Now that the dust has settled on the Everton game and we’ve all had 24 hours to calm down a little, now might seem as good a time as ever to sift through the wreckage that is our now defunct seven point gap (R.I.P) over the Arse.
But far from finding the black-box and weeping uncontrollably over how it happened, now’s not the time to dwell on the past. It is what it is and contrary to popular belief, we’re not dead and buried just yet. It’s time to get some home truths going on and ease a bit of the hysteria that seems to have popped up since Sunday.
Following Sunday’s win, we haven’t lost anything, yet. Why? Because we hadn’t achieved anything in the first place. With six games still to play in the league -in spire of the views from several in Fleet Street – there is everything still to play for.
The manner in which we seem to have gone from Champions League shoo-ins to nailed-on bottle jobs might seem soul-shattering, but in the same way we were paraded as all but qualified for elite European competition following the North London derby win, we’re not all of a sudden set for guaranteed capitulation.
As a team who are so, so reliant on pace and penetration, as expected, we were very neat and tidy but without much in the way of anything resembling firepower. We were in more need of a defense that possesses more than five brain cells as opposed to Bale’s box-office and if it was two points dropped, then that owes more to a defence shorn of confidence following the San Siro mauling, than the Welshman’s absence.
But yet again, it’s as you were in the race for fourth. We need to take things one step at a time and if we’re still adhering to Andre Villas-Boas’ calculations he made after the 1-0 loss to Fulham, we’re going to have to win five out of our last six.
Let’s not beat around the bush here; regardless of whether 15 points will or won’t be enough to secure a top four finish, it seems hard to believe we’re likely to pull that off on current form.
Although if we’re likely to drop points, then both Arsenal and most definitely Chelsea are going to as well. There seems to be some form of assumption that our London rivals are something resembling a couple of constants in the league’s run-in, with us painted as the self-destructing variable. Wrong.
The Arse still have to entertain our recent opponents, Everton, not to mention a fixture against Manchester United at their wonderfully crafted Tupperware bowl, too. If you recall, they were also nailed on to beat QPR and Wigan this time last season. The result? Nul points. They were also supposed to cruise to a crowning win over Norwich to kill our top four hopes dead in their penultimate fixture. The result? A hard-earned draw. The Arse play all three of the aforementioned during their run in.
And as for Chelsea, if the wider footballing public can look beyond the North London narrative, they might find that Rafa Benitez’s aren’t out of the woods by any means – in fact they’re very much still lost inside.
Gary Neville called it the hardest run in that any of the three top-four contenders have to look forward to and with games against Liverpool, United and Everton – not to mention at least one more FA Cup fixture and a Europe League campaign that looks likely to outlive our own – it’s hard to argue with that.
We have a real dogfight on our hands to finish in the top four this season. But don’t buy into the garbage that we’re dead and buried just yet.
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