Let's not beat around the bush: ARSENAL WILL WIN THE PREMIERSHIP. That is not a statement I imagined I would be making as recently as a month ago, and one that has absolutely nothing to do with the fistful of painkillers I'm required to take every day since tearing the miniscus in my left knee attempting the kind of brainless tackle that would make Titus Bramble proud.
I've kept my powder dry through six straight wins ... through the re-awakening of Thierry Henry from his post-World Cup coma ... the burgeoning dominance of Cesc Fabregas in midfield ... the marauding influence of Gallas in defense ... the smooth assimilation of Rosicky and Hleb ... the goal-scoring pyrotechnics of Van Persie ... the dazzling emergence of Theo ... and yes, the 10th anniversary of Monsieur Sangfroid. Go ahead now and flash that merde-eating grin, Arsene.
Even when Van Persie crashed home that leaping, tucking, insane volley last week, I had my doubts, thinking that if you need that kind of wonder strike to win games, then you're riding your luck a bit. But the way Arsenal pinged the ball about with such impudent ease Saturday (OK, so it was against Watford: Sue me.), I thought, wait a second, it's not just some sort of drug-induced delirium after all ... the Gunners are for real. Yes, they're still five points behind ManUre and Chelsea, but they have a game in hand and can smell the blood in the water. Wayne Rooney, for all the pitbull menace he exuded against Reading — and I must say, his swivel shot in the box that crashed off the crossbar was stunning — still can't rent a goal, let alone buy one. Does anyone think that ManUre can rely on Saha, Ronaldo and Solskjaer to supply all their firepower this season? And, I'm sorry, but Michael Carrick is too NICE to be charged with the responsibility of locking down the center of the park like ol' Keano did. Sure, he's capable of the odd probing ball, but he lacks the muscular presence to keep more skillful teams than Wigan from carving out acres of attacking space. Finally, if memory serves — and with me, it usually doesn't — in their only real test this season, ManUre lost...to Arsenal.
But then nobody really expected ManUre to be sitting atop the table seven weeks into the season, a spot that was believed to be Chelsea's divine right. I mean, who could argue with all the star power that Mourinho stockpiled like nukes in North Korea? For every position, he had at least TWO world-class players, so that if one was off form or injured, he could simply shove another stud into the lineup without breaking stride. So the idea that Chelsea would get caught short, that somehow their stacked roster would appear thin, that they'd be forced to stick John Terry in goal and Didier Drogba at center-back was ... oh wait.
Now I know we shouldn't make light of the terrible injury to Petr Cech (depressed fracture of his skull) and the mild concussion suffered by his backup Carlo Cudicini, but didn't the sight of Terry, stripping off his jersey and then waiting just a beat for the viewer to take in his rippling six pack before donning the goalkeepers' shirt make your heart soar? And how great would it have been if Reading could have mustered just one raking shot at goal forcing Terry to dive acrobatically and pull a hammy in the process? Then what? Would Mourinho have come charging out of the dugout, ripped off his Armani coat, and stood between the posts himself?
Come to think of it, maybe the meds are kicking in.