EPL: Day 33 (Newcastle 0 – Arsenal 0)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
April 11th, 2004 • 3:42 am

The last week was a roller coaster ride emotionally and psychologically for Arsenal players and supporters alike. It was only fitting, therefore, that it would end on a more modest note, with a lackluster 0-0 draw at Newcastle’s Saint James’ Park.

Things would have been much different, of course, had the Gunners continued their free-fall by losing against Liverpool at Highbury on Friday. But we all know that they responded to that challenge in style, and Chelsea did the Gunners a favour on Saturday by failing to win at home against a resilient Middlesborough, even leading their Italian manager Claudio Ranieri to concede the title to Arsenal yet again (for what it’s actually worth).

The absence of any major tension was palpable today in the Newcastle game. Newcastle were probably guilty of being a bit too much in awe of their opponents, and could have created more problems for the Gunners if they had been more lively. But both teams were clearly tired after a busy week (Newcastle travelled to Eindhoven on Thursday for a UEFA quarter-final game, which ended in a 1-1 draw). To Arsenal’s credit, the team featured many of the players that had featured in the Friday game, including Vieira, Henry, Cole, Campbell, Touré, etc. Only Pires was rested, and Ljunberg is off for a while to get treatment for his broken bones in his hand.

The game was therefore far from a thrilling encounter. But Arsenal still created the best chances and, on the whole, would have deserved a 1-0 win. It was not meant to be, but the Gunners’ domination of the Premier League was never really in any danger, and their unbeaten run this season now extends to 32 games. Chelsea stays 7 points behind and could reduce the lead to 4 points tomorrow if they win their Day 33 game away at Aston Villa, but that will be their 33rd game, whereas Arsenal still have a game in hand against Portsmouth that they’ll only play in early May.

It’s looking good now for the Gunners and, while there’s no hiding the disappointment of being out of the FA Cup and the Champions’ League (especially considering who’s left in these competitions), they could still finish the season in style by further extending this record-breaking unbeaten run and reaching a maximum number of points and goals. Already their goal difference is +40, with Chelsea 6 goals behind at +34 and Man U 13 goals behind at +27.

With the remaining fixtures for Arsenal, it’s hard to imagine them stumbling significantly — although they cannot afford to underestimate their opponents. Mathematically, everything is still possible, but realistically the only significant battle now is at the other end of the table.

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