Arsenal’s recent revival brings both pleasure and pain. The former comes through the fact that the Gunners’ 7 consecutive league wins has propelled them to third place, a position which guarantees Champions League football next season. The latter arises because it makes you wonder ‘What if?’. What if Arsenal had begun their renaissance earlier in the campaign, rather than the start of February. What if Jack Wilshere had been fit for the season, or what if Sagna didn’t break his leg. But then you remind yourself injuries are part of the game, so there is little room for moaning and groaning.
Gibbs celebrates his first league goal of the season
The 3-0 victory against Aston Villa on Saturday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium was almost the perfect display. All eleven players were outstanding, even the heavily mocked Johan Djourou, who replaced the injured Laurent Koscielny in the warm-up. Gervinho’s skill and vision found Kieran Gibbs for the first goal early on, before Alex Song’s beautiful lofted pass found Theo Walcott for the second. Deep in injury-time, Mikel Arteta’s powerful free-kick rounded off the scoring. Alex McLeish’s side offered little. Emile Heskey and Gabriel Agbonlahor were anonymous, and although Marc Albrighton threatened on the counter, his effect on the game faded.
The stalemate at Stamford Bridge that preceded this game only further increased the joy amongst the Arsenal fans. It means Wenger’s men are now 3 points clear of Spurs, and 8 points clear of Chelsea – a position many thought was unthinkable a few months back. The 1-0 win at Everton probably brought the Frenchman more happiness though. Watching Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen defend as they did at Goodison Park was delightful – Wenger will be keen to get the former back for the game with QPR next Saturday.
But the season doesn’t finish in March. It’s imperative to stress this point. There are 8 games remaining for Arsenal in the league this season and some tough ones too. Chelsea and Manchester City (both at home) and Stoke (away) are difficult, but Wigan, QPR and Wolves provide some comfort. But as we all know, sometimes the ‘harder’ games are the ones you win, and the ‘bankers’ are the ones in which you slip up. Football has always been like this.
The main point though, is that Arsenal have third in their hands and they have the momentum too. If the gunners keep playing like they are, then automatic Champions League qualification will be ours. Three points in West London on Saturday afternoon would mean 8 successive league wins for the first time since March 2004 – when the invincibles won 9 games in a row in the Premier League. Who would have thought we’d be talking about such records a few months back? Football changes quickly, as Wenger pointed out last week, and that’s why it’s vital Arsenal don’t switch off.
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