Everton Slip Up but Can the Gunners Cross the Finish Line?
The Premier League is a championship where smaller clubs can beat the bigger clubs. Everyone would like to play there, this is a championship which is a little crazy, with a great atmosphere in the stadiums. – Serge Aurier
These are the quotes of a young right back from the French Ligue 1 that has been touted by the media as Bacary Sagna’s long-term replacement. Aurier, like many players and fans alike, glues his eyes to his screen to watch some high quality football that is eons ahead of his current league. Just recently, the second-placed team in the Premier League just eased past the French defending champions and Ligue 1 current table toppers.
The Premier League is highly regarded as the most exciting league in the world for more reasons than one. The massive influx of foreign talent has seen many teams adapt to the modern trends of the game and week in week out, teams continue to produce results that surprise football neutrals.
Last night, two vital matches took place simultaneously with the four teams harboring certain hopes and expectations for the season that is reaching its climax. For an oil-rich ambitious side like Manchester City, they needed a response from their defeat against fellow title contenders, Liverpool, but they hosted a Sunderland side that was rooted to the bottom of the table with faint hopes of escaping relegation.
It seemed like “business as usual” when Fernandinho put the hosts ahead but two goals for Connor Wickham almost handed Sunderland a shock victory before ex-Gunner, Samir Nasri, spared his team’s blushes with an equaliser that didn’t do any good to both teams but that result was beneficial to teams like Liverpool / Chelsea at the top and Cardiff / Fulham at the bottom.
Elsewhere, the Gunners paid keen interest to the proceedings at Goodison Park, a ground they were comfortably beaten by the hosts, Everton. The Toffees were in bullish mode winning their last seven games or so but they came up against a rejuvenated Crystal Palace side guided by Toby Pulis, a man that was discarded by Stoke due to his ‘unattractive’ style of football. Funnily enough, Stoke is just three points ahead of Crystal Palace and Pulis could still finish ahead of his former team.
Crystal Palace’s man on fire, Jason Puncheon scored a well taken goal before Scott Dann doubled their money. Steven Naismith pegged one back for Everton but Cameron Jerome scored the goal that was wildly celebrated in North London to put Palace 3-1 up. A late Kevin Mirallas goal just proved to be a consolation as Crystal Palace vacated Goodison Park with three well-earned points, a feat the Gunners weren’t even close to achieving this season.
So with just four games to go, the Gunners are in familiar territory as they face off with Everton for the right to be England’s fourth best team with the grand prize of Champions League football up for grabs. With Manchester United out of the competition, Arsenal’s qualification hopes won’t be threatened if they finish in fourth place.
This weekend, there would be a “preview of the FA Cup final” as the Gunners visit Hull for a crucial clash. Everton would host their former stalwart, David Moyes, and his Manchester United hordes and they would be hoping to do a double over United. I would have come out to say that Arsenal would ease past Hull and Everton would drop points against United but I’ve learned never to underrate any team this season, so I can only hope for the best for my club and of course, the worst for Everton.
After this game week, Arsenal would host a struggling Newcastle side while Everton would visit Southampton. This fixture can give the Gunners the opportunity to extend their lead over the Toffees because when the Gunners host West Bromwich, Everton would have a home clash with Manchester City that still harbors false hopes of winning the League. Finally, Arsenal would visit Norwich and Everton would end what has been a great campaign with a clash against Hull.
It is believed that Roberto Martinez told his superiors that he would guarantee them Champions League football but finishing the campaign in fifth place with the shoe-string budget he had should be enough to give him the Manager of the Season award. There will also be the issue of Arsene Wenger’s contract situation and I’m sure that if the French manager decides to call it quits this summer, Martinez may be considered.
However, that isn’t the bone of contention now and as it stands, the Gunners are just a point ahead of Everton and in most cases, one point is enough.
Just ask Tottenham.