It’s been a dreadful year so far for Arsenal with defeat after defeat which has seen the Europa League as their only chance for a trophy this season. The top four and the Champions League football that comes with it is gone too and again the Europa League is the only route back to Europe’s elite competition available to the club. They have to make sure they finish high enough to play in next season’s Europa League though because the teams behind them are closing fast and putting sixth place under threat.
It’s a sad state of affairs for the club when we are looking over our shoulders at Burnley closing in on us in sixth place as we enter the final stages of the season. For the sixth richest club in the world to be struggling to hold on to sixth place in their domestic league is completely unacceptable and it shows how far we are from our true potential. We need to win enough points between now and the end of the season to finish comfortably in sixth starting with today.
We owe Watford one too after they came from behind to win at their ground earlier in the season. We weren’t helped by some bad refereeing decisions, but we were still the architects of our own destruction on the day. We also owe one to Troy Deeney after he told all who would listen to him after the game that we had no “cojones”.
It will be interesting to see how our players react to him today because if it was me I would certainly “let him know I was there’ early on. As a team we don’t particularly resort to the Spurs tactic of rotational fouling, but I would love the players to decide themselves to do just that on Deeney today. It’s something I can’t see happening though, but I will be pleasantly surprised if we kick him from one end of the pitch to the other.
Having played on Thursday night away from home Arsene Wenger will have to consider making some changes today to keep players fit for next Thursday. If they’re fit again I would expect Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal to play as their replacements both went off injured on Thursday night and would be better off on the bench today for their own sakes if they make the squad. Petr Cech will return in goal, but maybe it’s time for David Ospina to get the nod over him after his two mistakes helped Brighton to beat us last week. I’m not Ospina’s greatest fan and I doubt if the manager will go with him, but the more I see of Cech the more I believe he’s too far past his best to continue as our first choice keeper.
Up front Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is sure to play as he’s a top class striker and was ineligible on Thursday night. He has two league goals to his name since he joined the club at the end of January, but a player with his ability has the potential to destroy the defence of any team in any league given the chances. We need to make those chances for him today and for the rest of the season too and if we do he could well get us plenty of much needed goals.
With Aubameyang sure to play it makes sense to keep Danny Welbeck on the bench as he is going to be the first choice striker on Thursday night. With his injury record I think it’s a big risk to play him too often and playing him today could easily rob us of his services against Milan. If that was the case we would be forced to play Eddie Nketiah against Milan and maybe that might just be the break he needs.
Elsewhere I doubt if there will be too many changes to a winning team that needs to find some consistency. The away game against Watford summed up so much that is wrong with this team and the home defeat against them last season did the exact same thing too. We cannot afford to let Watford beat us for the third time in a row and we need to see more of what we saw on Thursday night if we’re going to take all three points.
As bad as we have been this season our home league form has still been pretty good with only the two Manchester clubs winning at the Emirates. We have drawn with Liverpool and Chelsea too, but we have beaten every team below us we have played and Spurs also.
Watford’s away form is in the bin at the moment with only one point and two goals in their last seven away games. They have kept clear of the wrong end of the table by improving their home form, but it’s up to us to make sure they continue that away form.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.