We face Sunderland today in what will be the last match in the 37th round of Premier League games. Man, time really flies. One minute you were scrapping a win against Palace with a late Aaron Ramsey winner, next thing you know there are two league games left to play.
Luckily for us, we also have a nail-biting finale against Villa in the Cup. I’ll stock up on Validol, sweets and maybe even go to church before the game. I just hope we won’t demonstrate how fine gentlemen we are by giving the opposition a two-goal headstart.
But before the real fun begins, there’s still a small matter of securing direct Champions League qualification (we’ll be in 2nd pot this time) and possibly even finishing runners-up in the league. Of course it’s now highly unlikely, as City will have to lose to Southampton at the Etihad on the final day of the season while we’ll need 6 points out of six, but funnier things have happened. Like United losing out on goal difference in 2011-1012 or Real getting knocked out by Morata or Chelsea going out of the Champions League thanks to David Luiz…
Speaking of Chelsea, do you know they were thrashed by West Bromwich the other day and Fabregas was sent off in the process? THAT was hilarious. Not so much the sending off itself, as the manner of it. If you haven’t seen it yet, find a vine or a video on Youtube. You’ll have a good laugh.
Back to the job at hand, however and I’ll start with the usual bits on team news.
All my hopes of a return for Debuchy, Oxlade or Welbeck were smashed by Arsene Wenger, who confirmed all three will once again be short. Nothing new on Arteta, so I guess he’s also out. The painful part is that Koscielny is likely to miss out due to flu. Fortunately, we have Gabriel and Chambers, so I’m not particularly worried about the state of our defense.
Summing up: Debuchy, Oxlade and Welbeck are definitely out, nothing new was said on Arteta and Diaby (ahem), while Kos shouldn’t make it due to illness. With that sorted out, a guessing game is in order. And this time around I think it does make sense, as midweek games imply rotation, only the extent varies.
Actually, I’m not exactly sure about who starts in goal either. Don’t think the manager blames Ospina for the last two goals he conceded, rather that Szczesny may need game time before he plays in the final.
You know my stance on the matter: Chezza shouldn’t start in the final as we stand a better chance of winning it with Ospina. However, I’m also quite sure Arsene WILL start Szczesny and as such may see the need to give the Pole some minutes prior to that. So I don’t exclude the possibility of Wojciech making a surprise start on Wednesday.
At the back I don’t think we’ll see anyone new bar Gabriel for Koscielny. No need to mess around with a solid defense, especially since we still need to get a result in this game. Moving on to midfield.
It is the place which interests me most. Surely Wilshere, Walcott and Ramsey all gave Arsene food for thought after making a tangible impact in their respective preferred positions against United? Coupled with the fact that Santi looks jaded and Coquelin is often bypassed by his teammates when our passing game clicks. Considering Advocaat himself said he’ll be content with a point (Sunderland only need a point in two games to stay up), I expect them to sit back, put men behind the ball and cede possession.
As a result, we’ll have plenty of the ball and Coquelin will mostly be a passenger, thus starting Ramsey deeper and Wilshere closer to Ozil may be just the thing to do. Wilsh will run at Sunderland’s defense, something we lacked dearly against Swansea which is another benefit of giving Jack his first start since November. Something for Wenger to chew on, if he hasn’t already.
I’ve touched on how Walcott’s impact against United might have presented the Englishman with a better chance of starting and, frankly, I think there should be a place on the team for Theo. Sanchez was subbed with minutes to go and I do wonder whether he was sporting a knock/was slightly ill, Giroud wasn’t really effective for the 5th game running and Ramsey shouldn’t play on the wing anyway. Just shouldn’t.
However, I don’t really expect Wenger to omit Giroud or Sanchez, so it’s Walcott on the right or Walcott on the bench for me. It’s a tad risky starting both Theo and Bellerin, especially if Ramsey starts in Coquelin’s place, but we’ll see. Like is the case with Ramsey and Wilshere, Walcott did enough in my opinion to earn a start.
Out top priority should be a win. Preferably two wins (who knows, maybe City will slip up?) So if Wenger doesn’t rotate the squad or just does the bare minimum (like Gabriel for Koscielny), I won’t be surprised one bit.
Then again, I think we can realistically expect a squad of Ospina-Bellerin-Mertesacker-Gabriel-Ramsey-Wilshere-Ozil-Walcott-Sanchez-Giroud to get the three points at home against Sunderland who, despite almost guaranteeing PL football next season aren’t much to look at.
So come on you Gunners
Back with a review