It’s Hull we face on Saturday, while all being preoccupied with one single question: is there life after death? Well, strictly speaking it’s what point there is in the rest of the campaign after a failed title bid?, but I just wanted to add a bit of drama. Because clearly there is not enough drama in the life of an Arsenal supporter.
Obviously it’s still quite possible for us to slip out of the top four, and our target for the rest of the season will be to avoid doing that, but I hope you’ll pardon my frustration at treading such familiar waters. It is so disappointing to be aiming for the minimum requirement with so much football yet to play. Yes, Chelsea are having a stormer of a season, and undoubtedly we had bad luck with injuries and poor refereeing – however you have to be overly optimistic to look at our results this season and call this team ‘title contenders’.
I’m not feeling optimistic at all.
Hull seem to have discovered some form after Marco Silva was appointed their manager, amassing seven points in four league games. These include a recent win over Liverpool and a draw against United away, so we have to be wary of the Tigers.
Team news update
Xhaka is serving the last game of his suspension, while Cazorla and Ramsey remain injured. On the bright side, Elneny should be available after his AFCON adventure ended in a heartbreak with Egypt losing to Cameroon in the final. There are also question marks hanging over Hector Bellerin following the concussion he suffered in the collision with Marcus Alonso:
“We have the question about Hector Bellerin. He’s going for tests and the process every day and we’ll only know tomorrow if he gets the green light from the medical people to practise or not. At the moment (as of Thursday) he has not practised.” – Arsene Wenger
Lucas Perez wasn’t mentioned, so I’m presuming he will be in the squad. That’s the injury situation we have. With a bit of luck Cazorla will be the only player unavailable when we visit Liverpool at Anfield on March 4th.
I think the time has come for Wenger to be brave. To stop massaging individual egos and just drop inefficient players.
For me that entails dropping Petr Cech first and foremost. As I’ve said in my post-mortem of the Chelsea game, he has failed to hit the highs expected of him, both in general and during this season in particular. Ospina, meanwhile, had a brilliant Champions League campaign and deserves another stint between the sticks in the league. Realistically, I don’t see Wenger dropping Cech.
Another change which is needed is Walcott giving way to Lucas Perez. The Englishman has been woeful in his last two outings, while Perez impressed and contributed every time he entered the field of play. Once again I feel a change can be beneficial here, and once again I’m not sure at all Wenger will make it. He seems not to trust Perez for some reason.
What do I have to do boss?
Danny Welbeck for Alex Iwobi is another switch worth considering. Clearly Welbeck is raring to go, and Iwobi’s defensive shortcomings have been exploited by our opponents far too often this season, heaping (mostly) undeserved blame on Nacho Monreal. Here I’m a bit more positive Wenger will contemplate a switch, but with Bayern coming up shortly, he may feel Danny is better used from the bench against Hull.
The returning Elneny makes for a nice headache in the centre of the pitch. My gut feeling is he needs to start, though I’m not sure who he comes in for. Dropping Coquelin is risky in the sense we’ll have no proper screening midfielder, but then the Frenchman’s pairing with Elneny is hardly convincing going forward. I feel Arsene just might pair Elneny with Oxlade, though, given the latter’s good form since there, and taking into account Hull are likely to hang on for their dear lives at the Emirates.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal – Elneny – Oxlade – Walcott – Ozil – Iwobi – Alexis
What I think will happen now is Arsenal going on a run in the league. With the pressure that comes with being title contenders off, we’ll likely play without a handbrake and demonstrate some beautiful football.
At least, that’s what I dearly want to happen. I still remember how we dragged our feet over the line last season, winning five and drawing five after our title hopes went out of the window in early March. Playing some pretty uninspiring football along the way. I’m also fully aware we are yet to play both Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton, which makes our life that much harder.
All of which is not to say we shouldn’t win tomorrow. We are still Arsenal hosting Hull, dropping points is not an option. Hopefully the squad get over the failed title bid better than I did and are able to put together a competent display.
Come on you Gunners.
Back here to review the game.
Russian Gooner. No, it’s not always cold in my home country 🙂
A staunch Arsenal supporter since 2004. Started writing about the Gunners in 2013.
Currently in London to get a degree in journalism.