Saturday, 11 March 2017

Arsenal v Lincoln City Preview

It's been a tough old time for us Arsenal fans recently with five defeats in our last seven games in all competitions as the wheels seem to be coming off our season yet again. We exited the Champions League in the round of 16 for the seventh season in a row and we have absolutely no hope of winning the Premier League yet again this season. It's all too depressingly familiar and it's exactiy what those who doubt Arsene Wenger predicted.

Even the two games we won in that run were far from convincing with a particularly lucky 2-0 win at home to Hull in the league and a totally uninspiring 2-0 win away to non league Sutton United in the fifth round of the FA Cup. The defeats to the rest of the top six continue unabated and we were destroyed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. It looks like it couldn't get much worse and yet the manager can't make a decision on where his future lies.

Of course there are those who might say things aren't as bad as doomsayers would seem to make out and the 15 teams below us in the league would gladly swap places with us. We're in the last eight of the FA Cup and there's still a good chance we will win it for third time in four seasons. As it stands both City and Leicester are still in the Champions League, but both of them could go out next week and end all Premier League participation for another season.

I suppose it's all about perspective and expectations and I find myself firmly in the "we have underperformed yet again" corner. We might still turn things around and finish in the top four as well as winning the cup, but the all too predictable collapse just cannot be ignored. I'm not saying we have the right to win trophies, but surely we have to be able to compete for the top trophies and that means the Premier League and Champions League.

I think an announcement from the manager of his intention to leave at the end of the season might just galvanise the team and get the players and fans behind him as we try to at least finish his final season on some sort of high. I'm not so sure it's going to happen though and I think he is still leaning towards taking up the new contract on offer and hoping for a strong finish to strengthen his hand. Either way a strong finish to the season is what's needed and the first step to recovery has to be a cup quarter final victory against Lincoln.

We couldn't have asked for a kinder draw than a game at home to a non league team even if they are going very well in the top league outside the football league. They won away to a Burnley team who have an excellent record at home in the Premier League in the last round and they will hope to take advantage of our current ails. If we don't approach this game in the right way we could be on the end of the greatest FA Cup upset of all time.

I think we have to go with the strongest team possible and try to put the game to bed as soon as possible. With the greatest respect to Lincoln we should be winning this game by five or six goals and even with our current troubles we are so much better than them. We have scored 90 goals already in all competitions this season and we should be an awful lot closer to 100 after this game.

Of course we've been so bad recently that we're probably far more likely to struggle to a two goal win and survive a few scares during the game. The performance in the first half on Tuesday was very encouraging and showed this team can still play some good football as well as give everything they have, but the second half collapse showed all that is wrong with the players and tactically too.

I want to see more of that first half from here to the end of the season and make it more about the football and not the manager. Surely we have to turn things around at some stage and what better way to start than by getting within one game of yet another FA Cup final. There's still a chance of some silverware this season and we have to at least give ourselves a chance of maintaining the excitement in our season other than the annual fight for the "fourth place trophy".

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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