Who's More In Danger Of Losing Fourth Spot?

Rich WilcockContributor IFebruary 10, 2010

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 27:  Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager is seen before the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on January 27, 2010 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Until two weeks ago, I was convinced Liverpool were finished. As a big four dominant force in football, I was convinced that Liverpool would never rediscover the form that made them genuine title challengers last season.

A look at the table, and the form book would ultimately suggest that there were new pretenders in town. Manchester City, Spurs and Aston Villa have assembled sides that are fully capable of forcing their ways into the top four. With these three knocking on the door, Liverpool's position as a top four side was under threat. 

Until a week ago, Arsenal were confounding critics. They were very much in a title race, a race with the blues of Stamford Bridge and the majestic and confident Manchester United, a race which the young pretenders from North London were growing into. Then, suddenly, with a bump, Arsenal looked shaky and one-dimensional after defeats to Manchester United and Chelsea. Its left the fight for fourth spot open for five teams.

When you look at the fixtures, Arsene Wenger is quite right in saying that Arsenal's run-in is far more favourable than others. They have visits to Stoke and Spurs to contend with, but largely the fixtures feature lower table sides who Arsenal have frequently made light work of. Liverpool have tricky encounters with Man City, Man Utd and Chelsea to contend with. On that, you would say Arsenal should pick up more points.

When you look at the teams, the accusations of Arsenal being a team of boys is hard to argue. On too many occasions this season, Arsenal have caved under pressure. This is evident in the amount of times they have conceded leads. The argument of Arsenal being one dimensional as mooted in The Times heeds little credence when shown in the face of Liverpool. Liverpool are often seen as a two man team, with Torres and Gerrard pulling the strings. Which is true to an extent, why have that talent and then not utilise them to the best there abilities? But, when the rest of the players don't chip in sufficiently and regularly like Babel, Kuyt, Arbeloa, Dossena and others, making sure Liverpool run smoothly is a task that Torres and Gerrard are inevitably going to lose.

In this run-in, Arsenal stand the better chance. Of course, the other three chasing are ready and waiting. Destiny and time seem to be on City's side. Spurs have long threatened to burst through, and Redknapp has a a team with a great spirit. Villa mind, have a steely resolve not seen in any other team in the Premiership.

Much hinges on tonight's result. Arsenal's recent failings have opened up an already open race.