Had Daniel Levy given Andre Villas-Boas the striker and midfielder he needed last summer, then Spurs would surely have finished above Arsenal. This was a predictable collapse...
The events of the past week have set up an exciting summer in the Premier League, but first, will Spurs leave it late on the final day? And Benitez deserves lots of credit...
Would you back against them to finish in the top four? The bookies certainly wouldn't and, as Dean Saunders comically said when trying to allay fears over Wolves' relegation fight, "they rarely get it wrong".
A hard-earned victory against Swansea, in which Gervinho surprised everyone with his composure, ended an encouraging week for Arsenal both in terms of their own achievements and in signs of another Spurs collapse. With their two rivals for the top four still distracted by European competition (and Chelsea also involved in an FA Cup quarter-final replay) the Gunners have a significant advantage in the league and it now seems only a matter of time before they return to the Champions League places for the first time since December.
Considering their favourable fixture list, there was always a strong chance that Arsenal would snatch a top-four spot despite slipping seven points behind Spurs following their 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane on March 3. But even Arsene Wenger must be surprised at how quickly his team's fortunes have turned as the Gunners closed the gap to Andre Villas-Boas' side to just four points with a game in hand and a much better goal difference.
As I said in this article about Spurs teetering between triumph and tragedy, it can often be more advantageous to be chasing the prize rather than trying to hold on at this stage of the campaign and Arsenal's remaining fixtures present them with the opportunity to maintain an unbeaten run between now and the end of the season. The Gunners face Reading at home in two weeks' time with West Brom and Norwich to follow before their game in hand at home to Everton on April 16. In the same period Spurs face Swansea, Everton and Chelsea as well as Basel twice in the Europa League quarter-final. After losing their third match in a row on Sunday - against Fulham, who never win away - the current tenants of fourth place are clearly struggling for momentum.
Arsenal's momentum may be aided by Wenger's decision to stick with four of the back five that performed so impressively in the 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich (Kieran Gibbs was replaced by Nacho Monreal at Swansea). I said in Champions League Winners and Losers that it was important for the Gunners to take something from the result in Germany and even if that 'thing' is merely a more confident and cohesive defence in the short term, it could play a crucial role in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League. Arsenal prevented Swansea from having a single shot on target on Saturday - with Thomas Vermaelen again left to watch the game from the bench - and Laurent Koscielny has recovered from his poor form at the perfect time.
Considering Chelsea face trips to Manchester United and Liverpool as well as a home clash with Spurs, Wenger may even have one eye on third in Arsenal's final nine fixtures. It would be typical of the Gunners to end what has largely been another disappointing season by engendering optimism for the new campaign in a perpetual cycle of hope and despair.
Two successive wins from behind to avoid being the victims of Wigan's annual revival thus far. Villa had Brad Guzan to thank on Saturday after the keeper spectacularly denied Chris Samba and Loic Remy, but their survival still hinges on Christian Benteke's form and fitness in the final eight matches.
Benteke's winning strike against QPR was his 13th of the campaign, while he has contributed 42% of all Villa's goals - the highest proportion of any player at any club. The 22-year-old will be looking forward to the next match against Liverpool, whom he scored twice against in a 3-1 victory in December.
An impressive victory against one of supposedly the two in-form teams in the Premier League. Southampton are surviving the hard way and it isn't beyond them to pick up another three points against Chelsea in their next match considering Mauricio Pochettino has already led the team to victories against Manchester City and Liverpool. But it's also vital that the Saints maintain Saturday's performance level against teams outside the top seven if they are to avoid being dragged into the bottom three.
Following the clash with Chelsea on March 30, Saints face Reading, West Ham, Swansea and West Brom before a trip to Spurs at the start of May. Those four fixtures are exactly the sort of games in which Southampton have struggled to grind out wins this season, and they must be able to carry their big performances into matches against mid-table fluff.
Another superb display against Manchester City that keeps their faint hopes of a top-four finish alive. David Moyes would have preferred Saturday's performance to have come a week earlier in the FA Cup quarter-final, but Everton still have plenty to play for in the league as well as an opportunity to earn only their fifth win in 25 matches against Liverpool under Moyes' reign.
A third home win of the season to keep the pressure on Aston Villa, Southampton and Sunderland. Wigan are finally kicking into gear again as they enter the last stretch of the season, but the Latics won't always be as lucky as they were against Newcastle on Sunday.
A 1-0 win against Reading courtesy of a deflected strike was hardly an impressive or entertaining way to stretch 15 points clear at the top. Sir Alex Ferguson expressed a desire for his team to show more 'killer instinct' last week and United will need to return to top form to get past Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-final replay and maintain their chances of securing a best-ever points total in the Premier League.
Only three more goals until we never have to hear of Bobby Tambling's record again. A hat-trick against Southampton would be nice.
An impressive victory and renewed hope of a top-half finish.
Callum McManaman and Roberto Martinez
A horrendous challenge exacerbated by Roberto Martinez's excuse that McManaman is 'not that sort of player'.
On this occasion the Wigan manager should have acknowledged that the youngster was completely over the top, with Massadio Haidara and Newcastle now facing a nervous wait over the left-back's injury. Few would claim McManaman intended to make such a dreadful tackle, but would it have been too much to ask for the striker to immediately signal for medical attention for his opponent? He will have known the severity of his challenge but instead attempted to play on while Haidara lay prone on the pitch.
"I thought the response from the crowd was brilliant. There has been a lot of people moaning and groaning, or so I have been told, but they turned up and right from the first whistle to the last there was a very positive feeling around the ground, and that was very good for the players."
Do Stoke fans really want to be flattered when the team are on such a dreadful run? After just one win in 11 top-flight matches, it's clear that Pulis is starting to feel the pressure.
After another insipid display at the Stadium of Light on a weekend that saw Martin O'Neill's side move closer to the bottom three, one wonders what motivates Sunderland fans to go and watch such gruel. The club's average attendance last season was 39,095 - 34th in Europe and above Juventus, Spurs, Roma, Lazio and Porto. You have to feel for those supporters.
Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers and Martin Skrtel
A much-needed reality check following a week in which faint hopes of a top-four challenge resurfaced. So which was the fluke result - the win over Spurs (the Reds' third against a team currently in the top half of the table) or Saturday's 3-1 defeat to Southampton?
Brendan Rodgers didn't seem at all surprised by his team's collapse at St Mary's in his post-match interview and he admitted that Southampton deserved their victory: "We weren't at our best and we're not the sort of team yet when, if we're not at our best, we can see through results." It was refreshing to hear an honest reflection on Liverpool's performance and current standing following the manager's previous mistakes of praising poor performances and setting his sights on a second-place finish.
Rodgers was culpable in the Reds' downfall on Saturday, though, by selecting Joe Allen - who requires surgery on an injured shoulder - to start alongside Steven Gerrard in midfield. The gamble backfired spectacularly as Allen looked significantly off the pace, completing only 65% of his passes before being replaced by Lucas at half time. Why the manager felt the need to change the first XI that won against Spurs (aside from Jamie Carragher's enforced absence) is a mystery.
It was a poor afternoon all round for Liverpool, with Daniel Sturridge continuing to look rusty following his return from injury, Luis Suarez surprisingly subdued and Martin Skrtel adding more weight to the argument that he should be sold in the summer with errors for two of Southampton's goals. Skrtel's fall from grace has been rather sudden and, after dropping the centre-back from his first-choice back four, Rodgers is under no illusions as to the re-building job that is required in defence with Carragher also set to retire in the summer.
There was perhaps a question over Liverpool's preparation on Saturday, with Rodgers claiming after the game: "It's very difficult at this level whenever you make the start we made today of being two goals behind. We only started to play when it went to 2-0." However, considering Southampton have conceded the highest number of points from winning positions this season, Liverpool should have done more to test their opponents' resolve after Philippe Coutinho halved the deficit before half-time. If anything, it seemed like the Reds simply gave in, knowing they have little to play for as their season comes to an end.
Three defeats in a row and concerns over injuries to Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson. Spurs were desperately poor against Internazionale on Thursday and even the return of Gareth Bale couldn't inspire them to victory against a Fulham side who never win away. I know I'm repeating myself there, but it really was a disastrous result ahead of a hugely difficult run of matches.
If Emmanuel Adebayor and Jermain Defoe don't start scoring soon, it's hard to see Spurs holding onto their place in the top four, while Lewis Holtby's disappearance from first-team duty is also a concern. There are simply too many attacking players currently out of form at White Hart Lane, highlighted by Benoit Assou-Ekotto's selection on the left wing on Sunday.
Saturday may have conclusively ended their title challenge but in truth City haven't looked like champions for most of the season. Roberto Mancini's stubborn refusal to abandon his plans to play three at the back again contributed to City's downfall at Everton while the Blues also seem to have lost their ability to recover after going behind. City have failed to win any of the last seven matches in which they've trailed, underlining an overall decline since their last-gasp title win in May.
QPR and Reading
Even Harry Redknapp struggled to remain positive after the Rs' defeat to Aston Villa. Now both seven points adrift of safety, the chances of either QPR or Reading surviving are slim to none.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.
I quite like bias as it goes. I dont like the generic rubbish trying not to offend. It's football, I'm an adult and I can handle people not agreeing with me or not praising my club in fact I prefer it. If this site is so biased against your club you should probably frequent your own clubs forums where like minded people constantly discuss the same things and rubbish the same things and discuss the same things......and repeat. For example here, Chelsea did have a routine win and only progressed becuse of Spurs failure which is why we are a big loser. It was newly promoted West Ham, at home. come on surely as European Champions it should have been a foregone conclusion?- dryice