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Arsenal do it the hard way to secure Champions League football

West Brom 2 Arsenal 3

Long 11, Dorrans 15; Benayoun 4, Santos 30, Koscielny 54

Throughout their history, Arsenal have had a habit of doing things the hard way. The 1979 FA Cup final, where they let a 2-0 lead slip in the final five minutes only to snatch victory back at the death. The 1989 league decider at Anfield, which culminated in Michael Thomas’ last-gasp title-winner. Even the final game of the 2003/04 Invincibles season, where they had to come from behind at home to Leicester on the final day. This afternoon’s game at the Hawthorns fell into the same category, as Arsenal contrived to take the lead and fall behind in the first 15 minutes, and needed two crucial interventions in the dying moments to preserve a 3-2 win which secured third place and guaranteed automatic entry into the Champions League group phase next season.
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Three goals conceded, three consecutive draws as Arsenal slip up again

Arsenal 3 Norwich 3

Benayoun 2, van Persie 72, 80; Hoolahan 12, Holt 27, Morison 85

In the end, the villain of the piece was Kyle Naughton – the defender on loan from Tottenham, of course – who had a hand in the final result. Literally, as his shove in the back on Robin van Persie in the dying moments of the game denied the striker a dramatic late winner. But the truth was Arsenal had no one to blame but themselves, as they were fortunate to finish with a point after a pulsating 3-3 draw with Norwich which featured shockingly amateurish defending from a side which hopes to play in the Champions League next season. Their fate is now out of their hands, however, as the weight of expectation passes to Tottenham tomorrow. It is a burden which proved too much for Arsenal here. Read more of this post

Battling draw sees Arsenal edge ahead in the fight for third

Stoke 1 Arsenal 1

Crouch 9; van Persie 15

Although both sides had opportunities to win this game in the closing 15 minutes, a draw at the home of one of their bogey teams will have pleased Arsenal, particularly in the light of Newcastle’s heavy defeat at Wigan. It leaves them in control of their own destiny in the battle for the third and final guaranteed Champions League spot. However, the game was marred by persistent abuse from the home fans, much of it targeted at Aaron Ramsey, who was returning to the ground where he had his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross two years ago. Read more of this post

The week in numbers: w/e 22/4/12

Vettel finally won his first race of the 2012 season (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

10 – Points separating the top five drivers after defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix. His first victory of the season catapulted him from fifth to first in the standings, with 53 points.

4 – The win by Red Bull’s Vettel marked the first time since 1983 the first four races of the season have been won by four different drivers (Button, Alonso, Rosberg, Vettel) from four different teams (McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull).

2Wilson Kipsang and defending champion Mary Keitany secured a Kenyan double by winning the men’s and women’s races at the London Marathon.

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Arsenal draw creates three-horse race for third

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0

A goalless draw did little to aid the Champions League aspirations of either club, but a heavily rotated Chelsea will be much the happier after a dogged performance ahead of their critical semi-final second leg in Barcelona on Tuesday. Meanwhile Arsenal created little and squandered the handful of opportunities which did come their way, and are showing signs of fragility, fatigue and faltering momentum just when they need it most.

Just one point from two home games in the past six days has opened the door for Tottenham and Newcastle in the battle for third place. Both kick off later this afternoon six points behind but with two games in hand. Read more of this post

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