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After Stoke City’s Ricardo Fuller nodded in two goals last weekend to send the Britannia into euphoria, Arsenal are now in contention for only two major trophies this season and that could be a blessing for them. The distraction of the FA Cup would certainly be a pleasurable one to have, but I’m curious to see them go at the English title with everything they’ve got. If they can remain injury free and manage to stay clear of letdowns against underdog opposition, this fiery bunch of lads could challenge at least for second place and give the favorites something to think about.
The next two weeks will go a long way in determining the Gunner’s BPL fate. Starting with Manchester United this morning, Arsenal go on to face Chelsea and Liverpool in their next two league matches—a daunting task indeed. United present the challenge of stopping Wayne Rooney (he of the 13 goals in his last 13 matches), while Chelsea welcome back their African Nations Cup stars, and Liverpool is always a tough match—regardless of their league position.
Today’s match against United should be a humdinger and if Arsenal doesn’t want their title aspirations dashed, they need to continue the fine defensive form they have recently displayed against Sir Alex’s squad. William Gallas and his merry men have only conceded ONE natural goal in open play to United in their last THREE league meetings. That should prove to be a little more difficult with Gallas’ running mate Thomas Vermaelen out injured, leaving the ancient Sol Campbell to fill his boots. And those who saw Campbell’s performance against Stoke should not be filled with confidence.
And it isn’t just in defense that the Gunner’s have suffered injury. Robin Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner, and Samir Nasri have all missed extensive time this season. But it doesn’t matter. Arsenal has one thing no other team in the league has—Cesc Fabregas. Believe me when I tell you that I’m about as partial to this kid as Michael Vick is to French poodles, but it’s near impossible not to admit his improvement since the summer break. Last season, I thought the Spaniard was just another overzealous youngster with nothing more than an occasional eye for the crossbar. But this season, he seems to have come out from underneath his big brother’s ball box to play Geppetto in the Arsenal midfield. His goals have been crucial and his pinpoint passes have provided his non-injured teammates excellent chances on goal.
There’s a lot of good to be said for this talented bunch of lads. In fact, I’d go as far as to wager a second place bet in favor of the Arsenal. I believe they’re going to continue to score goals and as long as the rocky back four that played against Stoke City in the FA Cup are never again assembled on a football pitch until the day an Avatar is President, they should be fine defensively. So going into this very difficult couple of weeks, every Gunner should be excited, but they should also be aware that a loss to United tomorrow could lead to another trophy-less year at the Emirates.
M. Junia Stainbank