So, it’s the last league game of the season, and we go into it needing the start to align to make the Champions League places for the 21st consecutive season under Arsene Wenger. I’ll start with the permutations then.
What we need to do to qualify for the Champions League
We can either rival Manchester City or Liverpool for a place in top four. It’s harder with former, as there’s a 5-goal difference and three points between us and Pep’s team. We’ll need to win and City to lose, while also overthrowing this goal difference. If we are tied on goal difference, there’ll be a play-off.
Liverpool represents a more realistic target. The Scousers need to drop points, while we get the win. However if they lose by two goals and we draw, there’ll also be a play-off.
While Calum Chambers and Co will hopefully be doing their best to rob Liverpool, we’ll have a sterner test hostin Everton. On the upside, Koeman’s men are dead sixth, and no result will change it. They have nothing to play for. I still remember the thrashing they got from Leicester last season when they didn’t need anything on the last day.
We have a good home record against the Toffees. In fact, Arsenal haven’t lost to them under Arsene Wenger, winning 18 and drawing 4 of league and cup games at the Emirates/Highbury. We are also currently on a decent run, having garnered 18 points from the last seven league games, keeping clean sheets in four consecutive home fixtures. Finally, Arsenal have an impeccable last-day league record in the last nine years, scoring four goals in the last five. No surprise the the Premier League odds at 888sport have the Gunners as hot favourites
More so as Everton, meanwhile, won just once in the last four games, beating Watford 1-0. Their last away league win came in January – eight matches ago. However, Koeman’s men also have a good final-day record, winning seven of the last nine matches. But like I said, one of the losses happened last season…
Team news update
The only definite absentees will be Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Doubts persist over Koscielny’s involvement:
“We have an uncertainty over whether Koscielny will be available or not. He will have a test today (Friday) and tomorrow and then I will make the decision.” – Arsene Wenger
My gut feeling is we’ll see Kos. He has been in training for a while, and should make it. I think he could have played against Sunderland even, Wenger just wanted to be absolutely sure.
The good news is, Ramsey will be available. To be honest I didn’t even notice he was subbed off due to injury, but whatever it was, the Welshman is fit to play. Good to know.
Our players looked a bit leggy on Tuesday, but I doubt very much Wenger will rotate for the final game if he hasn’t done so against a rock-bottom Sunderland side.
There are still a couple of selections dilemmas though. Firstly, I really think Wenger should give Ospina a game. I know it’s not likely to happen, but the Colombian needs some practice before the final. He is the kind of player who can’t be at his best when plucked out from the cold. To be fair, not many can, but Dave’s probably a bit more dependent on practice than your average footballer.
Then of course there’s the question of whether Kos will recover fully. If he does, he will start. If not, we’ll see the same back three as against Sunderland and Southampton.
Finally, I’m wondering whether Wenger will stick with Giroud. The Frenchman is still two goals away from a hundred for Arsenal. With a summer of chaos coming up, there’s a possibility the Frenchman won’t play for us next season. I’ll be heartbroken if he leaves, but more so if he falls one or two goals short of a century.
However there’s a case to be made Ollie is more likely to get a goal from the bench than he is from open play. Not unreasonable – before the Stoke game he scored six times off the bench against just four goals when starting. Now he is on 12 goals, evenly split in this regard.
It’ll be interesting to see who Arsene picks. He stuck with Welbeck for a while, then dropped him because the Englishman was underwhelming, and now Giroud is underwhelming. It is as much down to either not adapting to the new formation. Ceteris paribus Welbeck edges it to start, but Giroud has his Everton record to stake a claim: he scored four goals in last three home games against Everton.
Predicted line-up: Cech – Holding – Koscielny – Mustafi – Bellerin – Ramsey – Xhaka – Monreal – Ozil – Alexis – Giroud
It is well within our capabilities to win this game. We have been in good form lately, Everton not so much, plus our formation is helping get the best out of most our players, and almost all starters.
Whether a win will get us a coveted Champions League spot is another matter entirely. We are on the outside looking in, and I don’t have a great deal of faith in Boro or especially a managerless Watford. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed. After all, I vaguely remember a relegated side thrashing some North London club last season…
I’ll naturally be back here with the review.
Until then – come on you Gunners!