Well didn’t we get away with it yesterday, with Burnley doing us an almighty favour and holding Chelski to a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge, which means Top four is still in our shaky hands.
I didn’t expect anything from a Burnley team that are pretty much safe but by drawing away it means that they are just a point clear of us having played a game more. Their remaining games are away to United, at home to Watford and away to Leicester. If they win all three then their best points tally is 76. I suspect that United away and Watford at home will be a very tough challenge to get maximum points and the fact that Watford will have Deeney back and have given us two very tough games, gives me a bit of optimism.
It also means that we could probably also afford one draw out of our next two games. We play Wolves away on Wednesday and then Leicester on Sunday and we really need to be winning one and drawing one as a minimum. If United beat Chelski next weekend then it really will get right but if they beat City in midweek then suddenly our attention will turn to them. If City do us a big favour on Wednesday then it really will put us in the driving seat.
All of this serves to show us that we’re right in the hunt for top four and whilst we have some tough away trips to come, we’re still in it and battling hard for fourth. It’s maddening that we didn’t show up against Palace because we’d have been two clear of Chelski and five of United but what is done is done. The team need to have laser sharp focus for the trip to the Midlands and I just hope we get some semblance of a decent midfield back for the game.
Hopefully he will be back because I’m sure I read from Emery that he just didn’t want to risk Xhaka on Sunday after picking up a knock in Naples. If that’s the case then he, along with Sokratis and probably Maitland-Niles, will come back in. Torreira too only played 45 minutes so if we can get our midfield back and not have to rely on the mop-haired duo of Guendouzi and Elneny, that instantly gives our team a more controlled feel in the middle of the park. Torreira is a better passer, tackler, ball recoverer, plus he takes up positions across the pitch which cut off passing lanes for opponents. Xhaka has vision from deep and makes us infinitely more progressive in our forward passing. If those two play it also means Özil has better players around him. He floated across different parts of the pitch on Sunday but he was also dropping back way deeper than we’d expect him to and his game was inevitably affected.
What we need is a return to the Xhaka/Torreira midfield and a bit more dynamism in our attacking three. That could means Iwobi, possibly even Mkhitaryan (although his form doesn’t warrant it in my opinion), or maybe Özil actually plays another away game, but for me if you put Xhaka and Torreira in front of our back three we instantly look better.
We’ll get more from Emery at some stage today I reckon but above all I hope the medical team update is a positive one.
There’s not a lost else going on today, but if you fancy having a listen to the GT radio show that was done yesterday, you can listen as a podcast here.
As for me, I’m done for the day, with a bit of travelling back down south needed after my weekend of excess.
Catch you all tomorrow.