After today's win over West Brom took us back to third ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, I got to thinking about tomorrow's impending North London Derby and what it means to us. Many of you won't have an opinion on the result, and that's fine, but what about those of us who do? The quick answer is to assume that an Arsenal victory to keep us in third would be the best result for the club, but I don't think that's the case.
Let's look at the potential standings scenarios following the match in this lovely table, which was created for me by WAGNH's own lovely Lamin:
It seems a pretty easy choice to me. Well, the worst possibility, anyway. Chelsea aren't going to win the league this year. We all know this. The title's been headed back to Old Trafford for ages. That leaves us just one goal for the season; a top four finish. With this in mind, our motivations should become clear. We need as large a gap to 5th as we can get. Yes, coming 3rd would be nice, as it would mean going directly into the group stages of the Champions League, but if we can't navigate our way in through qualifiers, we didn't deserve it anyway.
Anyway, back to the table. If Arsenal can achieve a victory at White Hart Lane, it makes things incredibly awkward for Chelsea. We keep our third place standing, but it leaves the gap to 5th at just two points. Chelsea have the hardest of the three run-ins, so we'd probably have to rely on Arsenal slipping up as much as we do. If I've learned anything, it's that one must never rely on Arsenal for anything.
Of course, an Arsenal win wouldn't be a catastrophe, since we'd still be in third, but it's got to be the least-attractive option. What about a home win, then? This would see us lose our coveted third-place standing, but it would see us extend the gap to 5th to 5 full points with just 10 games to play. That would be huge. Tottenham would be two points ahead in this scenario, but with them having to travel to Stamford Bridge later on, that lead becomes less of an issue.
The final scenario is the draw. In some ways, it's the best of both worlds. Not only do we get to keep our position in the table on goal difference, but we still get to open a four-point gap over Arsenal. Of course, a four-point lead isn't as good as a five-point one, but any time two rivals can take points off each other, it's a good thing. Both in terms of the table and in terms of the frustration of failing to get a win against a rival.
Of course, we have no say in the matter, but it's very important to us and the future of our season. Effectively closing the Top 4 to just four teams takes a huge load off Chelsea's shoulders. 3rd or 4th doesn't really matter to us, just that we get one of them. Please vote in the poll and share your opinions in the comments. Oh, and make sure you root against Arsenal. : )
Update: This is now your North London Derby/Sunday Open Thread!