In the midst of a tough run, it can be difficult to envisage the easier times ahead, especially when things are going badly. But while it is common knowledge that our run in is easier than our rivals, the good news goes far beyond not having to play anyone in the top four.
In fact, our short trip to White Hart Lane in April is the only away game we have left against anyone in the top half of the Premiership. Not only have we already done our time at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield, but we’ve gone to the likes of Villa, Everton, Fulham and Man City, and aside from the latter achieved some very good results.
Put it another way – the toughest remaining away game is against a side that haven’t beaten us in a league game in over a decade. And our most difficult home game is tomorrow night’s meeting with Liverpool, another side who have not visited us and taken away three points in ten years. To fail to put a run together for the remainder of the season would be far more disappointing that the couple of defeats we’ve just had.
Another thing to consider – that run-in should help us enormously in the Champions League.
Elsewhere, Wenger was in fighting mood in his press conference today, lambasting the press for continually twisting his words. Following both Chelsea games this season, Wenger has complimented the opposition (Drogba on the first occasion, the team as a whole at the weekend), but on both occasions his words have been slanted to appear insulting. Ballack followed Martin O’Neill’s example by jumping to the bait, and they got the story they wanted.
Wenger has had enough, and made it perfectly clear that if it continues, he will not be so forthcoming in future interviews:
“I just would like to say that I was full of compliments and praise for Chelsea after the game and I find completely unfair from the press that you take one word of my press conference to turn it into a kind of probe every time”
“You did that at Villa, you did that at Chelsea and every time if you look at the intent of my press conference it was positive towards the opponent. If you want I can say nothing.”
And therein lies the rub – the media love Wenger’s press conferences because he answers all their questions, giving them far more material than his rivals. If they force him to be more guarded, they will be shooting themselves in the foot.
Wenger also spoke of needing a reaction tomorrow, and there is no doubting that magnitude of the game – if we lose further ground on the top two then the title race is over. But we can silence the media with a win, opening the gap between us and Liverpool to eight points, and all but confirming a top three finish. Perhaps then their focus will shift elsewhere, and we can quietly regain form.
There will be more on the game tomorrow – until then, stay optimistic. There is a lot left to play for.
[edit: Missed the fact that we still have to play Birmingham away. So two trips to teams in the top half. Not that Birmingham away is particularly frightening.]