The task of following Arsenal this season has been a very difficult one at times, as they have managed to throw points away time after time, when it looked like they had won games. Liverpool scored a 112th minute equaliser on Sunday, Newcastle came from four goals behind to get a draw in February, and last November Arsenal managed to lose 3-2 at home to The Spuds, despite leading 2-0 at half time. There have been other instances of Arsenal not being able to do enough to keep their lead, but those three stand out for me.
With six Premier League games left there is absolutely no room for error, and Arsenal need to win all six of those games to realistically stand a chance. However, Arsenal's season has been so error strewn at times that it is impossible to believe they will win away to The Spuds, Bolton, Stoke RFC, and Fulham, as well as at home to "Manure" and Aston Villa. Arsenal's best run of wins in the league so far this season is three in a row, and the way they have being playing it's impossible to imagine that they can win six games in a row. On the other hand as a football fan I always have hope whenever my team plays, and I cannot quite give up all hope of Arsenal winning the league yet.
I'm pretty sure my hope will be dashed, but I can only wish for it to last a little longer before being totally crushed. Would it be too much to hope for the Arsenal players to turn in a performance tonight which they are capable of, and sweep The Spuds aside. The Arsenal players are devoid of confidence at the moment, and they are playing so far within themselves that a win against The Spuds seems highly unlikely, but still there is that hope which football fans cannot help feeling.
Arsenal traveled to The Spuds last season on April 14th with a proud record of not having lost a league game to them in 10 years. They had just been eliminated from the Champions League by Barcelona at the quarter final stage, and the team was ravaged by injuries. Only three of the Arsenal team which started the game that night will be playing from the start for Arsenal tonight. I have no doubt that Arsenal will field a much better team on paper tonight, than they were able to field last season.
The Spuds finally managed to end their barren run against Arsenal in that game last season, and then their victory at the Emirates in November was even sweeter for them I'm sure. They cannot be allowed to beat Arsenal in the league for the third time in a row, and the Arsenal players have to understand how much this game means to their fans. The Spuds have had a very good season by their low standards, but an Arsenal victory tonight will go a long way towards ending their chances of qualifying for the Champions League again next season.
I wouldn't dare to imagine that a win for Arsenal tonight would be the catalyst they need to actually play with the confidence and drive needed to win their last six games. I have no doubt that Arsenal will somehow conspire to blow their chances in a manner only they can manage, even if they do turn on the style and romp home tonight.
In team news Bacary Sagna looks likely to return to the squad, and he just has to take the place of the unpredictable Emmanuel Eboue. The challenge by Eboue on Sunday which gave Liverpool their penalty was a joke, and he is a liability when he plays for Arsenal. If he isn't diving to try to win a free kick, he's putting the boot in needlessly, and risking a red card. He feigns injury at the drop of a hat, and his defensive positional play can be absolutely awful at times. On the other hand Sagna has had another great season, and he was named as the best right back in the league last Sunday.
Arsene Wenger said yesterday that both Manuel Almunia and Denilson have recovered from their injuries, and are available for selection. He also said that neither player will be included in the squad, as there are so many players to choose from at the moment. The only player not in full training is Lukasz Fabianski, as even Thomas Vermaelen looks like he might be ready to play before the season is over. The boss said he will probably rotate the team over the last few weeks of the season, as he has so many players to pick from.
I would imagine the team will be very similar to the one which played on Sunday, with Sagna playing instead of Eboue, and Alex Song probably back instead of Abu Diaby. I think Theo Walcott will keep his place on the right hand side of the front three, as his pace will be of some help to Sagna, as they look to keep tabs on the player of the season - Gareth Bale.
I find it quite unbelievable that Bale won the PFA player of the year award when he hasn't even been the best midfielder at his own club. I would have given the award to Charlie Adam, Rafael Van Der Vaart or Nani before Bale, but it's hard to fathom the minds of footballers at times. I suppose his hat-trick away to Inter Milan was what stuck in their minds, but overall he has been pretty average most of the time in my opinion.
I think Cesc Fabregas owes the Arsenal fans a performance to show exactly why he is regarded as one of the best players in the world. He should be the player who picked up that award rather than Bale, but his season has been interrupted by injuries and a lack of form at times too. I would love to see him turn on the style tonight, and cut The Spuds open with pass after pass. His goals tally this season has been far short of what he managed this season, and it's about time he got his name on the score sheet again. His last league goal was against Chelsea on December 27th, and that return simply isn't good enough from a player of his calibre.
The team should be very similar to the one which drew with Liverpool on Sunday, which means that something else has to be different. The difference for me has to be in how the players play, as they simply must understand that it's an all or nothing game. This is their last chance to get themselves back in the title hunt, and put pressure on "Manure" before their Champions League semi final with Schalke 04 next week. In between "Manure's" two games with Schalke they have to travel to the Emirates, and Arsenal need to somehow keep themselves in contention up until that game.
The way Arsenal have lurched from one crisis to another it won't be easy for them to do that, but I'm predicting that they will get off to a good start by beating The Spuds 2-1 tonight. I think Robin Van Persie will move up the goal scoring charts again, by getting his 14th league goal in 14 starts. It's going to be nail biting I think, but Arsenal's team is good enough to win, as long as the players show the necessary drive, commitment and attitude. That's a very big if, going by recent performances, but I haven't given up all hope quite yet.
That's it for today
Here's the goals from a famous Arsenal victory away to The Spuds a few years ago.
See You Tomorrow.