Matchday 37 and we’re nearly at the end folks. We need just one more win to secure fourth and a win and a draw today to secure third. That would be much more preferable from a planning point of view for next season, as Arsene has already talked about in Friday’s presser, but in reality it’s the top four that we need as a bare minimum, so whilst I want to see us beat City today, I’m not as nervous as I would be if we were a point off the title and needing to win today.
Who plays on both sides will be interesting. City will have their captain Kompany missing, whilst Yaya Toure was completely missing mentally against Real Madrid during the week, so whether or not he’s given a start I just don’t know. You could probably make a decent educated guess that he will and he’ll probably be completely unplayable today, but that is what tends to happen to us, especially this season when average players have blinders against us (although I know Toure is not an average player, but he is prone to bouts of averageness).
This is Pellegrini’s last home game as manager of City and he’ll no doubt want to sign off with a win, but for us it’s about being the least pants of the two teams that really look like they want to see the back of this season. Like, now. City will come at us, they will try to hit balls into the channels for Aguero, with De Bruyne and probably Sterling supporting. He’s the one young player who has looked really up for it for City in previous weeks, which to be fair you’d expect given his hunger to prove himself in the first team, but whether he makes it in to the starting XI today I’m not sure. I don’t watch enough of City, but I do know that Pellegrini has experimented with a 4-4-2 to accommodate the youngster up top, so maybe he’ll go for that today?
City are also missing Zabaleta and Kolorav are also missing today I believe, which means that we’ll have a return of a couple of Arsenal old boys in Clichy and Sagna. I don’t expect them to be given the same pantomime booing that Nasri and Adebayor have faced whilst playing for the oil whores, but I do think it will at least add a little bit of familiarity. I also think that Iwobi and Alexis could have the beating of both of our former gunners. Both are in their 30s and will not be as spritely as our forwards, so my hope is that Welbeck starts for us and we see more of the movement that was prevalent in the team about a month ago, but has somewhat disappeared in the last couple of weeks with the re-introduction of Giroud. In Ottamendi and Mangala there are also two defenders that I’d hope we can pull apart a bit, so I’m expecting to see more from the front three and Ozil than I’ve seen for the last few weeks.
I’m also curious as to who Arsene picks in midfield. For me Elneny surely has to be number one choice. He’s been an ever-present over the last few months, he is the new ‘Arteta’ style player who keeps everything ticking over and he retains the possession so we can move more fluidly from front to back. But does Arsene opt for more defensive support in Coquelin, to screen in front of the back four like we were doing at Spurs before Le Coq had his brain fart, or does he look for a little more dynamism going forward by putting Ramsey alongside Elneny in midfield. Personally, I’d give Le Coq the nod, because I don’t think Elneny/Rambo works as well. I didn’t exactly see it look great up at Sunderland and against Norwich nobody really stood out. But with City sure to play quicker and more mobile wide-forwards today, I think we’ll need extra players to sit in and also support in wide-defensive positions, which Coquelin will do more of than Ramsey.
I’ve seen a real mixed bag of predictions for today’s game. Merse reckons we’ll beat them, Lawro thinks we’ll lose and to be honest with you, it’s probably a reflection of both teams’ season. Nweither really seems to be in enough form to be able to call it one way or another. We can’t really play for a draw – we never seem to have been able to – but it would suit us if we got it. So I wouldn’t be too down if it happened. I just hope we get the Arsenal players looking up for this game. I really don’t want to see yet another lackluster display. We’ve had enough of those this season already.
Catch y’all tomorrow, with hopefully a post-match happy blog.