It’s here! Finally! the end to this dreaded season! Hoorah! Like when you’re in the waiting room at the dentist and it feels like they are extending your discomfort out of some kind of sadistic pleasure, the Premier League season can finally be put to bed after today’s round of matches.
For Arsenal it represents the opportunity of an outside chance of…gulp…European football in the shape of the UEFA Conference League; possibly one of the most underwhelming prospects since the arrival of Mikael Silvestre at centre half. It would represent a massive step down, mean even more pointless games than the Europa League, be a competition in which we would barely get any financial upside other than the additional match day revenue, plus mean more travel needed when we should be focusing on the league and trying to get back to that holy land of Champions League football that we used to take for granted so readily.
A win today would be nice. I would prefer it and it would close the season with four wins in a row and at least leave us with more confidence that next season could start off like this season has finished. But that’s all I want from today. If we managed to finish above the scum, then get in to eighth with Everton occupying the Conference League spot, that would be fine by me. But Everton play away to Man City and Tottenham are away to Leicester, who also need to win to get an outside hope of Champions league football. Which means that the prospect of us finishing seventh feels very real right now.
I guess that has to be put to the back of the teams’ minds today though. Just focus on what is immediately in front of you and that is Brighton at home with 10,000 fans going. Some atmosphere inside the Emirates and I suspect that will give the players that little bit of extra incentive to put on a show too.
I must confess to having an irrational dislike of Brighton. It’s not just because they seem to have a pretty good record of us, although that is the main part, but also the fact that every time I’ve watched them play they have been pretty crap. Yet we have managed to ‘out-crap’ them on a number of occasions since they’ve been back in the Premier League, the zenith of our crapness coming at home last season, when we lost to them on our own patch of grass.
For those in the stadium today, as well as signing off, I hope that we get a win, but I also hope Arteta rotates and plays players who will be with us next season for sure. So personally I wouldn’t be playing Ceballos, Nketiah, Lacazette (I have a sneaky suspicion he will be sold), Willian, plus i’d even think twice about Odegaard. The only way I’d be playing the Norwegian is if I know he’ll be with us next season. That is very far from sure and so my line up today would be Leno, Chambers, Holding, Gabriel, Tierney, Partey, Xhaka, Pepe, Saka, Smith-Rowe and Aubameyang up top. Give the home support one last hurrah with the big names. I get that some people have been saying that we should use today’s game to blood some of the youngsters and I’d love to see minutes for Martinelli, Balogun and Azeez, but I think Mikel will go his perceived strongest XI and look to get a final win under his belt. But it would be nice to see some of the younger players getting minutes at some stage. ~This is the kind of game that in an ideal world you’d get yourself a few goals up and then bring on players with 20 minutes to go.
But Arsenal never really finish teams off and I’m certainly not expecting them to do the same today. I suspect it will be a laboured game like most have been all season and Graham Potter’s side will no doubt cause us problems. It looks like there’ll be no pantomime villain in the shape of Maupay to play today, as he’s suspended, with Welbeck also injured, but we will get another close look at Bissouma in midfield, who has been heavily linked. He’s a very fouly player so I suspect a yellow card from him today as he does like to get stuck in. Maybe he’ll be doing it in red and white for us next season.
As for us, we need to put on a display. It’s been a hard watch but it feels like if we get our act together today we can potentially put on a show and I wonder if the re-introduction of fans will mean that the players will feel a little bit taller when they walk on to the pitch and hear that roar once again. That will be something to savour.
There’s also a protest going on, in which the AST are getting behind and I hope that plenty turn out to once again voice their displeaure at our gawd awful owners. Hopefully there can be some noise inside the stadium too.
Catch you tomorrow with some form of review. I’m at a 40th party so might not be able to catch the game, but we’ll see what happens.