Monday, 5 May 2014

Arsenal Beat West Brom To Finish Fourth

Arsenal played West Brom on Sunday afternoon in their last home game of the season knowing that they had already secured fourth place in the Premier League after Everton had lost to Manchester City the previous day. Only a few weeks ago fourth place looked like it could be a real struggle for Arsenal when they lost away to Everton after a series of poor results. With the advantage seemingly going to Everton after that game it was Arsenal who pushed on and put back to back victories together. 

In the four league games since that defeat to Everton they have taken all 12 points available to team while scoring 10 goals and only conceding one. In contrast Everton have lost three of their last four games and must be content with fifth place and a place in next season's Europa League. With one league game to go Arsenal can still mathematically catch third placed Chelsea, but they have no hope of overturning Chelsea's vastly superior goal difference.

The game against West Brom was a little strange with neither team particularly having too much to play for. West Brom themselves weren't quite guaranteed to stay in the league until the result of the Norwich game at Chelsea came through, but they knew they were as good as safe. The Arsenal players had an FA Cup final in two weeks time on their minds and it all led to a pretty tame affair.

The only goal came when Olivier Giroud headed home a Santi Cazorla corner on the quarter hour mark and Arsenal had a couple of other decent chances to add to that lead. West Brom showed some good attacking play at times themselves and worried Arsenal on a few occasions. They never really looked like scoring though and Wojciech Szczesny racked up his 16th clean sheet of the season.

There's still one game to go in the league for Arsenal, but the trip to Norwich next week will almost be like a distraction before they play the FA Cup final the following week. If Sunderland aren't beaten at home to West Brom tomorrow night then Norwich will be relegated before the game is played and it will have no real significance to either team. I would be surprised to see Arsene Wenger play a full strength team if the game has little meaning although the team will surely want to finish the season with five league wins in a row.

There could be a chance for one or two players to make a rare appearance in that game with Abou Diaby possibly even making yet another comeback from injury. I wouldn't be surprised to see Kim Kallstrom making a rare appearance too before his loan spell ends and Thomas Vermaelen could possibly play his last game for the club. He wants first team football but he has been the third choice centre back for over a year now and the rumours of his impending departure grow almost daily.

There are others who might get a run out too such as Carl Jenkinson and Yaya Sanogo and possibly Kieran Gibbs and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might get a chance to prove their fitness before the final. I think the boss has his final team more or less sorted in his mind and he will play as few of those players as possible against Norwich. With fourth place sewn up there is no sense in risking players in a meaningless game when there is a prize to play for the next week. 

With the weekend's football over it looks like City will pick up two of the three domestic trophies this season and Arsenal have the chance of win the other one. After a nine year wait for a trophy it would be great to see Arsenal lift the FA Cup in a season where United, Chelsea and Liverpool all win nothing. It's by no means a foregone conclusion in the final against Hull, but they have their destiny in their own hands.

The disappointments of this season can be put behind the team if a trophy can be won although the slip ups of the teams above Arsenal recently have made their poor run after January all the much harder to take. There are so many reasons why things went so badly wrong for Arsenal in that spell, but the team have at least come back to finish the season strongly. I'm not saying all will be forgiven if they win the cup, but things will certainly seem an awful lot better. 

Finally for today it looks like Sunday's game was Bacary Sagna's last game at home for Arsenal and he will be off on a free transfer this summer. If he was going to stay I think he would have signed a contract by now and all the signs are that he will ply his trade elsewhere next season. It will be a far from easy job for Arsenal to replace Sagna after seven years where he has been among the best right backs in the Premier League. It would be a fitting send off for Sagna if he could win his first trophy with the club in his final game for Arsenal.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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