Tag Archives: top4

Arsenal’s Near Future

The gulf has stretched in the last decade, transforming into a hungry chasm.

Manchester City and Liverpool have both taken the initiative over the last two to three years and left the chasing pack with nothing but dust clouds to latch onto. Chelsea only won the Premier League three seasons ago and yet if we inspect their current situation – it is enough to dispirit even the most ardent optimist.

Chelsea possess some truly world-class players. Ngolo Kante, Antonio Rudiger, Kepa – all wouldn’t look out of place in most top European teams.

But heed their failures and you can see what it really takes to establish yourself with success in the modern era – an era which barely resembles its old self from a decade ago.

Replacing a player of the ilk of Eden Hazard was always going to be difficult, but they also failed to replace mercurial midfield talent too. The likes of Juan Mata, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas could conjure something from nothing, but instead they have the more industrial strengths of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho. Not without their merits, but very different players.

A change in coach has heralded a change in tack from Chelsea – and most importantly, Roman Abramovich. No longer are they completely reliant on the Roubles he provides. They want to be self-sustaining – or as near as they can be without their new stadium plans. That means a certain air of frugality in the transfer market in comparison to how they acted in order to escape the realms of obscurity when he took over.

However, they’ve also recruited wisely. Timo Werner and Ziyech look like astute purchases.

All this combined has led to Chelsea still fighting near the top – but unable to keep up with Klopp and Guardiola.

As Gooners, we are also seeing two managers at the top of their game, duking it out at the same time, leaving others not so qualified or talented, feeding from the scraps left by the German and the Spaniard.

It makes for some pretty depressing reading when you look at the face of things. We all are hoping that the decision to bring in the fresh-faced Arteta, his belief in our values and most importantly, the testimonials of those who have worked with him, that this move will bear precious fruit if given time.

We see promising signs. Our destruction of United this season showed exactly the cornerstones of what Arteta wants. Pressure on the ball. Obtain possession high up the pitch and attack and defend as one. Responsible positioning – but most importantly, clear instructions for the players.

Something that was apparently lacking during Unai Emery’s tenure.

We are still in recovery, but can we hold out hope of a title challenge any time soon?

arteta training ground

Next season – after this season in terms of growth for Arteta and the embedding of his tactics – will probably come too soon, but improvement is key. A top four finish and a shrinking of the gap would suffice for the majority – and it would also give his charges the evidence that this is working. Belief is key – but the proof is in the pudding… or top four.

A decent – and first – pre-season for Arteta could prove crucial. The more time he spends with his squad, the better we will become. You get the feeling that all of the players are completely behind him and his staff – and that is an excellent foundation to build from.

Pep Guardiola normally gets an itch and searches for pastures or challenges new after a few seasons and this is well overdue. For Jurgen Klopp? He’s now won the PL this season, his job will be mission accomplished and he will be so sought after, that he will definitely have his head turned by one of the bigger Euro teams.

Chelsea are rebuilding. Man United will look to plug some big gaps and will always have the resources to do so. It is vitally important that after our hiatus from the Champions League that we regain that position sooner rather than later. We are living off of our reputation right now when it comes to luring talent.

If you also take into consideration that our young stars will be one year older and wiser – and with a season of growth behind them – we will be stronger regardless of who is signed and who isn’t.

It is time to make some new memories.

The good times are coming, but we will need patience to see it bloom.

Champions League Or Bust?

Can you lose your European pedigree?

 

Decades of dining at the top table of European competition, duking it out with the zenith of club football. It gives a club a credence, an allure. It allows a club to build a brand, something the business that football has become makes mandatory.

 

Constant presence at the top also makes them far more palatable to talent, talent that makes it far easier for clubs to extend their reservation at the most exclusive tournament.

 

Why would a player choose to join a club not taking part where the best of the best are represented? Players themselves are becoming brands, and while money talks – so clubs not currently plying their trade in Europe always have a slim chance of snaring a big name – the majority of the time when a star becomes available, the club that is battling in the Champions League is predominantly the more attractive option.

 

Arsenal have not been in the Champions League for two seasons now, and the fight to avoid a third season hangs on a knife-edge. The Europa League offers arguably the more enjoyable campaign, as the Gunners have a real chance of holding aloft the trophy come May. But the Champions League talks big, and players want to hear that famous anthem on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, rather than watching on TV.

 

Arsenal took part in the Champions League for twenty consecutive seasons. We were mainstays in the competition, and for a long time we belonged in the first pot of seeds. Our decline from contention in the Premier League also coincided with our fall from grace on the biggest stage, and the last eight or so seasons of taking part in the top competition in football was more about taking the cheque rather than having any serious notion of winning it.

 

Consecutive Last-16 exits cemented Arsenal’s label as an attractive option for ballers, but far from the cream of the crop. Embarrassing exits to Bayern Munich and Barcelona only served to underline us as 2nd class, watching on as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Atletico and Juve all fought it out for the grand prize.

 

Now, we are on the verge of re-joining the competition. Would most of us not want to remain in the Europa League? The excitement of reaching the business end of the tournament, knowing that each time our name pops out of the hat means we have a real chance of lifting the thing?

 

The Champions League though, is mandatory for progress. Like it or not, the beast that it has become means that the money generated from even a group stage exit means more than winning the entire Europa League trophy.

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This means little to us in the stands and watching at home. The problem is however, that the longer we continue to stand outside, pressed up to the window but not involved means we drift further from the pack.

 

It means finding rough diamonds like Matteo Guendouzi becomes imperative, as the real big names want what we can’t provide.

 

A third season outside the Champions League won’t harm us too badly. Our profit margins will remain healthy and we can concentrate on a real push for a better position in the Premier League. should we prioritise that over the Europa League? Perhaps, but our squad is deep and talented enough to be able to fight on more than one front. We can focus on both. We should put a real push for the top four at the front of every season, it is far from beyond us.

 

Arsene Wenger once said that the top four is almost like a trophy, and the majority of us scoffed. With football as cutthroat as it is right now, his words have never been truer.

 

Our recent FA Cup wins meant the world to us, but a failure to reach the Champions League in the near future would mean that trophies would become even more scarce.

Who Will Win The Top4 Race?

There was a time when making the top four for the hallowed Champions League spots was much maligned.

 

When Arsene Wenger performed miracles on a shoestring budget by squeezing his Gunners side into the top table of European football season after season, instead of being lauded he was ridiculed for valuing the financial merits of making the Champions League.

 

Now though, making it into the top tier of club football is a huge deal, and one that six teams not only desire – but in order to maintain their standing and financial clout – they also need.

 

This season looks to be the toughest to call in regards to who slips into the top quartet of the Premier League. Manchester City and Liverpool have gone from strength to strength as they propel each other in their title fight, but the other two spots?

 

That is a straight fight between four teams.

 

As you can see in the graph on this page on the Premier League odds, the current odds on which team will get into the top4 is an ever-changing landscape, and no team can be sure of where they will stand at the end of the campaign. Tottenham were shaping up to be a third player in the title battle only two games ago, and now they are looking nervously over their shoulder with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United breathing down their necks.

 

It is even closer between Chelsea, United and Arsenal, with one point separating the trio – should Chelsea win their game in hand.

 

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So who has the advantage in the run-in? Who is nearer to pocketing the 70-100m of readies for Champions League involvement?

 

Arsenal

 

Much will depend on their next two games. Fixtures against tottenham and United are huge games and neither can be confidently predicted..Once those are out of the way though, the key is the away games for the Gunners.

 

From the remaining eight games after the United match, Arsenal have four games on the road. With Unai Emery’s men far from convincing on their travels, they will need to take advantage of the fact that they will have played all of their games against their fellow top6 colleagues.

 

United

 

United have three fixtures left against their top6 rivals, and a key spell will be April 24-28, which will have United host City and Chelsea in the space of four days.

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made his team resurgent after the dour tenure of Jose Mourinho, and their climb up the table has been remarkable.

 

One thing to watch is their injuries, especially after three players were replaced in the first half in  their 0-0 draw with Liverpool recently.

 

If they can keep their big men fit, they will be there at the end. The likes of Pogba, Lindelof, Rashford and De Gea are vital to their cause.

 

Chelsea

 

March is crunch time for Chelsea. A London derby at the start of the month, then a trip to Anfield, a tough game against Burnley and then closing out the month with an away game against United.

 

Chelsea are also hugely reliant on Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante. Without those two and the Blues lack the proper world class to change games.

 

Maurizio Sarri has had a perplexing first season. On one hand, he has earned some big wins, and on the other hand, they have looked insipid at times, mocked by their own fans for their unimaginative substitutions. There have also been the odd blip – huge losses to Bournemouth and City made them look ordinary.

 

If Sarri can muster the better end of the blues performances, then they can keep pace with the pack.

 

So, to surmise, it is going to be ridiculously tight to call.

 

One thing is for sure, every match will be unmissable.

Promises and Savouring the Journey

The season, Unai Emery’s first and the beginning of a new era of Arsenal, is in full swing.

 

The football is in a transitory stage, and when the dust settles, an Unai Emery modelled team will indeed make us a far tougher outfit than before. We can already see the seeds of Emery’s free-flowing attack in flashes – the non-stop movement and team-built moves that were the foundation of his success with Sevilla.

 

We also have a squad that is better equipped than in previous seasons. Defensive inequities remain, but this isn’t down to the personnel like in years before.

 

The future is bright, but for some, the future isn’t good enough.

 

Success is never quite close enough, glory always on the horizon but never within grasp.

 

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We are filled with promises from politicians that carry as much weight as the flakiest pastry, it is becoming the norm where someone’s word is worth nothing. So is it really surprising that we hold no optimism where the future is concerned?

 

Unai Emery will be painfully aware that he needs a modicum of success if he is to etch his name permanently into the annals of Arsenal. If he fails then he will be just another managerial casualty.

 

The requirements are simple, far simpler than at the majority of clubs. Do what Arsene failed to do in his last two seasons – reach the Champions League.

 

This means ousting two from Man United, Chelsea, tottenham, Liverpool and City. the Champions. Seeing as two of these teams look to be ahead of the chasing pack, that leaves two teams from four, including us.

 

The League is getting tougher and tougher to get at those pesky top four spots, but Emery’s prime objective could be fulfilled another way.

 

As aforementioned, our squad has been bolstered beyond what means we had for our last foray into the Europa League. We reached the Semi-Final then, with a tired team that couldn’t fully motivate in what was Wenger’s last season.

 

We now have a coach who is somewhat of a specialist in this competition. Like it or not too, if we were to lift this trophy, it would be our biggest European triumph. If Emery were to recreate his winning with Sevilla, it would be more than enough to sate the doubters and also the Board.

 

The Top4 may be a big leap, and so is the Europa League, but fighting on both fronts is a must. Emery is equipped to bring glory to the team, but his first season is a building effort. Targets may be in place but we must also realise that if we fall short, there are reasons why.

 

We aren’t where we need to be. We are building, pushing towards an accumulated effort which takes time.

 

We could lift a cup, we might not, but we need to enjoy the journey, as we are on the right path and progress is being made. If it doesn’t happen this season, we can at least rest assured that this is a lesson we need to learn to achieve more.

 

Patience is indeed a virtue, but we need to stop being so short-sighted and only see the struggle. Obstacles make the journey more exciting and for once, we need to have faith in the promises being made.

 

The struggle is real, but so are the words being spoken. We are on our way to silverware again.

What Makes A Good Season For Emery?

The slate has been wiped clean.

 

No preconceptions, no existing variables that can temper an end result.

 

This season will be hard to gauge for this very reason, but what constitutes a good season for Unai Emery’s new regime?

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The Spaniard has spent a moderate amount of money to reinforce a squad that appeared threadbare in Wenger’s final season. Normally, the amount spent correlates to a certain amount of pressure on the coach, but Emery seems to be exempt from this.

 

The reason for this? Probably because of what Emery inherited. He had a team that could only crane their neck upwards at the top places. We had certain top quality players, but we were lopsided. If the squad stayed as it was from last season, then any coach would struggle to contend for a Champions League place.

 

So, is that the barometer now for Emery? Does the Spanish coach need to reach the top4 in order for this season to be gauged a success?

 

Maybe not.

 

Whatever is achieved or not, whether Emery’s first campaign is viewed as successful is entirely subjective.  Some may view a mere improvement on last season as a good season for us.

 

Some may demand a return to European football’s pinnacle in order for our new coach to be able to claim progress.

 

What of a trophy though?

 

If we simply maintained our position of 6th from last term, but we lifted either the FA Cup or, preferably, the Europa League?  Would this constitute success to most of us?

 

Emery has a battle on his hands in terms of duking it out on the league front, with our rivals reinforcing their sides from the ones who finished above us last season. If he brought us Champions League football then it would be a return to where we belong, but it would also be a return to a competition that we have no real chance of winning.

 

The Europa League is a breath of fresh air as we are going into it with genuine hopes of winning the trophy. It would also be the biggest European trophy we will have won. It’s a wonderful feeling, the intoxicating nights midweek when knockout football means all or nothing, but we have a fair chance of actually progressing to the next round.

 

Emery is a well-documented specialist in this competition – the rest schedule, the level required – and he will indeed push his squad to make the most of the chance to give us memories we can’t forget.

 

If Emery was to win a trophy in his first season, it would make his debut campaign instantly memorable. His new tactics are taking time to bed in though, so should we take this into account?

 

Patience is hard to apply when losses are coming thick and fast. but we haven’t merely changed a manager. Our whole style on the pitch is changing. Pressing, moving, fitness, defence, passing – all changing, and this demands time. When the finished article is present and polished, then we can judge, but right  now?

 

That’s like going to view your new car when it’s being constructed – and then passing judgement over it.

 

We are a work in progress, and if we are competing with our rivals, then that could be viewed as satisfactory for this season.

 

What constitutes a success for Emery then this season?

 

Get us back to where we can go into a game against the clubs expected to finish above us, and have a sliver of optimism that doesn’t feel ludicrous to suggest out loud. We want Arsenal back where we belong.

 

A trophy would be nice, but this season neews to show the buds of new beginnings. That should be enough for the majority of us.

Arsenal Vs Chelsea – Match Preview

This game is a return to The Emirates for us, which should see us turn in a decent performance, right?


Currently, we have no idea what version of our side will turn up. Our performance in our last game – the 1-1 draw against West Brom – was slow and contained very little attacking threat. We will need to raise the level well above that if we’re to win this game, as Chelsea come to The Emirates on the back of some good form.


The Blues last game was a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke, and they can afford to rotate their attack and not feel any impact. Pedro, Fabregas and Willian are just three names that can come in after not featuring regularly and freshen up tired legs. Antonio Conte will have had this game in the forefront of his mind, so to see his team win at a canter in their last game would have afforded Conte breathing space with his substitutions and his selection.


We have some real worries on the injury front. The usual suspects – Nacho Monreal, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey – are still sidelined, but our 1-1 draw against the Baggies hurt more than just our league position.


Laurent Koscielny and Sead Kolasinac both limped off in the game, and Mesut Ozil failed to make the matchday squad. All three are integral to our side, so we will be sweating on them all the way until the eve of the match. Should these three miss out, then Per Mertesacker, Ainslie Maitland-Niles and Alex Iwobi all wait for selection.


Mesut Ozil will be especially missed for this match. His absence in the 1-1 draw against Pardew’s Albion saw us plod and look out of ideas in the final third. It was clear what the German brings to the side during the game, and his brain could prove the difference between victory and defeat.


If we are to make a dent in Chelsea’s team, then it could be in the centre of the park. Tiemoue Bakayoko is a really great player, but the midfielder is struggling to maintain the levels needed for the physicality of a whole Premier League campaign. If Granit Xhaka and Jack Wilshere both press him and have a blinder, we could run the game and keep the ball away from dangermen Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata.


The ominous facts are that Chelsea haven’t lost in six games, and haven’t conceded in the league for four matches. They have a settled backline and have been lucky enough to avoid key injuries. If Antonio Conte can name a similar side to the one that defeated Stoke, then we may find the going tough.


On the flipside though, we are the home side that needs the points more – in the recent wins we’ve had over Conte’s side we have shown that if we take the game to them from the first whistle, then we can win it – there is no room for the methodical, slow football that we are prone to at times. Chelsea will destroy that tactic quickly.


The league table doesn’t lie. The gap between us and the top of the table is a massive one, and the gap between us and the top 4 is widening. What is clear is that the first half of the season wasn’t good enough, and we need to improve if we are to have any hope of breaking back into the Champions League. That is the aim this season, as well as a decent punt at the Europa League. If 

we fail at either, then this season will have been the worst in Wenger’s tenure.


Time to be ruthless. Win or bust. Mike Dean and co may have a bearing in the future, but if we play well enough, it shouldn’t matter.


Predicted lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Mertesacker, Chambers, Xhaka, Wilshere, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Welbeck, Alexis, Lacazette.


Predicted scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs Sunderland Preview

Kickoff – 1945GMT

Despite our impressive recent run in the League, the illustrious top4 spot is out of our hands after Liverpool crushed West Ham 4-0 on Sunday.

It means that even if we win our last two games, if Klopp’s team beat Middlesbrough in their last game in the weekend, then we will miss out on the Champions League next season. 

It doesn’t look rosy for our prospects, and our returning form has come a little too late to rescue our bid for European Cup qualification. While there is a chance though, the games we have must be won, so next up is already relegated Sunderland.

The temptation to take the foot off the gas when facing a team already consigned to relegation is large, but the Black Cats showed when they faced Hull that now the pressure is off, they are more than capable of producing something.  

This is also the fifth game in just 17 days, so rotation may well come into play. Will the players give everything to the cause in a bid to earn a starting spot for the FA Cup Final? Or will they seek to preserve themselves and avoid any injury before such a big game? 

One worry is Alexis Sanchez. In imperious form against Stoke, the Chilean faces a fitness test before the game tonight, but Laurent Koscielny returned to the team against Stoke, whether he will be risked again is another thing. Wenger stated that Koscielny has a little reoccurrence of the calf injury which kept him out of the Southampton game – I would hazard a guess that Gabriel may slot in to keep Koscielny wrapped in cotton wool before Everton and Chelsea.

Rob Holding performed exceptionally well against the Potters, and we fans have a new song for the impressive youngster. The second season syndrome may kick in for Holding, but his composure and talent is shining right now, and he has fully earned his spot in the team. Kieran Gibbs is back in contention but The Ox is still out with his hamstring. 

This game gives a few the chance to get back into favour, and Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin could all start the game. The health of our squad is strong, but they should know they have underperformed this campaign. 

Sunderland boss David Moyes will be looking for his charges to prove to him they are worth keeping, and the ones looking to escape will be looking to put themselves in the shop window. The Black Cats will be up for the game and it is not a foregone conclusion, even if us Gooners will be fully expecting maximum points.

We need the win if we are to take the top4 fight into the final game. Sunderland have won just one game in their last six, and scored four goals in the process. David Moyes is facing the heat from Mackem fans, but the continuity in place if he stays will stand them in good stead in the choppy waters of the Championship. He also will be keen to keep hold of some of the players who have not let him down, such as Khazri, Watmore and Cattermole. It is a foregone conclusion that his starman, Jermain Defoe, will be on the move in the summer though. The 34 year old striker has proved that even in a struggling team he can find the net with regularity, and teams in the PL know that finding a striker who can give them regular goals is a hard task indeed. A bidding war in the summer?

So, Arsene Wenger needs another win to keep up the chase on Liverpool. Our form and Sunderland’s spell out only one possible result, but we all know the Premier League doesn’t work out like that!

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Holding, Gabriel, Coquelin, Ramsey, Bellerin, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck, Giroud. 

Predicted Scoreline – 3-1 Arsenal

Stoke Vs Arsenal Preview

The flurry of fixtures continues, and just three days after we fought past a stubborn Southampton side, we are again on our travels as we go to the Bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City.

The spirit shown in getting maximum points from the Saints was pleasing to see, but this game will need this level and more if we are to get the win we need to keep our top4 hopes alive. This venue is not a happy hunting ground for Arsenal – we have not won there since 2010 and the last six games have been winless at the home of the Potters. 

This is an abysmal record, and Arsene Wenger must look to end this if he is to continue to exert pressure on Manchester City and Liverpool. It isn’t just Stoke that have got a great record against the Gunners, as Mark Hughes is unbeaten in the last eight home league games.

It seems that this game is destined for dropped points, but let’s not abandon hope yet. Laurent Koscielny will again be tested before the game for fitness, but a few days rest will have done him the world of good. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went off injured in our win against Southampton, but he should come back into the team. This is a huge boost as The Ox has been quite excellent in his new position. 

Alexis was back to his best midweek with a goal and a hand in the second, and the Chilean will have a hard game trying to get anything out of Stoke’s defence. He will have to be at his best. Mesut Ozil was another who seemed to be finding some form too, and both must deliver yet again. 

Stoke are a different team compared to the Tony Pulis-inspired eleven which bullied us off pitches in the past, but they are still more than formidable at home. Mark Hughes may go for the lesser-spotted Saido Berahino in attack, but he will be looking for a win which could seal a top8 finish. 

His team are not in the best form though, with only one win in their last nine matches. This just increases the odds of ‘one of those games’ for Gooners, where the opposition keeper summons the spirit of Lev Yashin and repels at least 39 shots, and the only goal is past our own keeper via a horrendous foul. We are all familiar with these games, but if it does occur, we need to rol our sleeves up, as there can be no dropped points.

A player we must watch out for is Peter Crouch. The lanky striker is one who has haunted us prolifically over the years, and his height will mean our defence will be stretched aerially. Mustafi, Holding, Koscielny and whomever makes up our proposed back 3 must track his movements in the box and Ramsey and Xhaka must cut out the supply. 

Even after this game, we then have another midweek game against a Sunderland side free from pressure, and then ending our season with a game against Everton. All must be won. First though, let’s take the points from Stoke for once.

Predicted lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Ozil, Alexis, Welbeck

Predicted Score – 2-1 Arsenal

Southampton Vs Arsenal Preview

Kickoff – 1945GMT​

Just when we think all hope is lost, Arsenal pull a result out of the bag.

Last weekend’s emphatic victory over Manchester United reminded us all what our team is actually capable of after months of infuriating incompetence, and left us all wondering where this team has been?

Great that result may have been, but it has not made qualifying for the Champions League any easier. It merely kept us in with a shout, and our next four games must be reaped to the tune of maximum points.

The FA have not dealt us a kind hand, the scheduling from here is a nightmare, but it is only the team which has put themselves in between this rock and this very hard place, and they must fight tooth and nail to rectify the situation.

We have four remaining games, and they will be played over the course of 11 days. First up is Southampton at St Marys.







We do not have the best record at the home of the Saints, with the last four games played there all being winless for the Gunners. The last time we won at the home of Southampton? 2003. This must change.

With so many games in such a short space of time, personnel will be high on the agenda as well as points. Laurent Koscielny has a calf strain and may not be risked, so the fit-again Shkodran Mustafi may come back in, with Gabriel and Rob Holding making up this new-fangled back three. Nacho Monreal is another who could slot into this backline, but Koscielny is the leading light in defence and his presence could be sorely missed.

Granit Xhaka is expected to shrug off his calf problem and his midfield partnership with Aaron Ramsey looks set to continue. There shouldn’t be too many changes in the side, but with so few rest days in between games, Arsene Wenger will have to choose wisely when to disrupt rhythm and swap around the players to keep them fresh.

With Danny Welbeck scoring against United, his confidence will be soaring, and that should give him the edge over Olivier Giroud in attack. Theo Walcott is one who could come in and has fresh legs too, so there are plenty of options should injury or scoreline start to bite.

Saints boss Claude Puel has a top half finish in his sights, and with the squad at his disposal, this is the least he should be expected to achieve. Big money striker Mannolo Gabbiadini was in fine form before injury struck, but since his return, the goals have dried up. Charlie Austin is still not match fit, but Jay Rodriguez and Shane Long are other choices the Frenchman could opt for.

Every club’s favourite summer transfer target, Virgil Van Dijk, is out for the season. This has given others a chance to shine. One is youngster Jack Stephens, and he has really impressed. One to watch for the future.

Puel rested Nathan Redmond for their last game – the 0-0 against Liverpool – and the winger could come back into the side. One to make way may be Sofiane Boufal, the French wide man was ineffective against the Reds and it has been a tough first season for the starlet.

Back to The Arsenal though, and five of our last six away games have ended in defeat. With our next game also being away from home, this poor trend must stop now. The Saints don’t have the best record at home this season, and they have scored a paltry 11 goals in their last 12.

One sobering stat is that our side has taken three points from a possible 27 to the current sides in the Top11 in the League. That is simply awful. A victory here will go some way to ending some of these runs and also keep us in the hunt.

We must presume the teams above us will win, which means we must win too. It will get dicey at times, and it will be tight. We must fight tooth and nail for every loose ball though.

Time for your game faces boys. Otherwise our worst season in two decades falls at their feet. That includes Wenger.

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Xhaka, Ramsey, Gibbs, Ozil, Sanchez, Alexis


Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal. #UTA

Arsenal Vs Man Utd – Match Preview

Kickoff – 1600GMT

Before our humbling at the hands of our North London neighbours last weekend, the situation was clear;

Win the rest of our games or the lucrative and vital Top4 slot is out of our grasp.

Now, our team stand on the precipice of our worst season under Arsene Wenger. To make matters worse, he next faces a manager who he has never defeated in the Premier League.

Tomorrow’s match versus Manchester United now leaves us with the daunting reality that we could win the rest of our games and still be barred from entering the VIP section that is Champions League qualification. 

Five games remain in our league campaign, and all five must be victories. We then must sit on the edge of our seats and wait for Liverpool, City and United to slip up. The way things are right now, this is quite easily our worst season. 

So, how do we defeat United and salvage any semblance of hope?

Firstly, United have a huge task in fielding a competitive team that isn’t suffering from fatigue or injury. After defeating Celta Vigo in Spain on Thursday, Jose Mourinho has intimated that he may rest some of his first teamers as the Europa League takes priority. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Ashley Young ruled out through a combination of injury and suspension, and Marcus Rashford looking to be in pain when he was substituted on Thursday, Mourinho will surely ring the changes. 

Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney may well be part of his plans and so too should be Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. The England pair were thought to be injured, but it has been revealed that they will be in the squad for the game. 

Arsene Wenger will also have his own players returning from injury, with David Ospina and Shkodran Mustafi both back in training. Will the German defender’s return to action see Wenger shift back to a back four? Or will we continue with the Back 3 experiment? The jury is out in regards to fan’s opinion, but no one can predict what Wenger will go with. 

A big dilemma is what our midfield will look like for this game. In his last press conference, Wenger said that Granit Xhaka only has a ‘little chance of playing.’ That leaves Aaron Ramsey, Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny to fight it out for the two spots, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has impressed since playing as a wing-back in our new formation. 

A lot will depend on Alexis. The Chilean has been responsible for keeping our slim hopes alive, but his record versus the big boys leaves a lot to be desired. He has just one goal in the last nine games against the teams above us, and Sanchez must finally show everyone what he can do against top class opposition – even if it is to entice another team.

United have won the last four games that have followed Europa League games, so they will be prepared. They will also come to the Emirates well drilled and hard to break down. We must utilise pace and movement and abandon the plodding, sedate passing of more recent seasons. We must find the Arsenal of old if Arsene Wenger is to finally vanquish Mourinho and Arsenal are to keep up the chase. 

Twenty four games it has been since United tasted defeat. It is going to take an almighty effort for that to be broken, but break it we must. The least we expect is effort. 

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin, Ramsey, Gibbs, Theo, Ozil, Alexis

Predicted Scoreline – Screw it – 2-0 to The Arsenal #UTA