09 May 2014

79 points. That's enough to win the Prem...in 1998.

An improbable win. A 17-goal margin of victory. Help from an unlikely, erstwhile foe. If these factors come together, the squad will climb to a finish that will dramatically alters its fortunes, its finances, and its fixtures. I speak, of course, of Norwich. If West Brom lose to Stoke and if the Canaries can defeat Arsenal by 17 goals, they'll climb out of relegation and remain in the Prem for another season. Arsenal share a similar hope for climbing to third, needing Chelsea to lose at Cardiff while winning by a raft of goals. In other words, the ink seems to be drying on each club's penciled-in position. Mixed metaphor, I know, but I painted myself into a corner and...right. Let's move on.

Like us, Norwich certainly had designs on finishing higher than they currently sit. Their summer business looked shrewd if not ambitious, and they had a right to look forward to building on last season's 11th-placed finish. Their slump back down towards the Championship has been as relentless as it's been prolonged, and it's hard to imagine them fighting as hard as they'd need to stave off that relegation. None of this should suggest that we can waltz in on take three points just because we're Arsenal; for as consistent as we've been against the bottom of the table, there's always a slip-up lurking. For those who might still scoff, consider that Norwich might consider themselves unlucky to have drawn with Chelsea when they could just as easily have won.

With us likely keeping at least one eye on next week's FA Cup final, after all, we may fall guilty to mailing this one in. With the idea that our positions on the table are all but cemented, Arsène may very well choose to rotate players, and I'm all for that. As nifty as it might be to reach 79 points and blather on about this as "the highest fourth-place point total ever", it just doesn't really add up to much. Maybe it would if we could invent some kind of TARDIS that transports us back in time to when 79 points was good enough to win the Prem, and then we could, well, win the Prem with 79 points. Then again, that would mean we travel back to 1998 to defeat Arsenal, and I'm not sure whether the space-time continuum would tolerate that. It might lead to some weird, Bizarro-like alternate reality in which Norwich are hoping to finish third while we fight to stay up. Worse, we might arrive in 1998 only for our teenage-mother to fall in love with us, forcing our siblings to slowly disappear from a photo until our dad decks Biff with one punch and we magically learn to play "Johnny B. Goode" on the guitar. Or something. The point here is to practice that guitar because you just never know.

Back to the Canaries, it's hard not to use words like "rotate" or "tune-up" or "cakewalk" without denigrating them. However, it has just never quite come together for them this year, and for whatever role pride might play in helping them on Sunday, there's just not enough there to slow us even if we do send out a few back-benchers. Just about the only real drama from our end comes from whether or not Szczesny can keep a clean-sheet in order to finish the season with 17. If so, he wins the Golden Glove. If not, Cech wins it by virtue of having needed fewer matches to earn his 16. Against a squad that has failed to score in five of its last six, that's not asking for too much, is it?