Thursday, January 21, 2010

We're Contenders

Moe: Okay, punching isn't your thing. But that's okay. You're not that kind of fighter. What you're gonna do is stand there while the opponent gets exhausted from over-punching.
Homer: Then I can just push him over
Moe: That's right, and if the ref's not looking, you can kick him a couple of times

- The Simpsons, from "The Homer They Fall" episode

It's the 21st of January, 2010, and as of last night, Arsenal are the greatest football side in England. After last night's 4-2 win against Bolton, we're level on points with Chelsea (who have a game in hand), and ahead on goal difference. Sixteen matches to go, and we've every chance of winning the league. It's very, very strange considering the amount of shit we've been hanging on the team, but it turns out that we're contenders after all.

It's strange because it seems our position is due more to the weakness of other sides, rather than to any inherent strength of our own side. Liverpool are staring into financial oblivion. Man Utd are starting to feel the effects of the Glazers' blood-sucking ways. Chelsea is finally getting serious about acheiving a degree of financial continence. Like Homer Simpson, all we have to is wait for our opponents to get exhausted from over-punching, and then push them over.... and maybe kick them a couple of times.

I'm wondering if I was wrong for bagging the team when things were looking bad. We've had our usual spate of injuries, and we're 1st in January. We've relied on our reserves team to provide our backup, and you've got to say that they're delivering. Vermaelen's doing well. 4-3-3 is going well. Song has become a major player for us, and Diaby's showing his potential. If we had a decent replacement for Almunia, we'd be excellent.

Anyway, we've 16 games to go. We were in this position two years ago, but we faded to 3rd by season's close. I think this time we can do it. We've got a couple of tough bastards in Vermaelen and Arshavin. Everyone's a couple of years older. I still think we're lacking about three players, but then, what do I know? I wouldn't have thought we'd be 1st in January.

We've got that run of Aston Villa, Man Utd, Chelsea and Liverpool coming up, though. If we break even with that lot, I reckon we'll be it in until the close. If we don't, we'll fade again, maybe finish 3rd again and break my fucking heart.

Will it be a false dawn this time around? I'm not sure. Even if we falter this season, I think the tide's turning. Liverpool and Man Utd's problems aren't going to go away. Chelsea's transfer embargo is going to stick. Man City's going to struggle to find elite players unless they snag that Champions League place. And UEFA's proposal to restrict European competition to clubs that are financially self-sufficient will curb the spending of Chelsea and Man City. Meanwhile, the Arsenal are going to get better as long as we keep the side together.

Only, I wish we got a new goalkeeper.

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