Arsenal can seize title initiative in season-defining run

by Will ODoherty

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

As the half-time whistle blew at the Emirates on Tuesday, some were wondering whether a decisive blow had been struck in the race for the Premier League title.

United were cruising at fortress Old Trafford while an under-par Arsenal were trailing to the 13 men of Everton.

Arsenal showed character to win their game and keep the title very much alive. And the storm over David Moyes’ blatant smokescreen to his own struggles has obscured what may prove to be the most important five-game run of the season, which starts today.

That United are unbeaten and only now showing signs of moving out of second gear is a worrying sight for everyone else in the league, but they are about to embark on a run of games that will thoroughly test their championship credentials.

Today they travel to Wolves, a side with a very good record against the big guns at home, then host Manchester City, and after a freebie at Wigan must travel to Chelsea and a resurgent Liverpool.

United are incredible at home, having dropped only two points all season, but Arsenal know how difficult City can make it for their hosts. The other four games are away from Old Trafford, and Sir Alex Ferguson has seen his side routinely struggle on the road, only picking up three wins and eight draws.

The leaders have not yet failed to earn a point on their travels but Molineux, Stamford Bridge and Anfield are very tough places to go and it is certainly conceivable they could drop six points from the next 15.

So what of Arsenal? Well, frankly, their next five games should yield maximum points.

Their hardest task comes later today when they travel to St James’ Park, but with Newcastle so toothless up front, this is by no means a bad time to play them.

They then have three consecutive home games against struggling Wolves and Stoke – very different propositions when on the road – and Sunderland who, with the exception of a brilliant performance at Stamford Bridge, are far from formidable travellers.

They finish off their stretch with a visit to West Brom, who may very well be fighting for their lives by that point. But if the current Arsenal side is worthy of being crowned champions they will look to inflict cruel revenge for their humiliation at the Emirates early in the season.

There are an awful lot of ifs, but it is a real possibility that Arsenal could be top by a point heading into the final quarter of the league programme.

With a nightmarish draw against Barcelona to endure it seems unlikely they will have the distractions or extra physical burden of the Champions League while they should also have the boost of winning a trophy – albeit the Carling Cup – at long last.

There will still be many tests to overcome, not least United at the Emirates, but Arsenal are still in the thick of this race.

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  • paultess

    Newcastle may be difficult but realistically ALL the remaining games are winnable. ManU and Liverpool at the Emirates are tough but even with draws Arsenal would win the league. Chelsea to make ManU drop 5 points, ManCity maybe get a point and Liverpool maybe a win or a tie.
    Face it, if ManU will all their games they deserve to be Champions but with the schedule they have and our schedule I am very very optimistic – as long as key players stay injurie free.

  • Mystical Mike

    Wigan last season, remember that?

    These games look easy on paper but all the teams we have lady to play will be fighting for their lifes.

    If, and it’s s big one, we get Vermalon back then I think we are in with a shout. I really don’t trust schalici, he’s the new Silvestre, when he plays we don’t win! So we have to stay injury free for sure

  • jcbmont

    Arsenal are still in the race yes, but do not underrate what Newcastle can do to us. I still think they have an aggressive forward yet. Nile Ranger is an one man army fighting forward. To subdue him will be a task!!!

  • Mystical Mike

    Out of it now, how do recover from throwing away a 4 goal lead?

    Only Arsenal can do that, Chelsea or Man u know how to close games out.

    We can’t defend, need new defenders but Wenger won’t spend

    JOKE team

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