The Premier League is becoming great theatre as the season comes to an end and looks set to be one of the most exciting finishes yet.
While professional football can seem to be a bit of a soap opera at times, this Saturday gave us what looks to be the first act in a grand play.
There was something for all tastes on a fine spring day that left some smiling, while the sunshine also served as a spotlight on the glum faces of others.
One aspect was depicted by Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Aston Villa that took Arsene Wenger’s side three points clear into the Premier League’s third place.
It has been quite the resurgence from a Gunners side who many thought would not be qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in 16 years under Wenger.
Even the crowd at Emirates Stadium voiced dissatisfaction with a man who had seemed unimpeachable during his decade and a half in the red side of north London.
Arsenal’s future now looks all the more bright with players coming back from injury, into form and others coming out of youth ranks to tantalise with the one things football fans can’t help but get overexcited about – emerging talent.
The form of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs is something for England fans, as well as those of Arsenal, to get excited about – not to mention the return of Jack Wilshere in the next five weeks if what Wenger says is true.
Incidentally, it was the first time since 1997 that two English players had been on the score sheet for the Gunners.
The other part of this particular story is that the effect of Arsenal’s win-blitz has been amplified by a sickening run from their neighbours at the other end of Seven Sisters Road.
While Wenger’s team play out the second coming of the old purists, their supposed successors have been slipping uncertainly into a story of tragedy.
Ok, nobody has died, but the joie de vivre they had that drew so many admiring glances from neutral fans has begun to drain out of them to reveal a beleaguered demeanour.
Their brand of fast, slick and exciting pattern drawing play is not bringing the rewards it was early in the season. What appeared to be a title-challenge at first has transformed into third place consolidation and now top four desperation.
Harry Redknapp’s side went to Stamford Bridge to try and do what they have not done since 1990, but, once again, they were unable to.
They took on a Chelsea team who look like they are trying to creak back into the top four places through doggedness alone.
The Blues’ superior experience in clashes over these stakes managed to help stifle the improving visitors and just about keep the embers of success from this season glowing.
It was probably Spurs’ most impressive performance over the five games they have gone without recording a victory and, should the tragedy be complete and they fail to get to the Champions League, it would probably be the most beautiful yet unwarranted failure.
Their opponents on the day will most likely be the benefactors of any failings, although Tottenham could be saved by the incompetence that just seems to be fighting its way out at Chelsea.
It was a third game in quick succession for Roberto di Matteo’s side and their aged legs looked heavy in the second half, which isn’t a great sign when they have a crucial Champions League quarter-final first leg in midweek.
Should the oil-funded side from west London manage to get back up to the coveted top table of UEFA guests, then you would think it is one last hurrah for a few of them.
While the race to be crowned kings of the Premier League and be branded by the myriad of brands that lay in wait goes on, it seems as though Manchester United will be resuming the Sir Alex Ferguson buttocks shaped indent on the velvet cushioned of the gleaming Barclays throne.
Manchester City could only draw away at the giants of Stoke, which meant the Red Devils could move three points clear at the top if they overcome an ambitious Fulham side on Monday night.
However, the clash in Potteries gave us one of the highlights of the season through Peter Crouch's sublime volleyed goal from the edge of the area.
If the Premier League is a play or opera, then this was an award winning monolougue or aria of great beauty - it looked wholly ridiculous being carried out by the limbs of Crouch, but was incredible nonetheless.
The ups and downs of more is probably more keenly felt nearer the bottom of the league, where it is more visceral than that of the billionaires’ playground near the league’s summit.
The fight for relegation is more gritty drama than the period fare you find in the race for Europe.
Bolton Wanderers had the story of the day when they played their first game after the very real drama of Fabrice Muamba’s heart attack and subsequent fight for his life last weekend.
The football community has been generous in its messages of concern for the young midfielder, who has shown very encouraging signs of recovery this week in intensive care.
His Bolton team-mates gave him the perfect tribute as they defeated Blackburn Rovers 2-1 to pull themselves out of the relegation zone.
They were not the only ones to pull off a great victory as another basement dweller managed to pull off what could be the surprise result of the season, along with Blackburn’s win at Old Trafford.
Wigan went to Anfield and managed to keep their bid to stay in the league alive by completing a remarkable victory over Liverpool and one that oozed style.
Roberto Martinez is the typical underdog hero in a theatrical sense here – the man fighting against all odds to stay true to his principles and compete against far bigger fish.
His Wigan side were slick in their play on Merseyside and by all accounts deserved their win against a Liverpool side who seem to be having an existential crisis of sorts, unable to decide if they are a league side or a cup side.
As first acts go, it was full of great characters and laid great foundations for a grandstand finish.
However the story turns out, the plot is sure to thicken and there will be late twists galore.
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