It’s a huge weekend for…Wigan, Stoke, Wolves and Arsenal
Last week’s game at West Ham went by without picking up points, and although Wigan created the odd chance, they deserved to get nothing from the game. The problem with everyone stating that Wigan “always pick up points at the end of the season” is that it actually has to happen.
Wigan know that they meet Villa on the final day, which means that they need to at worst maintain the three point gap between the two sides. But with trips to Arsenal and West Brom to come, one suspects home points must be gained, especially with Villa facing Sunderland at home on Monday.
The Latics have scored one goal and gained one point in their last three games at home to Spurs. Chuck in a 9-1 away defeat and there is a real necessity to buck the trend. The FA Cup and Europa League will mean little accompanied by Championship football.
Respite in the form of comfortable victory against the Premier League’s greatest underachievers has allowed Stoke City some daylight in their bid to halt a worrying slide, and they now face their most manageable fixture of the remaining season.
Tony Pulis and his players have hugely underperformed this season, and the manager has been roundly criticised for his refusal to change approach, but the time for an assessment of the club’s season will come in the summer – now is simply about avoiding the Championship.
A year ago they were scoring four away from home in the Premier League, but this Saturday Wolves’ players are facing a fight for survival from relegation to the third tier. A home match against Burnley is the setting for a must win game.
Because Wolves face a trip to Brighton on the final day (who are fighting for playoffs and have lost just three at home all season), a defeat would probably seal relegation for a team still reeling from Premier League failure. A draw would also be less than helpful as the club look to push themselves ahead of both Barnsley and Peterborough in a bid to survive.
These are not the sort of opponents with which a club of Wolves’ stature should be tussling.
With games against QPR and Wigan to follow, Arsenal now face their toughest hurdle in their bid for Champions League football. One might think that facing Manchester United once they have been crowned champions would be the ideal time, but Sunday may a day for some resentment at the Emirates.
For fans desperate for silverware (and wanting at least a challenge for the title), watching the Arsenal players giving their counterparts a guard of honour will be hard to bear, particularly given that the Gunners were never in the race. That former striker Robin Van Persie will have to be applauded by former team mates will just hurt more.
On what may be a bitter afternoon, Arsenal’s players must realise that a victory to cement Champions League football next season would be the perfect tonic.