In short, I don’t believe so, not both anyway. Given the way this season has gone it would be highly unlikely and yet, the fact that it is still even conceivable that it could happen is really quite amazing if you think about it.
At times this season Arsenal have looked rudderless. We’ve lurched from one bad performance to another and here we stand on the brink of a semblance of an almost acceptable season, which will all boil down to the next seven days. Two wins in our next two games and at least we’ll add a trophy gloss to our season. It’s a think layer of gloss because I don’t see any way for Liverpool to not win today against relegated Boro team that are pretty hopeless if we’re all honest. They can’t score goals, they can’t really defend that well and with Liverpool sure to pepper their goal I suspect the ripples and murmurs of disappointment to permeate through the Emirates during the first half today. The odds are pretty stacked against us and if you fancy a flutter you can check out Betting Top Ten for odds on us getting both the top four and the FA Cup.
Perhaps we should at least be somewhat pleased that we’re even in this situation, because six weeks ago it all looked a little grim. Our performances have still been unacceptable at times this season but if the team can end on a high today and more importantly next weekend at least we will have a good memory to take in to the summer.
Then we can deal with the storm that will inevitably come with regards to transfers and the usual farce from the club that we endure as we underbid for summers until the last days of August when we make a late raid on players.
As for the game itself, who knows what team Arsene will opt for, but I suspect he’ll pick his strongest side possible. The worry will be on players like Ramsey, Koscielny and Alexis, the former two being injury prone or just coming back from injury with the latter just being our best player by a mile and the last person you’d want to see pick up an injury with a week to go before the cup final. So if it was me I’d be opting for a back four which has Mustafi, Holding and Gabriel – on the premise that I think Everton will go with the big threat in Lukaku and Barkley supporting him and trying to hit us on the counter and therefore we should be able to cope without Kos – whilst the wing backs would inevitably have to be Bellerin and Monreal, although I wouldn’t be too sad to see Monreal in the centre and Gibbs out wide. The Englishman has done ok of late, getting in behind and my only hope is that his shocking final ball is down more to rustiness at not having played, rather than the fact he just can’t put a good ball back in. I’m trying to remember last time he was first choice at Arsenal and what his final ball was like then, but I suspect my mind is playing tricks on me because I have a feeling that he’s always been a bit average when it comes to getting decent balls in to the box.
The midfield will need to have Xhaka in it, but who he partners is a conundrum, because I wouldn’t be risking Ramsey today. I’d be giving Elneny the role alongside the Swiss and effectively tell him that he needs to pick up any loose balls and be the mobile unit to Xhaka’s polished passing performance.
In front of them will be Ozil and Alexis, but I wonder if Welbeck comes in or if Arsene sticks with Giroud. The Frenchman may have played well against Stoke and got a decent assist against Sunderland, but it has to be Welbeck for the final and given there’s a week between games, Danny can afford to play both. Let’s hope that Arsene sees it that way too.
As for Everton, well, we all know Koeman likes to spoil a party and so it really wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Dutchman came with the full intention of ruining Arsene’s attempt at top four. The Everton fans would probably not mind if they lost and we managed to finish above Liverpool, but Koeman himself will not see that as an option. He’ll play his strongest team and for us that means we’ll have to marshal Lukaku well, whilst ensuring Barkley doesn’t pick up space in the pocket in between our defence and midfield. The back three can help in that regard, but with Elneny in the side he’ll also close down any space, which would mean Barkley being forced in to errors. If you give him time and space he can be a threat but Elneny is the kind of busy bee that can be a real pain in the arse for players like Barkley. You can see how both teams will probably line up here.
They will look to win the midfield battle with Schneiderlin and Gueye, but I suspect we’ll see those two sitting more in front of the back four as a protection option, rather than impacting the play further cup the pitch.
Form wise this game is important for us in prep for the cup final and Everton’s form is pretty poor so we should expect to win today. But football rarely goes to plan, especially with Arsenal and especially this season, son we can’t take anything for granted. So the players just need to go out there, get the job done, then focus on the cup final next weekend.
Catch you tomorrow.