Race for 3rd, 4th, or bust…

Ugh. Everton, you maledicta maledicta maledicta. Those two dropped points are like an albatross around our necks, and the point you nicked from us have done you absolutely no good. Why couldn’t you have just let us win? Now, having dropped four points in our last two matches, we’ve re-opened a door that was effectively closed, and our grip on 4th place has loosened to the point that we now have to confront the ugly possibility that Spurs would slip into 4th place with little we can do to stop them. Even with their game against Chelsea, in which one or both will drop points, Spurs could theoretically reach 74 points on the season, one point higher than our max of 73. In other words, even if we win out against QPR, Wigan, and Newcastle, it’s possiblehowever remote or unlikely as it may seemthat Spurs could eke out the 4th place finish we so earnestly covet.

However, we shouldn’t really lament the dropped points against Everton or Man U. Those were hard-earned draws for all concerned. I don’t want to dwell on how drawing with Everton might reflect our diminished status; I respect the squad and don’t begrudge them in the least. No, instead, I find myself scouring earlier fixtures and agonizing the points we’ve dropped against far-lesser squads. Look at that. Just look at it. We’ve dropped
thirteen points against teams that have no business contending with us, much less threatening to win. I might be willing to concede the early-season matches against Sunderland and Stoke as we were still figuring out how to integrate Giroud, Podolski, and Cazorla and deal with the departure of van Persie. However, there is no good explanation, none that I’ll except, for why we’ve dropped points against Norwich, Fulham, Aston Villa, or Southampton. If we had kept those nine points, Chelsea and Spurs could bid us a fond adieu, and it would be Man City staring up at us while we perch in second place. Talk about squandered opportunity. “My kingdom for a horse” indeed. For want of a mere four goals, we’ve dropped from 2nd place to a very precarious 4th.

If there’s any saving grace in this, it’s that we haven’t dropped points carelessly since the trip to Southampton. Over the last four months, we’ve kept all of the points we really should have kept even while dropping points against top-five (okay, seven) rivals: a home-loss to Man City, an away-loss to Chelsea, a home-draw with Liverpool, and an away-loss to Spurs. Dropping those points is not inexplicable; each of them, except perhaps the draw with Liverpool, is understandable, if not acceptable.

At this point, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable position, hoping for Spurs to drop two points. Early-season draws that seemed innocuous at the time have become all the more important now. Keeping maximum points at this point in the season therefore becomes paramount. We’ve left ourselves in a position of hoping that Spurs, if not Chelsea, drop pointsnot just against each other but also against other, lesser opponents. It’s enough to cause a Gooner to punch the drywall (mind the studs, stud). As much as it irritates us, we do find ourselves hoping that Spurs drop a few points, whether it’s against Chelsea or one of the teams we ourselves have dropped points against: Southampton, Stoke, or Sunderland. Such are the wages of sin, as they say.

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