13 December 2015

We are top of the league, said wearetopoftheleague!

Okay, so it wasn't quite the swash-buckling rampage we've come to expect against Aston Villa, scoring only two goals after scoring 12 in our previous three outings. Pity poor Villa, on whom Kevin Friend might have lavished some pity by ruling Walcott offside just before halftime. Walcott lashed home a vicious shot anyway. Regardless of the particulars, we took care of business, seeing off a Villa side that is already all but relegated. Whatever. It's the other end of the table that matters—the one atop which Arsenal now sit...for now. If you haven't been chanting "we. are. top. oftheleague, saidwearetopoftheleague!" while reading, you're doing it wrong. Go back to the top of the page and reread whilst chanting and bobbing your head to the rhythm. We'll wait.

Done? Sorted. Welcome back. As alluded to above, we weren't necessarily at our best except for stretches in the first half when we took the lead; in fact, Villa even had us on the back foot for a long-ish stretch at the beginning of the second. Walcott earned us a penalty by burning past Hutton, who dragged him down in the box. Giroud sent Guzan the wrong way to earn his 50th Arsenal goal. Ramsey made a tackle just outside our area and went on a lung-busting 80-yard run to square home Özil's pass. Čech kept his 169th clean sheet. In other words, a good day at the office.

How good? Good enough to send us to the top of the table. Man City needed a flukey stoppage-time deflection to win...at home...against Swansea, who are hardly scaring anyone (except maybe Chelsea, who might have celebrated Touré's goal more than any actual Blues fan—um, wait. Is there such a thing as an actual Blues fan? Mind blown.). Man U did their level best to prove that there's a difference between looking like los Blancos and playing like them, losing to Bournemouth despite wearing an all-white kit for the first time since the 1970's. Speaking of losing, Tottenham went from 1-0 up to 1-2 down at White Hart Lane, losing in spectacular fashion to Toon, who crawled out of the relegation zone and above Chelsea in the process.

The upshot of all of this is that we're top of the league just a few weeks after our own bitterness and infighting seemed to symbolize an impending implosion. Koscielny injured, Alexis injured, an away-loss to West Brom and a draw at home against Tottenham. The thrashing from Bayern and the disappointment at Sheffield Wednesday (with Ox and Walcott injured). Interview almost any Gooner in late November, and he or she would tell you that our campaign was all but over—no League Cup, Champions League, or Prem title to fight for with the silver lining of maybe, just maybe fighting for that third consecutive FA Cup.

Well, we're back in the thick of things. For as depressed as any of us might have gotten, though, let's not get too elated at the current state of things. There are still 22 Prem matches to play, and I might add that we've added two Champions League fixtures, as opposed to Europa League fixtures, to the mix. We'll learn who we'll face on Monday. The larger point to consider is that, for as dispiriting as it might have been to suffer a slump in November, we shouldn't make too much of a rebound in December.

More important than when we are on the table is the form we've seen in the last three outings: eight goals scored, two clean sheets kept. A fantastic must-win in Greece sandwiched by two should-wins in England. If we can keep playing with the same determination, focus, and purpose that we've shown in these last three, we'll pencil ourselves in as favourites to win the Prem. That's a big "if", by the way, so don't get carried away. We have a barn-burner awaiting us next week, when we host Man City, with a result that could echo down through the rest of the season. Without jinxing anything, it's worth mentioning that Man City might be without Kompany, Agüero, or Zabaleta. Even if they're available, they may not be match-fit. Just sayin'.

In the meantime, we get to relish a very-real question: who should win on Monday, Leicester or Chelsea? The question would have been unthinkable at the start of the season, yet here we are. A Leicester win would send them top of the table and heap misery on Mourinho (and Chelsea). However, a Chelsea win would give us a week atop the table but resurrect notions of a Chelsea rise. What's a Gooner to do?

As suggested above, table-position matters far less than form. Leicester's Vardy and Mahrez are in the form of their lives. Let's hope they batter Chelsea, ignoring for now what that means for the table. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all.

Enough of enemies and friends. We, may I remind you, are top of the league. We are top of the league. Just don't go shouting that from the rooftops.

Yet.