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Could Manchester United finish above Arsenal with one match to go?

Woolwich1886
ANALYST
Feature
1.76K   //    22 May 2015, 12:55 IST
Wenger
Arsene Wenger has led Arsenal to two consecutive FA Cup finals

It’s one thing for Chelsea to have won the league – it’s like cheering for gravity, really – and quite another to let second place slip through our fingers as we’ve done. As it now stands, we look all but certain to finish third, and this has to feel like a letdown after rising to as high as second.

That spot is now Manchester City’s, and there’s an outside chance that Manchester United could find a way past us to third. Feh. If nothing else, we’re defending a position rather than scrambling for it. On top of that, unlike the other three, we still have some silverware to fight for. Let’s get down to it then.

Chelsea

  • Position: 1st.
  • Record: 25-9-3
  • Points: 84 (75.7%)
  • Form: WDWWDL
  • Last match: West Brom 3-0 Chelsea

Chelsea are well and truly mailing it in now, losing 3-0 to West Brom in truly bizarre fashion. 28 minutes in, there was a bit of a scuffle in the Baggies’ area, which Fabregas tried to solve by launching the ball in, hitting Chris Brunt in the head. Red card.

Perhaps Fab was making sure that he would respect Thierry Henry’s record of 20 Premier League assists in a season. It’s not quite Pizzagate, that’s for sure. Moments later, in a separate incident involving John Terry but not his teammate’s girlfriend, Saido Berahino scored his second goal to earn the Baggies the win. Does anyone really care, though? Let’s move on.

Next match: 24 May vs. Sunderland

Manchester City

  • Position: 2nd
  • Record: 23-7-7
  • Points: 76 (68.5%)
  • Form: LWWWWW
  • Last match: Swansea 2-4 Manchester City

Effin’ Swans. You come into the Emirates and defend like your lives depend on it (although, to be honest, we helped by shooting straight at Fabianski time and time again) only to fold faster than Superman on laundry day at home against Citeh.

You could’ve been contenders. You could’ve qualified for Europa League play. Instead, you let it slip through your fingers. More to the point, you denied us a chance to finish above Man City. Oh well. Manuel Pellegrini’s men have been on a mission, scoring ten goals in two matches to ensure that they’d finish second on goal difference and again on points.

Whether this surge is enough to secure Pellegrini’s position or forestall a fire-sale is another question, though. Yes, Yaya Toure scored, but he, like most of City’s core, is waning rather than waxing. Of their outfield players, only three players under age 27 have made more than 20 starts – Sergio Aguero, Fernando, and Eliaquim Mangala. Yes, Aguero inspires fear, but do Fernando or Mangala?

This might have been City’s Swan-song, which is not the same as saying their goose is cooked. I’m sure Sheikh Mansour will pull a few rabbits from his hat come summer.

Next match: 24 May vs. Southampton

Arsenal

  • Position: 3rd
  • Record: 21-9-7
  • Points: 72 (64.9%)
  • Form: WDWLDD
  • Last match: Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland

I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Sigh. There’s no other way to look at this other than as an opportunity missed.

We were in second place. We had a game in hand. Then, we dropped seven points from three matches and might count ourselves lucky to still be sitting third. We had to figure that we’d beat Swansea and Sunderland, maybe suffering a loss or earning a draw at Old Trafford.

Little did we know that the draw at Old Trafford would be the highlight of the last two weeks. Still, all is not lost. A third place finish is well within our grasp – unless we lose on Sunday and Manchester United win in such a way that they overtake us on goal-difference. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a thing of beauty, not this abomination.

However, even with City’s stumbles, we have to admit that a third-place finish is about right – maybe even a spot higher than we “should” finish,  when we consider the finances of the top-four finishers. That might be cold comfort, but it’s a far cry better than fending off other clubs for a top-four finish.

Next match: 24 May vs. West Brom

Manchester United

  • Position: 4th
  • Record: 20-9-8
  • Points: 69 (62.2%)
  • Form: WLLLWD
  • Last match: Manchester United 1-1 Arsenal

It’s rare that we can suggest that Arsenal were the shrewder side against almost any opponent. However, it must be suggested that, offered a one-goal lead at home in a fixture whose outcome would go a long way towards deciding who qualifies outright for Champions League play and who has to face a two-leg qualifier, the home-side would defend that lead.

Somehow, however, Van Gaal’s side had more grandiose ambitions. Defending that early one-goal lead, they forgot that Theo Walcott likes to lurk in that almost-offside position in order to run in behind, and he manufactured an equaliser that all but extinguished United’s hopes of a third-place finish. With just ten minutes left to play, the Red Devils had lost the plot in a match that would have seen them leapfrog Arsenal into third place.

150m in transfer fees, in a campaign bereft of Champions League commitments (not to mention League Cup and (ahem) FA Cup fixtures) have not been enough to allow United to qualify for Champions League play.

They’ll have to deal with a two-leg qualifier – and will struggle with another summer of uncertainty: will they make Falcao’s “loan” permanent? What’s to be done with van Persie? Will de Gea bolt? And so on…

Next match: 24 May at Hull.

With the top-four positions essentially settled, a certain malaise sets in. At our end, we have to feel like we let a fantastic finish slip through our fingers – even if the title was Chelsea’s to lose from, oh, ‘round about October.

From the looks of things, we’ll finish third, behind two of the most profligate spending clubs in the world and ahead of another. Not too shabby. It might have been nice to finish second, and we’ll have to answer some hard questions about why we didn’t, but we do also have an FA Cup to win. Let’s deal with the Baggies while setting our sights on a second straight FA Cup title. 

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Woolwich1886
ANALYST
Jon Shay has been an Arsenal fan since he as about seven years old, discovering the club on late-night cable tv. Growing up in football-challenged United States meant that he couldn't actually see an Arsenal match with his own eyes until 2008, but he's followed the club closely through thick and thin before deciding to start writing in early 2013.
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