Tottenham Hotspur (White Hart Lane, London)
Premier League Fixture – Matchday 34
Wednesday 14th April 2010
Kick Off: 8pm – Live on Sky Sports 1
Regular readers of this blog will know that I put a massive emphasis on the last 12 games of the season
When I did the whole “Arsenal Title Charge” thing the size of the task Arsenal had in front of them was clear. For me, to stand any chance of winning the league they would have to win all of the remaining 12 games. For any team to go on a run like that would be special, but for a severely depleted Arsenal squad you were asking for miracles.
Amazingly though, they did manage to win their first 5 games in that run, pulling out gritty performances against Sunderland, Stoke, Burnley, Hull City and West Ham. They threw away 2 points against Birmingham, but managed to beat Wolves with another last minute winner.
Despite the loss of Van Persie, Gallas, Fabregas, Song, Arshavin, Rosicky, Diaby and Ramsey over these games, they have had the character to get the results. I am still gutted about the blip at Birmingham, but overall you can’t help but have admiration for the players.
Whether Arsene should have strengthened in January is a question for another day but the fact is we’ve had terrible injuries and still managed to be in there with a shout. I do think the dropping of those 2 points against Birmingham are probably now going to be decisive but the recent run has been nothing short of miraculous.
And that’s why I’m so proud of the team, whatever happens now.
The flip-side of course is the feeling of disappointment, as this was a big chance to win the title for the first time since 2004.
There is no doubt that this has been one of the weakest Premier League seasons in a long time. Whether that’s because the top teams can’t afford to break the bank and spend big anymore is debatable, but the fact is Arsenal are 3 points off the top despite having Van Persie, Fabregas and Gallas out for long periods of time. That is essentially the spine of the team.
And that’s why it’s disappointing. If the footballing God’s would have been slightly more favourable to us, Van Persie wouldn’t have got injured on International duty. I have no doubt whatsoever that if he was fit this year we would be a good 10 points better off and league champions. Van Persie was that influential. He didn’t just score vital goals, he made them as well but more importantly he was a leader on the pitch.
He was the focal point of how we attacked. Literally, it was like Manchester United losing Wayne Rooney. So when you look at it like that, it’s amazing what Arsenal have done in his absence.
So onto the game against Spurs.
The bookies have Arsenal has favourites at 5/4, Tottenham are 11/5 and a draw is 9/4. That to me is a surprise, considering Arsenal’s massive injury list, and there’s no doubt Tottenham will be like a wounded animal after the humiliating defeat to Championship side Portsmouth in the FA Cup.
In our favour though is our excellent recent run in the league (21 points from a possible 24) and the fact that Spurs just can’t beat us. But I don’t think that’s any reason to underestimate them – they would absolutely love to end our title chances, so I believe it will be probably the biggest test so far from our last 12 games.
Peter Crouch was terrible against Pompy but we notoriously struggle against height and balls in the air so he could do us some damage. Any with Harry Redknapp not being the most tactically adept manager he’ll favour just pumping the ball into the box, Wimbledon-style.
Anyway, we will just have to wait and see what happens.
It’s a massive game, and 3 points are essential if we want to keep the pressure up on Chelsea.