On the 13th of March, around 10pm, it will be officially confirmed that for the 8th year in a row, Arsenal haven’t won a trophy.
After their 1-3 defeat at home to German greats Bayern Munich, Arsenal would need more than a miracle to progress from the last 16 of the Champions League. Barring a Bavarian nightmare, and maybe some red cards or refereeing mistakes, the 3 away goals conceded will see Arsenal’s task at the Allianz Arena just too difficult. And so the trophy cabinet at the Emirates will once again be untouched, as the dust builds up for another year.
Knocked out of the FA Cup by Championship side Blackburn, and humiliatingly thrown out of the Capital One Cup by League 2 team Bradford City, the Champions League was the only cup competition left for Arsene Wenger. Until Bayern Munich arrived in London. An efficient, hard working performance left Wenger so upset he didn’t even stay for the handshakes after the match. Despite a 20 minute spell by the home side that had the German’s flustered, it wasn’t enough to leave themselves with any substantial hope for their 2nd leg trip next month.
The dream of winning the Premier League was over pretty quickly this season too. A team who around 10 years ago were winning the league, now Arsenal lie 21 points adrift from leaders Manchester United with 11 games remaining. So with no trophy to win again this campaign, you would imagine that’s Arsenal’s season is now finished. But oh how wrong you would be.
2 wars are happening between the best teams in England. In Manchester, the battle to be crowned the best rages on in a head to head between United and City. In the Capital, 3 teams are fighting it out for 2 places worth £25 million each, and the opportunity to play against Europe’s best. A financial package that you don’t want to miss out on. Yet if Arsenal aren’t careful, they will soon find themselves too far adrift of those all important Champions League spots. Currently 5th and 4 points behind Tottenham in 4th, Arsenal haven’t been above Tottenham in the league since November. However it would be too early to right them off, especially after overhauling a 10 point gap between themselves and Spurs last season to finish above their rivals. Yet this story is slightly different to last year.
12 months ago over at Tottenham, speculation was building. Harry Redknapp was being linked with the England job every single day. It was all the press could talk about. Many fans in white shirts claim that was a significant factor to their fall from the Champions League spots. Across the road at Arsenal, they were boosted by the now called Judas; Robin van Persie. A man in such great form whose goals turned losses into draws and draws into wins. A significant asset for a club in need of a hero. And the 3rd big factor in the overhaul happened on the 26th February 2012. Tottenham threw away a 2-0 lead at the Emirates, and were battered by 5 goals to 2 by full time. A match full of determination and courage from an Arsenal side who took the first steps to cutting down their rivals lead. A hugely significant match, which is set to repeat itself in a matter of weeks.
Sunday the 3rd of March is the date set in the diaries of all Tottenham and Arsenal fans. The Gunners trip to White Hart Lane could close the gap between them and the top 4, or put them even further behind. Arsenal used the result from this match last season as inspiration to carving down the gap between the two sides. Yet if Wenger’s team were to lose, where on earth would they discover that inspiration this time? Wenger can take hope in the belief that his last 12 games on paper seem easier than those for Andre Villas Boas. Home games against Everton and Manchester United added with trips to Tottenham, Swansea and West Brom seem the only real dangers for the Frenchman. Whilst Spurs still have fixtures against Liverpool, Everton, Swansea, Man City andChelsea. More difficult on paper, however if they went into these games after already defeating Arsenal, you would have to favour Spurs.
But its not a 2 horsed race this year. Chelsea are in 3rd by only 1 point, and with the drama surrounding their club it could all go pear shaped for them too. With interim manager Rafa Benitez providing inconsistent results, not thanked by some fans constantly booing him, Chelsea’s reign as a guaranteed top 4 side is under pressure too. With Fernando Torres still unable to provide goals, and Benitez’s questioned decisions, Chelsea could easily find themselves slipping out of the Champions League spots.
However, it is well argued that Chelsea have a much better squad than Arsenal on paper. The likes of Cahill and Lampard joined with the three musketeers of Mata, Hazard and Oscar, suggest that Chelsea should have the ability to secure themselves in the top 4. Their inconsistency could easily cost them, but you would think they have the talent to overcome a few minor issues.
So potentially it could all come down to a do-or-die match for Arsenal and their Champions League hopes. They have shown they can overcome gaps bigger than current before, however losing to Tottenham would surely spell the end for their dreams, as it would have done last year.
A win, and they could be set to pull off another leapfrog on their old rivals, making that cheque for £25 million tasting even sweeter.