After the loss in the FA Cup and the tough fixtures against Bayern in the Champions’ League that await us, it seems that all we can do is hope we pip the Spuds for fourth place again (actually, we pipped them for the third spot last season but that turned out to be the fourth Champions’ League spot as the Chavs won the Champions’ League). We are four points behind them with twelve matches left.
Although our current Premiership form implies we are in good form (three victories in four matches without defeat), we’ll need maximum concentration in every single match until this season ends in order to prevent the recent defeats.
If we take a look at 2011-12 results, we will notice that we didn’t do well against our forthcoming opponents.
1.ASTON VILLA (HOME)
This one actually went well – we won with goals from Walcott, Song and a rare goal from a free-kick from Arteta. Surprisingly, The Lying Dutchman didn’t score. 3:0 victory.
This one came in the early stage of the last season when our summer acquisitions were still new in town and Van Persie was looking for his best form. We lost to the Spuds thanks to a long shot from Kyle Walker. Unfortunately, we also lost Sagna who broke his leg for the first time. 2:1 defeat.
We won this one. A shy Everton side kept their clean sheet until Song clipped the ball to Van Persie who fired a volley into the net. The visitors were close to an equalizer in the end. 1:0 victory.
This match was full of our ever present defensive mistakes. Swansea didn’t have Michu back then but Scott Sinclair, Nathan Dyer and Danny Graham were good enough to deny Van Persie’s early goal as well as Walcott’s equalizer. The absence of Sagna, Vermaelen, Gibbs and Arteta was clearly visible. 3:2 defeat.
Since Reading were in the Championship last season, we can put Blackburn or Bolton here as both matches were pretty much straight-forward victories. However, if we put Wolves here, we’ll remember a shocking 1:1 draw with the worst side in the league last season despite Gervinho scoring first. Let’s take the Blackburn then eh? 7:1 victory.
6.WEST BROM (AWAY)
Martin Fulop was a real hero of our last and most important victory last season. Despite Benayoun put us ahead at the start, the Baggies managed to overturn the deficit and take the lead. Andre Santos scored an equalizer to give us a life-line while another flop from F(u)lop, the former Spuds’ goalkeeper, gave an opportunity for Koscielny to score a goal worthy of a Champions’ League spot. 3:2 victory.
This one was ugly since it nearly cost us a UCL spot. We scored an early goal (Benayoun was our man for that) but then we gave arguably the worst defensive performance in the second half of the season. Vermaelen and Koscielny were horrible which our visitors exploited to take the lead. After we opened fire with all possible weapons in order to return into the match, Van Persie – in his last match at the Emirates in a proper shirt – managed to score twice in order to make it 3:2. When we thought it was over, Morison scored a late equalizer. We had our chance to take the lead one more time and secure 3rd spot but our opponents managed to preserve their point. 3:3 draw.
Fulham have not been the most desirable opponents for us in recent years. Last season they were one of the two teams in the Premiership that kept their net from Van Persie. We took an early lead thanks to Koscielny after a brilliant clipped pass from Ramsey. We should had nailed it before the interval but we missed a few good chances. The second half was horrible as Fulham totally dominated. Our patchy defense without the natural full-backs and Vermaelen took another hit when Djourou got his second yellow card while the final blow was the entering of Sebastien Squillaci for the last nine minutes. It was enough for Fulham to score twice. 2:1 defeat.
9.MANCHESTER UNITED (HOME)
This fixture took place in the cursed January 2012 as well as the Swansea and Fulham fixtures. This was mostly an even contest despite our defensive problems. Valencia out-muscled Vermaelen to score a header after Giggs crossed thanks to Djourou’s lack of aggression. Van Persie equalized with the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain producing an assist. Arsene Wenger made one of his stupidest moves in recent years – he took off the excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain to replace him with the anemic Andrey Arshavin that made even The Lying Dutchman to express dissaproval. United reacted with a second goal and secured victory five minutes before the end thanks to Welbeck after Valencia’s pass. 2:1 defeat.
10.QUEEN’S PARK RANGERS (AWAY)
This one broke our streak of seven consecutive victories. Taarabt scored an opener and received yellow card for thinking that fezzes are cool. Walcott equalized before the interval but instead of taking all three points, we conceded another goal – a screamer from Samba Diakite. Even throwing on the heavy artillery of Gervinho and Chamakh didn’t help. 2:1 defeat.
This one made a lot of problems for us. Wigan were one of the best sides in the league in the last weeks of the season – they won at Anfield and Emirates and gunned down both United and Newcastle while they gave a good scare to the Chavs (a wonderful goal from Diame) at Stamford Bridge. All the horrible things happened in the opening ten minutes. Gomez scored one and created another one for Di Santo to make it 2-0 and then Arteta got injured. That was the last match for our most important midfielder last season. Vermaelen’s goal was only a consolation. 2:1 defeat.
Our last fixture this season was the first one in 2011-12. We still had Nasri and Fabregas at Arsenal but neither of them played at St James Park. This was a poor match that ended with a goal-less draw and will be remember only for Gervinho’s red card in his very first match in the Premiership after he wanted to give Joey Barton what he deserves. 0:0 draw.
When we sum it up, it doesn’t look very promising. We won four matches, drew two and lost six in the forthcoming fixtures while in the entire season we had 21 victories, seven draws and 10 defeats. If we add 14 points to our current tally, we will have 58 points. In last-season terms that would be enough for seventh spot which would mean no European competitions for us next season.
Of course, an optimist would say that an away victory against Sunderland was the trigger for our brilliant winning streak last season despite exits from the FA Cup and Champions’ League. However, there is another reason to be worried. If we go back to 2010-11, we will notice that we have suffered a meltdown in the second half of April and May. We won just one match out of five last season and one out of seven in 2010-11. Something was wrong in our players’ psychology and both our squads were stronger than the current one.
Let’s hope these stats are just pointless.