Arsenal’s dream of winning the Premier League title is within reach, and writer Paul Williams lays out his case for why they might just ride the train to the top.
Sunday afternoon saw Arsenal extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to eight points, with a pretty straightforward demolition of a managerless Crystal Palace side following Patrick Vieira’s sacking last Friday.
With 10 games to go, are Arsenal riding the train all the way to a pundit confounding Premier League title? It’s a terrifying idea to give voice to, especially as a writer, but I’m going to lay my cards on the table here. Strap in.
When you look at the relative disappointment the football club had on Thursday – and if you look at what Mikel Arteta threw at Sporting Lisbon on the night, you can’t say he didn’t want to win – it would have been very easy for the team and the crowd to have been a touch subdued on Sunday.
Even if the Europa League campaign was only a secondary consideration, it was still a consideration – just ask Willy Saliba and Takehiro Tomiyasu.
And yet, there was no trace of disappointment about our players on Sunday.
Once the game got underway and the smoke cleared from the flares let off in the away end – those Palace fans really didn’t want to watch, did they? No trace of tired legs, or a lack of focus, which is is remarkable when you think of someone like Ben White – 70 minutes last Sunday, 110 minutes on Thursday and another 70 minutes here.
And I single out Benny White White White here because he was excellent on Sunday, playing a key role for both of our first half goals; winning the ball back and playing in our Starboy to cross for Martinelli’s latest demonstration of the extreme violence in his finishing (with his left foot!), the ball rocketing into the corner of the Clock End goal beneath me.
Then it was White again, playing the two in another 1-2 with Starboy minutes later. This time, his pass put Bukayo in on Joe Whitworth and Saka finessed his finish into the opposite corner of the goal. Where Martinelli had blasted home, Saka’s was a more surgical strike.
Saka’s scalpel the ying to the yang of Martinelli’s shotgun.
Half time mood pic.twitter.com/ZbLAc1LqBE
— Paul (@rockthecasbah77) March 19, 2023
It’s early days, but like Saka before him, Martinelli appears to have shrugged off the disappointment of missing a crucial penalty behind him and was another one who displayed no trace of 120 minutes + major disappointment in his legs on Sunday.
He was a constant menace, particularly in the first half.
Granit Xhaka’s finish that looked like an own goal on the replays in the ground (but probably wasn’t..?) finished off a beautiful team move and any thoughts Palace may have had of getting back into the game.
Palace then briefly threatened to make it interesting when Jeffrey Schlupp turned in a corner, quickly followed by the very aggravated and aggravating Zaha flashing one just wide moments later.
However, Saka it was, again, who curled home from just outside the box, following a Tierney tee up. Tierney, it should be noted, had an excellent twenty minutes after replacing Alex Zinchenko and his commitment to the wider cause in what must be an incredibly disappointing season personally, speaks volumes of his character.
But I’ve just realised I’ve taken you on a massive, five paragraph digression. I was going to lay my cards on the table, wasn’t I? Sorry about that.
Here it is.
I’m looking at the rest of the Premier League season and whilst I’ve been an Arsenal fan for more than long enough to know that confidently predicting an open top bus parade along Upper St on Monday 29th May is a fools game, I do now believe that it would take a bit of a plot twist for us to be denied now. (WHY IS HE SAYING THIS?)
Well, I’ll tell you. Even allowing for the fact that we still have over a quarter of the season to play out in 8 weeks (it seems a bit mad written down, no?), I’m just looking at the scheduling and the form both ourselves and City have been in all season and I just can’t see how City will get on the kind of run they are likely to need to deny us.
Consider, we have now opened up an eight point gap.
Yes, City have a game in hand. At the time of writing, that game is still to be rescheduled.
Similarly, their FA Cup quarter final win means that their fixture with Brighton also now needs to be rescheduled.
Into April and looking ahead to a seismic clash in Manchester on April 26, we will have played four games in the month, with Manchester City being our first and only midweek engagement.
By way of contrast, our hosts will have played two games extra in the same time and will come into that game off the back of a Champions League quarter final with Bayern Munich and an FA Cup semi final – albeit one which, for City, is not likely to be overly stressful. Apologies to any Blades fans reading this.
I really don’t want to get into the overthinking and projecting stage of things here, with so much football to be played (just ride the train, Paul!). However, whilst I’m completely prepared to accept that City could reel off an 11 game winning run in the league, they just haven’t shown that form all season.
To do it now given their schedule would be remarkable. And whilst I concede the point that you, me, all of us are looking at Liverpool away, City away and Newcastle away and thinking that could easily yield a zero point return that changes everything, I just don’t expect that to happen to this Arsenal team.
I remember 2002 well enough to understand that everything looks different in the run in and it’s difficult to pinpoint two fixtures that have been historically been more difficult, particularly recently, for us than City and Liverpool away, but this Arsenal team is different gravy to any Arsenal team we’ve watched over the last 20 years.
I mean, don’t take my word for it, trust the evidence of your own eyes. We have looked like the best team in the country for 75% of this season because we have been the best, in fact we’ve been brilliant.
We just need to ride the train a little while longer.