A good weekend of Premier League football became one to remember as Liverpool and Man City treated fans to the best game of the season and one of the best in the league’s history.
Arsenal’s bid to win the Barclays English Premier League title – and its first trophy since 2005 – is effectively in tatters.
It could be said that the Gunners’ fate was ultimately sealed after they suffered defeat at the hands of the Bolton Wanderers at the weekend.
They are now nine points below league leaders Manchester United and with just four matches left to play, it would take a miracle for Arsene Wenger’s men to claim the title.
The loss, described as ‘season-ending’, topped off a rough week for Wenger, one in which saw Gunner’s captain, Cesc Fabregas allegedly suggest his manager’s policy of fielding younger players was flawed and that the team ‘lacked the character and experience to land trophies’. Such claims have since been made out to have been twisted.
Twisted or not, Arsenal have lacked the character and experience to land trophies since 2005. Its trophy cabinet is testament to that and it seems, after the defeat at the weekend, Arsenal’s inability to win a competition will continue for another year.
But if it were, with the slimmest of chances, to achieve the feat, Arsenal would need to take maximum points from its remaining matches. Comforting for the Londoners is that three of their remaining opponents are placed outside of the top six.
But Wenger and his side have the daunting task of facing league leaders, United this weekend. Although they have the advantage of playing at home, the Gunners will enter the match having not beaten United since 8 November, 2008, when they recorded a 2-1 win at home.
Win or lose against United, Arsenal will be comforted by its impressive overall records against its remaining three opponents. Arsenal has lost just two of its last 10 games against Stoke City and Fulham and has only been defeated by Aston Villa once in the two club’s last 10 meetings.
If Arsenal were to overcome Manchester United, Stoke City, Aston Villa and Fulham, the title, one would think, would be somewhat within reach.
But claiming maximum points from its remaining matches is only half the battle. Four wins and twelve points would boost Arsenal’s bid in claiming the title, but its chances would remain reliant on the results of other fixtures in the remaining rounds.
Assuming Arsenal win all of its remaining fixtures, top placed Manchester United need only to win two of its remaining matches to ensure Arsenal cannot claim the title.
That prospect seems wholly credible as United, although having to face Arsenal and Chelsea in two of its remaining games, is unlikely to stumble against bottom of the table strugglers Blackburn and Blackpool.
It is dubious that results would lean in Arsenal’s favour and allow them to snatch the evasive Barclays title. A second placed finish looks as good as it will get for Arsenal this season, that is, if they can overcome second placed Chelsea, who are now United’s biggest threat in the title race.
Wenger described his side’s loss to Bolton as “difficult to swallow”. But perhaps what is more difficult to swallow is Arsenal’s six year trophy drought that will undoubtedly continue for at least twelve more months.