. Aside from our own strategic considerations, I do love the idea that a newly-promoted club could defeat the world's wealthiest (or one of them, at least). Very David and Goliath. That said, Palace played them tough and tight at the Etihad in December (1-0), and you can never count out Tony Pulis's side. Should Stoke draw with Spurs, Palace could overtake Stoke in the table. Will wonders never cease...

Long story short, there's a lot that can happen between now and Monday, some good, some bad. What's in our control? Fourth place. As to these other fixtures, let the chips fall where they may. Once we were ruled out of winning the Prem, the question of "who would you prefer to see win it?" became irrelevant to me. All that matters in my book is what maximizes our chances. If Liverpool win the Prem, so be it. If them winning on Saturday increases our chances of finishing 3rd, fine. We still have a few days for twiddling thumbs and playing mumblety-peg, so we may as well sit back, relax, and take in the sights.