First off, an apology for the lack of regular blogging service just lately. I’m now entering exam time at University which is essentially going to mean my world gone mad for a little while as I endeavour to prepare for that ordeal. Still it’s tough to ignore that Arsenal are also coming to the crunch as this season comes to its final, dramatic end.
Our draw with Stoke at the weekend, much like the draw with Chelsea before it was a satisfactory result in terms of the fact that it kept us third and in charge of our own destiny, but the dropping of those two points really means that our room for error is gone. There are two games to go, and though we are third, Tottenham and Newcastle sit only a point behind us meaning that dropped points in our last two games could easily dump us into fifth, never mind automatic Champions League qualification or whether Chelsea win the Champions League. On the bright side, one more win will confirm our first finish above Chelsea in the league since 2004. Not the biggest thing I know, but I’d take a certain satisfaction from it.
Our two remaining games are not easy, and I hope that is being drilled as far as possible into the minds of the players. Norwich have had an excellent season, they’ve enjoyed good results over teams of diverse quality and they are tough to beat. Our away game at Norwich was one that I felt we did very well to take three points from. Their season may be effectively over as they are clear of any threat of relegation and there’s not much prospect of them climbing the table to any considerable extent but they showed recently when they beat Spurs away from home that their enthusiasm for this season is undiminished and from their perspective, there’s no reason for them not to have a real go at it on Saturday lunchtime.
Following that game we wrap up the season away at West Bromwich Albion which is a curious game owing to the recent appointment of Roy Hodgson as manager of England (Incidentally, not that I could care less but I think he’s one of the best appointments England could have made), will they be distracted by the England circus as Spurs seemed to be when Redknapp was in the frame? I’m inclined to think not as West Brom have seemed only too pleased to allow Hodgson to take the job and seem genuinely pleased for him whereas I think Spurs were far more apprehensive of losing Redknapp.
Realistically I think we need six points from these games. I don’t fancy Spurs to lose either of their remaining games, away at Aston Villa and home to Fulham, whilst Newcastle undoubtedly have it toughest as they take on Manchester City at home in what realistically is the last chance for City to be deprived of the title (their last game is QPR at home) before travelling to Everton. But Newcastle have proved that they have the appetite for these sorts of games, and whilst its nothing to do with Arsenal I feel that Cisse’s goal against Chelsea last night bears some sort of mention. He’s a player that could get Newcastle the goal(s) they need against City, it’ll be an interesting fixture no doubt.
Away from all the madness and permutations of the Champions League qualification situation, there has been quite the departure from usual Arsenal transfer policy as the club have confirmed the signing of Lukas Podolski from Cologne. The forward will join us in the summer and will enjoy a full pre-season with the club instead of being chucked in a month into the season and I think that’s really important. His signing has prompted rumours that Arsenal are now moving swiftly to other targets such as Ajax’s Jan Vertonghen but I take that with a pinch of salt.
I think Podolski is going to turn out to be just the right sort of signing. Capable of playing the central role, but just as at home as a supporting or wide striker he’s the perfect player to take some of the pressure off of Robin Van Persie. He can play alongside him and score goals, or if Robin needs a rest, he can take the central role himself. And really, the crucial question to this signing is, is he being brought in to supplement Van Persie or replace him? Personally I think the intention is for it to be very much the former. I don’t think the club have any intention of losing Van Persie this summer, and perhaps one thing the Podolski signing may accomplish is showing Robin that should he stay, he’ll be supported by quality and won’t be expected to do it all himself.
It will be interesting to see if the club really is going to get all its business done very early this summer. Knowing the fans, even if we grant every wish, and ship all the players people want to see gone out and replace them all before the start of Euro 2012, there would still be complaining if we didn’t sign anyone for the rest of the summer despite having a full squad. Anyway, I think those issues are all for the future. For right now we shouldn’t be thinking too far ahead of our last two games of the season which are going to make for the tensest finale to a season I can remember since 2006.
Right then, that’s all for now, take it easy and I’ll return soon.