The pressure has firmly been placed on the shoulders of Arsene Wenger and each and every member of his Arsenal squad after Chelsea and Tottenham recorded come-from-behind victories on the weekend. Both London neighbours fell behind quite early 1-0 in their respective away matches against Aston Villa and Stoke, but came back to earn 2-1 wins. Ironically both Chelsea and Spurs scored the winning goals when their opposition was down to 10 men.
Belgian striker Christian Benteke put Aston Villa ahead of Chelsea after just 14 minutes at Villa Park on Saturday May 11 and went into the half time break ahead 1-0. Things looked bleak for the visitors after 45 minutes when Brazilian midfielder Ramires received his second yellow card of the match and was given his marching orders. The desperate Villa side were hard to break down, but that all changed in the 58th minute when Benteke joined Ramires after he was also sent off for a second yellow.
It didn’t take Chelsea long to take advantage of their new fortunes and Frank Lampard scored his 202nd goal for Chelsea just two minutes later to tie Bobby Tambling as the club’s all-time leading scorer. Chelsea appeared to take the lead in the 71st minute when the ball looked to have crossed the goal line during a scramble. However, the officials allowed play to carry on while television replays showed the ball had just edged over the goal line.
Lampard made sure Chelsea went ahead in the 88th minute though as he broke Tambling’s record when he tapped home a pass from Eden Hazard. Villa still had seven minutes of injury time to level the score, but couldn’t come up with another goal. The win put Chelsea into third place and guaranteed them a spot in next season’s Champions League tournament.
Spurs also put the pressure on the Gunners with their own 2-1 win the next day at Stoke City. Arsenal fans were celebrating after just the third minute when Steven Nzonzi headed Stoke into the lead. However, Spurs pulled level when American international s Clint Dempsey scored after 20 minutes. He had the ball in the net five minutes earlier as well, but was ruled offside. Spurs luck changed for the better when Stoke midfielder Charlie Adam was sent off in the 47th minute by referee Kevin Friend for a bad foul on Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen. It was his second yellow card in the space of three minutes playing time.
It looked like it was going to be just a matter of time before Spurs went ahead and they didn’t let their fans down. Former arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor put Tottenham in the lead for good after 83 minutes when he met a cross from Dempsey and slid the ball into the net past the Stoke keeper from just six yards out. Stoke came close to leveling the game in injury time, but unfortunately they couldn’t find the back of the net for the second time.
Of course, these results were the worst thing that could have happened to Arsenal, but the team still controls their own destiny with two games remaining. Chelsea, with 72 points, is guaranteed to finish in fourth at the worst, but also have a chance at edging out Man City (75 points) for second. Chelsea would have to win their final game of the season while City would have to lose their final two. Chelsea would be level in points, but would take second due to a better goal difference.
Spurs are currently in fourth place with 69 points with just one game to go. They could draw level with Chelsea on 72 points, but Chelsea is 16 goals ahead of them in the goal difference department, so it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to make up the difference. With Arsenal having 67 points and a pair of games to go they will finish in either third or fourth place if they win them both.
They meet Wigan on Tuesday May 14 in the biggest game of the season at the Emirates. Wigan are in 18th place in the Premier League with 35 points and have two games left on the season. If they win both games they will finish with 41 points. Stoke, Norwich, and Newcastle all have 41 points and each have one game remaining. However, Wigan’s goal difference is minus-23 while Stoke’s is minus-11, Norwich’s is minus-18 and Newcastle’s is minus-22. Realistically, Stoke seems to be safe while Norwich and Newcastle still aren’t safe.
Southampton (40 points), Fulham (40), Aston Villa (40), and Sunderland (39) aren’t safe yet either as Wigan could finish ahead of any one of those clubs if they win their remaining two games. This makes Wigan a hugely dangerous team at the moment and they’re going to be fighting for their Premier League lives against the Gunners on Tuesday. If Arsenal loses or draws they will have to beat Newcastle away on the last day of the season and hope that Tottenham drops points at home against Sunderland.
Arsenal are hoping to have keeper Lukasz Fabianski and left-back Kieran Gibbs back in the lineup against Wigan after both have missed the last few games due to injury. However, striker Olivier Giroud will be out as he serves the final game of a three-match ban for a red card. Midfielder Abou Diaby is also sidelined due to a serious knee injury. Wigan won the FA Cup on Saturday with a 1-0 win over Man City and should be a confident squad ahead of the game.
Wenger told the press, `Wigan had a contrasting week because they were on a low against Swansea when they lost at home, a game that of course was a massive game for them, but you could see on Saturday they have quality and they played a remarkable game when they played against Man City. What kind of team will we face? We don’t know. We know just one thing – we want to be at our best in a game of that importance.”