Eight is a lucky number… FTK's analysis of the remaining games of the season.

In China you have to pay extra to have the number 8 in your phone number or license plate. In addition, home and business owners like to have the number 8 in their address. The pronunciation of the word for the number 8 is  ba in Chinese and this is similar to word  fa  the Chinese word for wealth and prosperity. Symetrical shapes like 8 are considered to harbour goodness. The number can be split vertically and horizontally into equal identical segments. Perfect symmetry leads to spiritual balance If eight is known to be the most auspicious number, at the other end of fortune is four, considered as the most unlucky of them all. This is due to the fact that four, , sounds scarily enough like the word si, for death. So in China it would seem rather strange that we are obsessed with getting into the top 4, but happily we have eight games left to achieve that feat.
The key to our remaining games will be maintaining our defensive displays, and here the form of William Gallas is encouraging. The only concern that I have is with Bacary Sagna, who is beginning to look tired. Almunia is playing well and Gael Clichy appears to have overcome his sticky decline in form. Coming to the midfield, it will hinge upon the return of Fabregas, and who Le Boss intends to play alongside. With the number of crucial fixtures, Denilson seems likely, however despite his good form of late, I would favour Diaby as a more skillful ball player. The flanks of midfield should see rotation between Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin, Theo Walcott and of course Emmanuel Eboue. I can see Eboue being a very important player for us in this run in. I never thought that I would say that, but we cannot ignore his passion and good form of late as long as he can cut out the bad aspects of his game, and not go back to not always trying to pass to Adebayor. Up front we have van Persie, Adebayor, the returning Eduardo and of course Niklas Bendtner.
First up a return against Mark Hughes’s mercenaries. The light blue half of Manchester lost it’s lure when Kaka turned them down. So now no talk of Messi or Ribery, only Thierry Henry. It seems that they have decided to focus on players more likely to move for the cash than the football. The word on the streets that Thierry is missing his daughter and is keen to return to England. Whilst there is no obvious playing opportunity at The Emirates, and going to the United States would minimise any prospect of him playing for France in next years World Cup, this transfer looks likely, which is a shame. The thought of Titi playing for the Mancs is a distressing one, but I would try to understand.
The last encounter saw us concede three goals at the City of Manchester Stadium. The current performances would easily see the scoreline reversed. Bear in mind that Cesc Fabregas will be in the squad and what better way to obtain fitness via to Villareal than to have 60 minutes against the Mancs. Much of what we achieve during these eight games will rely upon how well Arsene Wenger rotates his squad. Manchester City are unsettled at the moment with their star Robinho either in dispute with the manager or fighting tabloid rumours about his lifestyle courtesy of alleged statements by Brazilian legend Pele. The addition of former Gunner’s target Shay Given to their ranks has improved their defensive capability as shown in their recent UEFA cup fixture.  But I still see Arsenal beating this team well at home My prediction Arsenal 3 Man City 1 and hopefully a lead of 5 points over Aston Villa who despite the absence of key players at Man Utd, still will not  have enough to beat them but they should obtain a draw.
The next away game against struggling Wigan sees the Gunners facing Steve Bruce’s men who currently lie outside the relegation pile on 41 points and if they beat Everton, they could conceiveably bring Europa Cup football to the newly named David Whelan Stadium. I am not taking this team for granted, and I expect a tight game. Wigan lost 2-1 against Chelsea, but Arsene Wenger would be wise to put out his strongest possible team against them. The team lineup will also depend upon the Villareal result some four days earlier. Arsenal have a squad capable of beating Wigan, and players like Carlos Vela and Keiran Gibbs are more than capable of giving a good performance. Add to this the fact that Andrey Arshavin will have been rested, I predict Wigan 0 Arsenal 2.
By this time Arsenal could have opened up an eight point lead over Aston Villa, this will put further pressure on Martin O’Neill’s players who face Everton on the Sunday. Aston Villa will hope to win this game at home, especially as Everton are likely to be looking over their shoulders at a semi-final clash with Man Utd 7 days later. I predict a win and the gap returning to five points. Next for Arsenal in the league is an away tie to title contenders Liverpool. This following a home tie against Villareal in the Champions league and of course that crunch match against Chelsea in the Semi-final of the FA Cup. This is where Arsene Wenger will really earn his money. He has to rotate his players in such a way to ensure we still remain in both cup competitions. By this time, we could perhaps see the return of Rosicky, but don’t hold your breath. Eduardo will be a key player as well as Theo Walcott. Not forgetting Adebayor, the attacking options seem easier than the midfield ones.
The match against Liverpool could decide the outcome of the Premier League title as the merseysiders should have kept up the pressure on Manchester United with easy wins over Fulham and Blackburn Rovers. Man United should be lying second with their game in hand only one point behind Rafa Benitez. Injuries to key players will decide the outcome of the title I feel. If Steven Gerrard can keep fit, then I would love to see Liverpool win the league assuming we can’t of course. But we have third spot to look forward too, and managing the five point margin over Aston Villa. I would take a draw as the most likely and fair result. However this Tuesday night fixture comes after what will be a bruising semi-final against South London rivals Chelsea. The prospect of defeat is quite possible, which would then encourage Aston Villa to beat Bolton upon the next Saturday thus bringing the gap down to two points assuming that they will have beaten West Ham.
The Aston Villa fixture against West Ham is a curious one to call, Zola’s men may be facing financial meltdown, and the players may have the mindset that they must put in good performances to secure a move away in the event of their futures being uncertain. West Ham should by then have beaten Sunderland, and drawn with Tottenham to leave them tantalisingly close to a Europa Cup spot, and a good end to their season. Home advantage with the midlanders, suggest that West Ham will lose, but football is a funny game. Any draw will widen the gap with Arsenal to seven points and make the prospect of fourth place a distant hope. I am of course hoping for a West Ham win, but Gooners could find their emotions severely tested during those last ten days. If results go our way, our momentum will be unstoppable. If we l ose in the FA cup, hopefully we should still have participation in the Champions league with a game against Manchester United to look forward to as compensation.
Whilst planning that supposed clash against Alex Ferguson’s men, we should have beaten Gareth Southgate’s Middlesborough 3-0 which would probably ensure that they will have to look forward to Championship football next season. The away game on the Saturday to Portsmouth on May 2 is rather more difficult to predict. Our past fixtures against the south coast side suggest that we should beat them relatively easily. However we should never underestimate the passion of Peter Crouch, who just loves scoring goals against the Arsenal. We must win this game however, either to restore confidence or to maintain the gap between ourselves and Aston Villa. But I am worried that Arsene Wenger will want to rest key players against the match against Man Yanited in the Champions League that would follow three days later.
The gap between ourselves and Aston Villa at that stage could either be seven points or two points, so there would still be a cushion for Arsene Wenger if he choose to rest the likes of Fabregas and van Persie. Emmanuel Adbayor will have returned and it is his form with the prospect of a summer move away from the Emirates to AC Milan which could be pivotal. If Adebayor is hungry, then he will be rested prior to the Manchester united game. This leaves Eduardo and Niklas Bendtner to bring home the points. Again, the likes of Carlos vela and Arshavin should mean that we have enough to beat Pompey My prediction Portsmouth 1 Arsenal 2. The last four fixtures should have yielded a minimum of nine points and depending upon the game at Anfield, possibly ten.
I have not mentioned Chelsea thus far, and with their fixtures being Newcastle United away, Bolton at home, even allowing for two Champions League matches against the scousers, and a semi-final against ourselves. Chelsea could still be holding onto third place with a gap of six or four points depending upon their away game to West Ham on April the 25th. I think that Arsene Wenger will settle for fourth spot if it means a chance of winning the Champions League games and setting up a possible final clash against Barcelona. However we must not get ahead of ourselves. All of this speculation assumes that we continue our unbeaten run up until the Anfield game. There after, your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is that the first week of May will determine the outcome of many club’s aspirations for the season.
Aston Villa will not have lost all hope of Champions league football, knowing that we have to face Man United at Old Trafford and Chelsea at the Emirates. By then Aston villa should have beaten Hull City and possibly Fulham. Aston Villa will have relatively straight forward ties against Middlesborough and Newcastle United. Aston Villa could relegate both these North East teams with victories. I can see Arsenal dropping points at Old Trafford, but not against Chelsea at home. As by then the gap between ourselves and Aston Villa could be as down to two points or as wide as nine. The last game of the season against Stoke City should more than ensure our Champions League survival for next season however. I predict a rousing 3-nil victory over the Potters, sending Gooners home happy in their fancy dress.
In conclusion then, my estimation is that Arsenal should finish the season on 74 points assuming a draw at Anfield 1-1 and a defeat at Old Trafford 1-2 with wins against Man City 3-1, Wigan 2-0, Middlesborough 3-0, Pompey 2-1, Chelsea 1-0 and Stoke City 3-0. The games against Chelsea and Man United will depend upon their respective fortunes in other games and competitions so I cannot realistically give you a preview of those games. I feel certain that we have enough to beat Chelsea, but as usual. The cheating Mancs together with referees like Howard Webb could rob us of a result at Old Trafford. No matter! I hope that you have enjoyed reading my analysis of the final eight games of the season. Let them be lucky as the Chinese would be believe that number to be.
Fabregas the King.

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