Focus on third – Podolski – Walcott

So, last night’s results will certainly focus the minds ahead of Saturday’s game against Norwich.

Bolton’s game in hand down the bottom left them on the wrong end of a 4-1 pasting by Sp*rs while Newcastle pretty much ended Chelsea’s hopes of a top 4 finish with a 2-0 win and a couple of fantastic goals by Pappis Cissé. The second, in particular, was an astonishing finish (if a touch on the hit and hope side – not that you can argue with the result of it) and his success is a great example of why January deals don’t always mean you’re scrubbing around for unwanteds.

Anyway, it leaves the league table looking like this:

It really couldn’t be much tighter and leaves us with little or no margin for error. But then we knew that already and while it would have been nice if last night’s results had done us a favour, we can’t expect others to our work for us. It also means that the only way Chelsea can get into the Champions League next season is by winning the tournament.

I don’t think it’ll increase their focus in any way, if you’re in the final of the Champions League you’ll be 100% trying to win it simply because it’s the Champions League final, but there’s no safety net for them and it might give them that extra 1-2%. If that happens … excuse me, just going to be sick into my mouth a little bit here … then whoever finishes fourth will not play Champions League football next season.

Watching that final is going to be difficult enough without knowing our hopes for top table European football rest on the outcome. However, the good thing is that it’s in our hands, and it’s something we have control over. When it comes right down to it, you have to say that if we can’t beat Norwich and West Brom in these final two games, then we don’t really deserve it – especially when you take into accounts defeats this season to low-mid tables teams QPR, Wigan, Blackburn, Swansea, Fulham and perennial strugglers Sp*rs.

No doubt that’s something the manager will be drilling into the players on the training ground this week. While we know well there’s a financial contingency for not playing Champions League football next season, I doubt there’s much in the way of a back-up plan from a footballing point of view. With key players’ futures still up in the air, and the need to strengthen the squad ahead of next season, it doesn’t really bear thinking about. Still, we’ve rarely, if ever, done things the easy way so let’s hope that the breathing we can feel on our necks serves only to make us put in one final sprint to the finish line.

In other news, Lukas Podolski told a press conference yesterday that Arsenal was ‘the right move’ for him at this point in his career. He has yet to travel to London, or indeed speak to Arsene Wenger face to face (they’ve been in telephone contact), which is unusual, but he says he thought long and hard about what he’d do at this point in his career:

I’ve long thought about how we go from here and the question was only a top club like Arsenal. I’m ready to take this step and I am convinced that it is the right thing. I’ll find my place at Arsenal.

And for those who suggested an unsuccessful move to Bayern meant he wouldn’t make it at a bigger club than Cologne, he said:

In Munich, I maybe was a tad too young. Now, I’m more experienced and have become even better and I’m confident about this move and certain that I will make it there.

You can read a full transcript of the relevant parts of the press conference here. It’s interesting to hear that he spoke to Mertesacker but it seemed as if he were trying to play that down. I have no doubt the BFG filled gave him the low-down on life in England and what he could expect at Arsenal. Signing for a club without seeing the training ground, the facilities etc is a bit odd, but if you have an international colleague telling you everything is top class and as good as it gets then I imagine it makes the decision a little easier.

And he’ll add to the growing German contingent at the club, a nation sadly overlooked since Moritz Volz left (is he still doing his brilliant website?). Update: Oh yeah, and some fella called Jens. Anyway, Mertesacker and youngster Thomas Eisfeld mean that there’ll be familar faces/voices for the new arrival and while professional footballers need to adapt and get on with things, it doesn’t hurt to have that around.

There’s some guff from Theo Walcott on the official site about not being one-dimensional, which is fine, but I can live with one-dimensional if that one dimension is outstanding. And when Theo’s in the right dimension there are no complaints, but when he slips off into another dimension, it’s one where he’s got a club-foot and blinkers on and he thinks dribbling out for a throw gets us bonus points.

What’s more interesting is the stuff from the BBC’s David Ornstein who took to Twitter yesterday to reveal that there are no talks planned with Theo before the European Championships despite the fact that he’s in the very same contract situation as Robin van Persie. Whether this lack of urgency means both parties are happy enough and convinced a deal can be done afterwards, or if it suggests something else, I have no idea.

He is, by all accounts, happy at Arsenal, but at the same time his ‘people’ withdrew from preliminary talks with the club when things weren’t looking so good, saying they’d wait until summer to sort it out. A clear sign that they wanted to see where Arsenal finished before committing to any new deal. On the one hand that seems fair enough, on the other perhaps Theo needs to find more than ‘consistency in patches’ before playing hardball. Anyway, we’ll see how it all pans out.

And that, my good old friends, is that. Back tomorrow with an Arsecast. Till then.

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