Morning folks and welcome to the penultimate week of this season, finally drawing to a close with a trip to Villa Park, followed by Watford at home next Sunday. And to add to that we now know our fate in terms of the FA Cup Final in just under two week’s time, as Chelski smashed United 3-1 at Wembley yesterday to set up a replay of last year’s Europa League Final.
Which is why I am a little worried about what might happen at the national stadium, because the footballing gods have a wicked sense of humour and it would surprise me if once again they decided to kick us a little bit. But that’s another 12 days away and there’s the conclusion to the Premier League that we need to sort out before then.
I have a feeling it’ll end up being a bit of a damp squib if i’m honest, because Leicester did us no favours with the Tiny Totts yesterday and I have a feeling Wolves will give Crystal Palace a tonking at home too. I also think Sheffield United might beat an Everton team on the bench and if that happens it puts Wolves on 59 and Sheffield United on 57 going in to the final weekend of the season. Given that we can only achieve a maximum of 59 points if we win both of our games, I think it probably means we’ll not have enough even if we pick up six points in total in the next two matches.
Next weekend Sheffield United go to a Southampton side terrible at home and with little to play for, whereas Wolves will be at a Chelski side with one eye on the cup final and probably a hefty bit of rotation that’ll be thrown in. Of course that is unless Liverpool beat them on Wednesday, because if they do then it leaves Chelski probably having to beat Wolves on the final day to absolutely secure a Champions League spot.
So I guess you could argue that even with the current season petering out, Arsenal still have something to hold on to, which I suppose it makes the two matches we have at least a little more watchable.
Well, I say both matches are more ‘watchable’, but if we lose or draw against Aston Villa tomorrow, then the Watford game at home probably becomes a dead rubber for us. Which is why Arteta must be working bloody hard with his team in training today to emphasise that they have barely any time to bask in the glory of a very good performance against Man City on Saturday night.
There’ll no doubt be something of a press conference at some stage today and I suspect it is there where we’ll get an insight into the rotation needed from the effort expended of those players on the pitch on Saturday. What we can’t forget is just how tiring it is to play without the ball and press hard and some of those players will have been dead on their feet come full time on Saturday. So I’m expecting the manager to tell us that he’ll be forced to shuffle his pack a bit and I think that’s fair enough. The likes of Nketiah and Nelson might be able to come in, for example, especially now Eddie has served his suspension. But whether or not Auba is seen as a player who can come out will be interesting and Arteta will know that he can’t risk losing his main striker for a cup final, but at the same time the adrenaline of Aubameyang scoring two in the semi final will be coursing through his veins no doubt.
The problem is the footballing gods do love to chuck us a grenade when it comes to cup finals. Remember in 2017? Koscielny suspended, Mustafi and Gabriel injured, meaning we were forced in to playing Mertesacker and Holding who had barely played together all season, as well as Monreal in that third centre half slot. Luckily we got the game of his life from Mertesacker and Holding was amazing too, but I’d really rather we avoided any risks on players in these games if we can help it.
It’s a tough one though because if we win both games and somehow sneak into seventh place then a Europa League spot is assured. But if we do that through playing our best players and losing one to injury or suspension (let’s face it, referees have shown they have no problems with sending our players off compared to the opposition since the restart), then we’ll all be kicking ourselves. It’s such a tough decision though because you can’t be afraid to play players and could not playing them mean they haven’t got as much of a rhythm when the cup final comes around?
The fact that in about 100 words I’ve gone a full 180 on what I’d like to see, then gone back another 180, shows just how hard it is for Arteta to assess. But that’s why he’s the man in the hot seat and that’s the decisions he’s paid to make. We just have to hope that they come off and it works for us. I don’t think any of us want to have what feels everything riding on the competition like we did last summer with the Europa League. On that day we absolutely sh*t the bed and you wonder what that pressure will do to these players if they have a similar feat to repeat.
Like I say though, let’s worry about that in a week’s time, because for now we look ahead to Villa and also watch Tricky Micky is going to say before the game.
Catch you peeps tomorrow.