It was the worst of times; it was the best of times. For the worst, we’d have to reach back to hallowed antiquity to bring you a recreation of the fall of the mighty Arsenal. ‘Twas less than a week ago, but the reverberations still resound in the memory. Thankfully, events of a more-recent vintage off a balm of sorts to the soul. We may have squandered a chance at winning the Prem, but I’m not willing to concede just yet, not when there are still a half-dozen or so matches out there. As disappointing as it may be to fall short, we’ve come a long way. Let’s get to the roundup…
1. Man City (24 W 4D 4L: 76 pts.)
So, it turns out that we’ll have to win the Prem courtesy of the FA slamming Man City with a massive points deduction for those 113 violations—sorry, alleged violations—of financial regulations. Aha. Ha.Back to reality, it does look like Man City have seized the inside track on a fifth Prem title in six seasons. They’re a remorseless winning machine, and they rolled us like a Cuban rolling cigars. It might have been nice for them not be given a generous if technically correct pen against Fulham, but oh well. We may have enjoyed 247 days atop the Prem, but we’ve always had to know that they were superior to us, just less consistent. Going undefeated during run-ins is what they do. It’s almost as if a few financial breaches gave them some kind of advantage over the rest of us.
2. Arsenal (23W 6D 4L: 75 pts.)
As it turns out, our cagey strategy of dropping points in order to give Man City a false sense of confidence may not have been as cagey as it once appeared. We now find ourselves in a position previously occupied by Liverpool and Man U, enjoying one of our best seasons in recent memory only to (possibly) fall short. For some of us, it’s time to turn to the idea that a top-four finish was always the goal, and one we overshot. For others among us, we still cling to the idea that there’s still a chance that City will drop points as they pursue that elusive Champions League title. I’m of the clingy persuasion, which does make me hard to tolerate on a personal level.
Well, it was a good ride while it lasted. Come on, kids. Let’s go home.
3. Newcastle (18W 11D 4L: 65 pts.).
For a side that seemed bound and determined to set a record for draws and clean sheets, Newcastle have mutated rather alarmingly into a side hell-bent on obliterating opponents via a blitz of goals. Since losing to Villa, they’ve scored 13 goals in their last three outings, and even if almost half of those came against that joke of a club at N17, they’re building a frightening amount of momentum at just the wrong time…for us. While there’s little chance they’ll overtake us to finish second, our trip to St. Mary’s looks more and more fraught by the week. What’s more, they’ll almost certainly find some loose change to spend in the summer. Top four’s going to get just a tad crowded…
4. Man U (19W 6D 7L: 63 pts.)
We might have hoped that former Gunners Emery and Martinez would have seen fit to do their former club better than this, but it’s hard to go into Old Trafford and get a result, even more so when Casemiro scythes down a defender with a reckless challenge and isn’t even booked. Perhaps Jarred GIllett felt that the Brazilian had already learned his lesson after having seen straight reds twice in recent weeks. That Casemiro went on to earn MOTM honours here and there can only be seen as retroactive proof of a man thoroughly chastened and determined to play within the rules and spirit of the game. The only other alternative would be positively scandalous—could it be that Man U occasionally get a tiny, infinitesimal touch of something resembling preferential treatment? Heaven forfend.
We’ve now reached a point beyond which no other club can overtake us. I’m of two minds here. On one hand, it would be simply delicious to examine the idiosyncratic ways that the various clubs currently sitting fifth through eighth could end up. They’re squabbling for the clubs that the top four see fit to let drop from the top of the table. On the other hand, as we all know, I’m a lazy, lazy man. I should replace any one of them with that Chinese cartoon with the robots that turn into blingwads. Brighton, in 8th with 52 points having played just 31 matches, could theoretically climb to as high as fifth. Aston Villa are making noise. Liverpool are one of the most in-form squads of the last month (and offered us a mouth-watering dish, going up 3-0 on Tottenham, letting those Spuds equalise, and winning in stoppage time). Speaking of Spurs, they look like they might fold faster than Superman on laundry day.
One thing’s certain – we’re due for a best finish in years, and the future looks, if anything, even brighter. Securing a Champions League offers us a path back to competitiveness if not silverware, and the summer should see us sign a few players here and there who just might add some quality and depth. Time for that later, though. Let’s not give up on winning the Prem just yet.