Arsenal Gunning for Trophies and Top Four Finish After Three Return to Team

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Arsenal Gunning for Trophies and Top Four Finish After Three Return to Team
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Being a football fan lately has been like waiting for a bus. You wait ages for a good match, and then two, three, or four come along at once.

Waiting out the international week has been excruciating. But we have just had an excellent weekend of League football—eight games played on Saturday, and two crackers today.

I must confess a small soft spot for Newcastle, and the news of Alan Shearer's return to St. James' is most welcome. At this stage of the season a miracle is needed for Newcastle, and Shearer may be the very man.

Inevitably though, Chelsea ruined Shearer’s managerial debut with two goals in the second half from Lampard and Malouda.

The Spurs were unlucky at Ewood Park in the early match.

Robbie Keane put them ahead from the penalty spot on 29 minutes, and things appeared to be going the Spurs’ way until the 79th minute. Wilson Palacios was sent off for a second yellow card offense that replays suggest wasn't.

This terrible decision from referee Peter Walton marked the turning point in the game, and Blackburn was quick to exploit their advantage.

Goals from McCarthy and Oojier sent Harry Redknapp and his squad back down the motorway with no points.

Elsewhere, Bolton thrashed Middlesborough four to one, Stoke put two past West Brom at the Hawthorns, Liverpool nicked a late winner against Fulham at Craven cottage, and neither Hull nor Portsmouth scored in a dull nil all at the KC Stadium.

Manchester City traveled to the Emirates without Stephen Ireland, but with Robinho. Arsenal, although missing Robin van Persie and Eduardo, welcomed the return of captain Cesc Fabregas, Emmanuel Adebayor, and Theo Walcott.

Of the three, Walcott seemed the most fragile. He played for 70 minutes and was substituted at the same time as Adebayor.

All three showed the home crowd what they had been missing as the trio slipped back into the squad as if they had never left. The question that many people had asked had been answered.

Fabregas benefited from Denilson's strength and was able to roam the pitch.

Adebayor was notable for the effort he put in, covering many yards and chasing lost balls with a vengeance. The international break seems to have given him a huge confidence boost just at the right time.

Walcott's blistering speed gave the opposition’s defense a hard time, and his work rate didn't reflect his recent spell in the Phisio room.

Much has been made of the 1-3-2-4 formation Arsenal played. Adebayor sat just ahead of Walcott, Andrei Arshavin, and Fabregas, who shone. I had forgotten how good Fabregas was.

His command of the field and inch-perfect passing were a joy to behold. No surprise then that he assisted in both of Adebayor's goals.

It is good news indeed for Arsenal that the prime movers in Saturday’s match have all just come back from injury. In the games before the return of these players, Arsenal had notched up 16 league games without a defeat and advancement in both the Champions League and the FA Cup.

The depth of this squad is frightening.

If van Persie and Eduardo only have minor niggles as has been reported, and Tomas Rosicky is playing in the reserves this week, it is entirely possible that Arsenal will have a 100 percent fully fit team.

He is going to need it. With eight matches in 25 days in April against the likes of Villarreal twice, Chelsea, Liverpool, and maybe Manchester United, the Arsenal players have got to be in the form of their life.

There also has to be no distractions either.

Arsenal has said that all contract re-negotiations are to be put on hold until the end of the season.

Sunday saw Everton tear Wigan apart four to nothing, and Manchester United escape the shame of three losses on the bounce by the skin of their teeth.

Aston Villa, the thorn in Arsenal’s side this season, were unlucky not to have taken a point from the clash at Old Trafford. At 90 minutes and two all, it seemed the points would be split evenly, but Frederico Macheda knocked home a goal in his first senior appearance for Manchester United.

Arsenal now has a six-point cushion on Aston Villa, but is still six behind Chelsea. Manchester United are on top again and looking at the fixture list, it's too hard to call.

The only absolute is that if Arsenal wins all of their games they will have Champions League football next season and the all-important silverware.

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