Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Arsenal’s Trip To Leicester City Previewed

The events of the weekend are still fresh in the memory and it’s back to action for Arsenal tonight. Sunday was a pretty emotional day for the manager and the fans too as we bade farewell to Arsene Wenger after 22 years at the club. He might have two games left to play, but they’re both away from home and we won’t get to see him manage Arsenal at the Emirates again.

While I do think it was time for him to go it doesn’t mean it wasn’t an emotional day for me and he will always be remembered as our greatest ever manager. The football he brought to the club was exceptional and the players we got to see were those of our dreams. He won three Premier League trophies, seven FA Cups and brought us some memories that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

There are still two games to go though even if there is very little to play for in those games. We are guaranteed to finish sixth and qualify for the Europa League next season, but we’re nine points behind fifth placed Chelsea. It’s hardly been a season of dreams and for the most part the football has been average at best.

We have a great home record and as it stands no other team has taken more points at home this season, but City will surpass that points total if they don’t lose at home to Brighton tonight. They are the only team to have scored more home goals than us too and it’s a home record we should be proud of. The problems this season have been away from home though  and that’s why we’re 34 points behind City.

No other team can match their fantastic away record of course, but none of the other teams in the top six are so far behind them away from home either. We have lost 10 of our 17 away games so far this season and we have only managed three wins. Only three other teams in the Premier League have taken less points on the road this season and our away form is that of a team destined for relegation rather than fighting for a top four finish.

There are two games left to rectify that record as much as we can rectify it and the first of them is away to Leicester tonight. They seem to have given up the ghost on their season with only one point in their last five games and surely they must be there for the taking. They haven’t won in six home games either and it looks like they’re trying their best to part ways with yet another manager.

The manager has said there might be a few changes tonight as some of the players who played against Madrid on Thursday night played on Sunday too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few changes to the team, but I think he will keep a fairly strong team. I can’t imagine he wants to go out on a low and he will be anxious to win tonight and at Huddersfield on Sunday too.

I would be very surprised to see either Hector Bellerin or Granit Xhaka miss out as they seem to be the two players capable of playing game after game without fatigue becoming a factor. Others aren’t quite so durable though and it looks like we won’t see Mesut Ozil again this season after a recurrence of his back injury in the Madrid game last week. I don’t buy into the theories that he isn’t mentally or emotionally up to playing and that he picks and chooses the games he wants to play. 

He has been one of the players with the most appearances for us every season since he joined and to suggest he doesn’t want to play is ridiculous. Ever since he joined us there have been critics who claim he is “nicking a living” and like nothing more than to accuse him of not trying. I don’t buy into any of it though and I think there is plenty more to come from him now that we have added other top class attacking players to the squad.

I hope to see the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette continue tonight and Aubameyang is now our second highest league scorer behind Lacazette despite only joining at the end of January. He is the striker we have been craving for years in my opinion and I can’t wait to see him flourish in the team next season with Lacazette, Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey. We have attacking players to strike fear into any team as long as we can sort out the defensive part of our game for next season.

The performance on Sunday against a very strong defensive unit like Burnley’s was excellent and it wasn’t as if Burnley had nothing to play for. They had a great defensive record away from home this season before Sunday and they hadn’t been thumped by any other team. We turned on the sort of performance which the occasion deserved, but which was a real rarity for us this season.

One of our problems away from home this season has been an inability to hold on to a lead with Swansea, Watford, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Brighton all coming from behind to beat us. We seem so vulnerable when teams attack us away from home and so often teams don’t pick up the pace against us until they are trailing. These are all worries for whoever the new manager might be next season, but for the moment the current manager has to try to install a little belief for two away games.

We have to hope the players want to see him off in the best possible style by continuing on from where they left off on Sunday. Leicester might try to finish on a high themselves by beating one of the “top six”, but I think we should and will beat them once the level of commitment required to play at this level is there. As bad as our away form has been this season we can still average a point a game away from home by beating Leicester and Huddersfield.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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