The race is on… Is what I should be saying regarding the race for the title, but since Liverpool are definitely going to bottle that let’s divert our focus to the top 4. Four teams fight, only two spots remain.
Alexa, Play Survivor – Eye of the Tiger.
In one corner we have London’s most prestigious club, fallen from grace at the hands of their new manager Maurizio Sarri.In another corner England’s former giants, Manchester United guided by the wheel of Ole. In the other half is London’s brokest, Arsenal FC and Tottenham Hotspur. One who’s team is no stranger to disappointment, the other who has the means to be successful but struggles to capitalise. Bet you can’t tell the difference between the two.
Four teams go into battle, only two deserve those Champions League spots. Let’s recap…
“I’m not going to say top-four is our target because my target is the next game, but my target is also a certain way of playing” – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
So what happens if your certain way of playing stops working Ole? Interesting.
Game week 17 saw Manchester United 11 points outside of the top 4. Former boss, Jose Mourinho only had himself to blame. After losing 3-1 to rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, the club decided that it was time to severe their partnership. Bitter sweet end for United and Jose, on one hand Jose left with near £20 million in his pocket and on the other, Pogba was finally free. Win/Win when you think about it. Carrick led the reds to their first steps of redemption before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the wheel; and Lord did he steer ! 11 consecutive wins in all competitions for the former United player, including triumph at the Emirates and in Wembley. Emphatic start to his managerial career. Though he lost his ultimate challenge in the Champions League with a rather embarrassing 2 goal deficit to PSG, his journey for top 4 continued. Game week 28 and he is still steering the ship to a Champions league spot; not just by securing 4th, the man could actually win the competition. Emulating Roberto Di Matteo in his miraculous Round of 16 CL turn around for Chelsea, Ole has pulled Manchester United through to the quarter finals. Sensational. The reds are also currently sitting on fourth, just 3 points behind Tottenham… TOTTENHAM?
“After Burnley I said it was difficult, and tonight makes it impossible to fight Man City and Liverpool.” Mauricio Pochettino
There was only ever a fight with City and Liverpool Poch, Spurs were just Cheerleading.
From 15 points clear of Man United during game week 17, the Spurs lads have found themselves just 4 points behind 5th place Arsenal. Typical. Looks like whenever the Spurs come marching in, they leave their desire to win behind. *Alexa, play Kanye West – All Falls Down*. A sensational run for the white side of North London. Clenching their 3rd place spot with wins against Manchester United and Chelsea; beating this seasons bogey teams for the top 6, Wolves and Leicester in the process. So where did it all go wrong ? Oh that’s right, squad depth. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that the lack of depth in their squad was due to bite them in the backside. A whole year without one signing ? Come on. Though having a great run up till New Years, the loss of Dele Alli and Harry Kane to injury hit Spurs. A little bit of Son to save the day ? I think so. Having stepped up to fill the void, Son had scored in 3 out of 3 matches without Alli and Kane on the pitch, landing him player of the year at the London Football Awards. Shock ? Not really, if Modric can win the Ballon D’or ahead of Messi then I guess anyone can win POTY, right? Will Bottlers FC remain in the top 4 come the end of the season? The question had been asked following defeat at Manchester United and later again at Burnley. Chelsea and Arsenal had the answer to this. With their win against Dortmund and a place in the Champions League quarter final, who’s to say we won’t see them win the competition? That’s right, everyone.
“We will have to fight until the last minute in the last match. But we are fighting and in the last four matches we did well. A minimum [level] of consistency has arrived, but we have to continue.’ – Maurizio Sarri
Get a load of this guy! There was consistency Sarri, consistency in your weird decisions !
6-0. A score line I thought I’d never see in my life, never mind 4-0 away at Bournemouth. The two away games rightfully questioned the blues credibility for retaining a top 4 position. Per the commencement of the season, Chelsea fans grew in excitement for the introduction of Sarrismo. Well Chelsea fans, how are we feeling now? Sarriball soon turned into Sorryball, only Maurizio wasn’t sorry. As if the race for top 4 wasn’t tight enough, the blues dropped points at home against Manchester United and away at Arsenal prior to the defeats that left them 6th with the -10 drop in goal difference. Shameful to say the least. At least their Europa League campaign is proving successful. It will take an immaculate competitor to beat Chelsea to the Final prize in the Europa League, but we cannot trust that Sarri will not go back to making his same old weird decisions.
Once 10 points ahead of Manchester United, now 2 points behind with a game in hand. Wait a game in hand? Things are starting to pick up for the blues. Back to back Wins in back to back London Derby’s. Triumph over Tottenham and Fulham have put Chelsea back on track. With only Liverpool and Manchester United left to play out of the top 6, can they actually obtain maximum points in their remaining games, or will they have to find glory in Europe once again? Find out next time on…
“I trust in our capacity to (finish fourth)” Unai Emery
FOURTH ? May I use the Soulja Boy meme again?
22 games unbeaten, currently 5th in the league. How is this possible you ask? You have to be an Arsenal fan to understand. A rocky start to Emery’s debut campaign left the Gooners chasing a top 4 spot. 22 matches and 5 draws later, Arsenal remain fighting for 4th and the battle seemed lost with a surprise defeat at the St Mary’s stadium. Relegation subjects, Southampton handed Arsenal their first defeat after an award winning streak. It was a good run ! Having won the North London Derby, scraping a draw with Liverpool and Manchester United in the process, I can honestly say this could count as a trophy for them. Probably the only trophy they’d attain this season. Having fumbled 3-1 against 10th place Rennes from the Farmers Ligue 1, Arsenal have built themselves a wall that they may not be able to climb. The Gooners face Manchester United this weekend in a must win clash for both of them. Dropping points may result in Chelsea leap frogging ahead of them, increasing the pressure for Arsenal to win all of their remaining matches; and as we have all seen this season Emery is too unpredictable to bet on that happening.
Alas, four teams fight, 2 teams will remain. In my opinion, Tottenham are destined to drop points. Whether they drop out of the top 4 is questionable, however having yet to play the top two teams in the League and a CL quarter final to get past, I cannot see their squad depth permit the achievement of maximum points. With the easiest run of the 4, Arsenal may sniff 4th place but history dictates that the North London teams are no strangers to fumbling near the finish line. With that being said, Chelsea and Manchester United look a shoo in to retain the last two spots; however, the two play against each other on 28th April; this may well be the decider. It’s going to be an interesting race boys and girls. One thing I do hope for is that it will take another “AGUEEEROOOOOO” type of situation to determine who gets that top 4.
Gentle Reminder: Only two of the 4 in battle have had the opportunity to lift such a great trophy.
Soundcloud – Goal Diggers Podcast