COMMENTARY | It has now been confirmed that Arsenal will be without a key man for three of their final four Premier League games played this spring.
Striker Olivier Giroud had his appeal against a red card that he received this past weekend in Arsenal's match at Fulham rejected on Tuesday. The following statement on the matter was posted on the official FA website: "Following an Independent Regulatory Commission hearing today, Arsenal's Olivier Giroud has had his claim for wrongful dismissal rejected. Giroud was dismissed for serious foul play during his side's game against Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday 20 April 2013. The player's three-match suspension will therefore commence with immediate effect."
Giroud was sent off in the 90th minute of the match at Craven Cottage after an incident that involved Fulham's Stanislav Manolev. It initially looked that Giroud had went in high on Manolev, and thus had earned his dismissal. Replays showed, however, that Giroud had first gotten to the ball, and one angle in particular indicated that the Arsenal player had merely lost his footing when trying to track the ball down.
Today's news couldn't have come at a worse time for Arsenal. They are currently in third place in the Premier League table, on 63 points with four matches left to play. Chelsea are on 62 points, and Tottenham Hotspur are on 61 points. Those two clubs still have five league games left to play, and only two of the three teams will qualify for next season's Champions League competition. Following Tuesday's announcement from the FA, Giroud, who has scored 17 goals across all competitions in 2012-13, will now only be available for the club's season finale, a May 19 match at Newcastle United.
Arsenal's most difficult game of the four comes this Sunday when they host league champs Manchester United. The Gunners would do well to not underestimate United, who aren't yet in a "we have nothing to play for" mentality. The now crowned champions are on 84 points, chasing Chelsea's record of 95 points. One day before Arsenal host United, Spurs will be away to Wigan (18th in the table and fighting for their Premier League lives). Chelsea host Swansea City (9th in the table and with not much to play for) on Sunday.
Here's a breakdown of the schedule following this weekend: Arsenal are away to QPR (relegated and done), home against Wigan, and away to Newcastle. Chelsea will be away to United, home versus Spurs, away to Aston Villa (could still be in a relegation battle), and home to Everton (could still be fighting for European football). Spurs have Southampton (likely safe) at White Hart Lane, Chelsea and Stoke (not quite safe) away, and Sunderland (could be in relegation battle) at home.
Just about every significant break had, up until today, gone Arsenal's way in April. They survived playing a man down for 20+ minutes at West Brom back on April 6, thanks in part to some awful play from the hosts in the attacking third. A corner that shouldn't have been followed by a penalty that was controversial aided the Gunners in their late rally at home against Norwich City on April 13. A correct offside call helped Arsenal take their lead into stoppage time against Fulham, an advantage the visitors held until the final whistle.
Should they be a little concerned if that perceived "luck" is beginning to run out?
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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