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SUPRIYA BAKHT
SPORTING CHIC

Supriya Bakht is an incessant talker with a shoe addiction. She's usually found ranting and raving about politics, football and Arsenal; but mostly about Arsenal.

Arsenal’s annual flirt with success is over

oe is me. As an Arsenal fan, this time of the year - every year - has acquired a familiar air. I watch less football, read less football related news and sulk far more. The time of the year I'm talking about? That week every season where the deliriously optimistic hopes of Arsene, Arsenal and their fans are shattered. The week where our double, treble or quadruple title chances are slowly halved, then suddenly, it's another trophy-less season for the Gunners. And as fans, we go back to speculating over the summer transfer window, who we'll buy and who we'll sell and how we will jump right back into the league next season. Did I mention this happens before the season is over because we know when we've played ourselves out of another title?

With five games to go and a six point lead over fragile Arsenal and unreliable Chelsea, it's a justifiably safe bet to presume United will win the Premier League. Again. They may just win the Champions League as well. If the El Classico semi-final fixture between Real and Barca is anything like we expect, United will face a slightly tired but tested side in the final at Wembley in London. And then there's that chance in the FA Cup if United come back from their semi-final first leg loss against Man City. Happy days for Sir Alex and his boys.

While first place in England is no longer up for grabs, the second place fight between Arsenal and Chelsea is heating up. Both clubs are in second place, tied at 64 points with marginal goal difference between two and both with fixtures against United left to play. As Arsenal continue to draw themselves silly and have managed to win one and draw six of their last seven matches - Chelsea have upped the ante by winning six and drawing one of their last seven matches. With the relatively easier of the fixtures this weekend, Chelsea host West Ham while Arsenal travel to the Reebok to face Bolton - both London clubs need the points to seal their automatic spot in the Champions League next season. Arsenal particularly, after this week's North London derby result, are in dire need of a win. Arsenal squandered a two goal lead (again!) to draw a resilient Tottenham side 3-3 in what was proved to be yet another goal feast between the two sides. I'm still trying hard to erase the trauma of the last premier league meeting between the clubs earlier this season, where Arsenal squandered a first half two goal lead and the Spurs fought back to beat the Gunners 3-2 at home for the first time in seventeen years. My only conclusion in all of this is the recognition that the new and improved Tottenham Hotspurs under Harry Redknapp and fortified by some ridiculous spending are Arsene and Arsenal's kryptonite in 2011.

As Tottenham try their best to pip Man City to fourth spot to qualify for the Champions League next year, it seems only fitting they play in Europe next season. They were surprisingly impressive in their campaign in the Champions League, with performances in the group and knock-out stages that were truly praiseworthy. By knocking the defending champions Intern out of the competition, they beat both the Milanese teams in the run up to the quarterfinals. Despite losing to Real Madrid, the Spurs have made their mark in Europe this year.

As Leagues across Europe wind down and the winners, are well, on their way to winning trophies, it's time for the return of our favourite time for speculation in football. The drama, gossip and rumours that are part and parcel of transfer season are back to take up all the print space in the sports pages. Sneijder to United? Ancelotti out and Benitez to replace him at Chelsea? Who will be Arsene's shortlisted big names he desperately needs to acquire? Will Tevez leave City? Will Tottenham's stars abandon them without the promise of Europe? Only time and an entire summer will tell.

 
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