09 February 2015

Leicester, I'm sorry, but your timing couldn't be worse.

We're licking our wounds and looking for excuses for how we lost at White Hart Lane. We had gone into that match feeling high and mighty, what with a string of five straight wins to inflate our egos. Even if Tottenham had come in on a similarly impressive run, what with a swash-buckling win at the Hawthorns, a nervy in over Sheffield United in the League Cup, and a jaw-dropping win over Chelsea, to name just a few. Among the other results, one blemish does stand out: a 2-1 loss to Leicester in London. The reductive maths suggest that we lost to Tottenham 2-1, and Tottenham lost to Leicester 1-2, and so we will end up losing to Leicester 4-2. Or some such. That's a bit outlandish, even for this correspondent's likings. It's more likely that our loss to Tottenham will mark us as a cornered beast, much as it did the last time we lost to those capons, and woe betide the Foxes as a result.

The last time we lost at White Hart Lane, the result sent Spuds seven points clear of us with only ten matches to play. For those who don't remember how that turned out, we went undefeated over the remaining ten matches in order to claim a Champions League spot in dramatic fashion. This time through, those same Spuds are now just one point clear with fourteen matches to play.  Without making too much of the parallels, we rebounded from that 2013 loss by thumping Bayern 0-2, the first time anyone had beaten those flat-track bullies at Allianz Arena in ages. More to the point, our recent form might have reached a point that convinced us of our own excellence just a bit too early, and so we've come crashing back down to Earth.

Still, the damage to our standing in the Prem is minimal. True, we're now #4 in a four-clug logjam with Southampton the current kings of the molehill on 45 points, followed by Man U at 44, Tottenham at 43, and us at 42. Lurking and looming is Liverpool at 39. Somewhere just a few points off the pace is Leicester, whose 17 points are lowest in the Prem. For as much as this might make the out to be doormats, they are only four points away from climbing out of the drop-zone, and they have claimed a few scalps: Draws at home with Everton and Arsenal and, more recently, Liverpool. A 5-3 win over Man U. A 2-2  The FA Cup win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane. They've rarely if ever been over-run and have to feel like they have to find points wherever they're available. Heck, in their last four trips away from King Power Stadium, they've gone won three and lost just one. Based on their last six results, they'd rise to 11th, just a point below Man City's pace.

On the other, other hand, this looks like a club in disarray (how's that for a jarring juxtaposition?). Three consecutive Prem losses had spawned rumours of manager Nigel Pearson being dismissed, rumours that as of this writing can be neither confirmed nor denied. Whatever turmoil there is off the pitch, we at Arsenal will have to set aside any concerns. This is a cut-throat business, not that we're be the ones cutting throats (nor throttling them, but that's another story for another day). That would be the job of LCFC chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Should Leicester lose on Tuesday, Pearson might find his neck on the chopping block. Sorry to mix metaphors, but on these matters it's a bit à la carte at the best of times.

As to the players on the menu, we could see the return of Alexis, the talismanic Chilean who has delivered goal after goal after goal, not to mention the drive and intensity and purpose that seemed to be in such short abundance on Saturday. Gibbs and Gabriel could make cameos, auditioning as extras to Monreal and Koscielny, respectively. Whichever way we slice it, it's hard to imagine Leicester nicking a point off us, not when Tottenham have to visit Anfield and other rivals have similarly tetchy fixtures to face. We could still rise to as high as third, given the right combination of results.

A positive result on Tuesday wouldn't be just the right antidote to Saturday's setback; it might be just enough to reaffirm our claim on a top-four (three?) finish in the Prem. What say you? Jump down below the fold to share your thoughts...