Time for Arsenal to pull up their socks
Arsenal suffered a hugely damaging defeat away to relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers that threw the race for the last two English Premier League spots and berths for the Champions League wide open. Was it a shock defeat or has the blip always been just around the corner for the Gunners? After a 2-1 defeat, Arsenal have let slip their advantage over their city rivals, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, their closest challengers for these last two spots. Though Arsenal are still firm favourites for the third place, they can't afford any more blips in the remaining seven matches.
Arsenal are five points ahead of Chelsea, but Spurs went level with them after they beat Swansea at White Hart Lane on Sunday. Arsenal's phenomenal run over the last one and a half months will count for nothing unless Champions League football is secured. After this shocking defeat, players need to re-focus and give their all till the last day of the season. The key for Gunners is to stay cool in what is becoming an increasingly heated battle for the two Champions League places.
One of the biggest problems for Arsenal is that the games get tougher from now on as they host wounded title contenders Manchester City next weekend. That is followed by an away game against relegation battlers Wolves and a home tie against a spirited Wigan Athletic. Suddenly the match against Chelsea on April 21 looks a lot more crucial for Arsene Wenger's men.
The loss against QPR was a bad one, but they still have every chance against City, who are struggling for form off late. The sky isn't falling after all at over the Emirates, and Arsenal have to remain confident and should not treat this defeat as a severe blow.
Five points ahead of Chelsea, Arsenal's worry at the moment should be to finish above their derby rivals Tottenham. Spurs looked all set to finish higher than the Gunners for the first time in over ten years. They were positioned comfortably with ten points ahead of their rival before they visited the Emirates, but three losses on the trot and two draws since then have pushed them down to fourth spot but now the difference is just down to goal difference thanks to their 3-1 win over Swansea. It has also put the Gunners at third place and are just slight favourites to grab one of the two remaining Champions League spots.
If Arsenal want to finish above Chelsea and Spurs, the key for them here would be the in-form Robin van Persie. The flying Dutchman has been in sensational form, scoring 31 goals this season. He is the leading scorer in the EPL this season, with 26 strikes, and is favourite for the Golden Boot award. Arsenal already have two blips in the first half of the season and Wenger will be hoping that unlucky three does not come and haunt them. If it happens for the third time, then it could be a disaster for them.
Though they are looking favourites for third place now, even finishing fourth might prove difficult for them.
More about Abhishek NandwaniNot a sports enthusiast by choice, Abhishek has been brought up with the passion as playing turned into scribbling.
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