For the moment we just have to hope all of our players come through their international games unscathed and come back in tip top condition. It’s not something which we can usually rely on and it hasn’t started too well with Jack Wilshere missing England’s win over the Netherlands thanks to a knee injury. With his injury record any slight knock has to be a real worry and Arsene Wenger seems to have found a way to play him in midfield recently along with both Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka.
Wilshere’s contract is up at the end of the season and there’s every chance he could be on his way once the season is over. It seems he’s not overly happy with the new contract offer from the club and he could probably look to earn more elsewhere. Given his injury history he might find a lot of “pay for play” offers are coming his way and that could prove problematic for a player who has been injured more than he has been available to play or so it seems at least.
When the players return they will get the chance to push Stoke closer to the Championship before they get back to Europa League action and it’s a chance they have to take. Sixth place is still by no means certain with both Burnley and Leicester hoping to catch us and we have to play both of them before the season ends. We probably need five wins in our last eight games to guarantee sixth place, but that would be even less if we beat Burnley and Leicester.
The following Thursday it’s CSKA Moscow at home and the chance to get ahead in the first leg of the Europa League quarter final before heading to Russia the following Thursday. There are some very good teams still left in the Europa League this season and winning it is going to be a huge ask for an Arsenal team which has been far too inconsistent this season. That has to be their target though with Champions League qualification for the winners as well as a lovely shiny trophy.
The additions of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang And Henrikh Mkhitaryan in January seems to be having an effect and Aubameyang should play all of our remaining league games as he’s ineligible to play in the Europa League. At least Alexandre Lacazette is back from injury for those European games even if Danny Welbeck managed to play such an important role in putting Milan out in the last round. Our attacking options are looking pretty good at the moment, but our real problems lie in our inability to defend individually or as a team.
When it comes to playing a team like Atletico Madrid those defensive deficiencies could be cruelly exposed against a team who have defending down to a fine art. Of course they could be knocked out before we get to meet them in a semi final or the final if we even manage to get past CSKA which won’t be an easy task in itself. I’m hopeful of progressing though and I think we will finish sixth, but I still think hopes of lifting that trophy in June are a long way from being fulfilled.
As the international break drags slowly into it’s second week it’s hard to think of much else from an Arsenal perspective though. Despite all of our shortcomings in recent seasons we have been pretty good in cup games, with the exception of Champions League knockout games, and that has to give us some hope. It’s the waiting that’s killing me at the moment though and I just have to hope that wait isn’t in vain.
That’s it for today.
See you tomorrow.