Morning all and welcome to a brand new, and incredibly, important week in the life of Arsenal Football Club.
As expected, there were no favours done yesterday. Sp*rs won against Stoke, no surprise whatsoever, and the other results at the bottom end of the table had a direct impact on Wigan. Both Norwich and Newcastle won which means that the FA Cup holders now have to win both their final games in order to stay up.
None of it really changes our situation though. While it might have been nice to have some margin for error, that was lost long before this weekend. It suits us to point fingers at the Orcs but the reality is we’re responsible for where we are and looking for that lot to do us a favour just isn’t right. There was an inevitability about Sp*rs scoring the winner but nobody was predicting anything other than three points for them so it’s no surprise.
Here’s the table as it stands:
Anything less than a win tomorrow night needs us leaving a favour from Sunderland at White Hart Lane on the final day of the season. If we win, a win at Newcastle will guarantee us at least fourth, and we could finish third if Chelsea lose their fixture at home to Everton. A win also relegates Wigan which means that Newcastle will have nothing to worry about on the final day. Update: Newcastle are already safe.
Yet, although the pressure is on, there’s absolute clarity about what we need to do. Two games, two wins. That’s always been our target and that hasn’t changed. We go into a game tomorrow night having had 10 days off. There can be no excuses when it comes to effort and endeavour. At this point of the season it’s practically unheard of to have that amount of time between games. It’s normally a slog from one game to the next, legs are tired, injuries and strains and aches shape team selection, but we should be in good shape.
And that’s something we need to take advantage of. Look at how we started the game against Manchester United a couple of weeks back. Think back to that awesome performance against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago. High-tempo football, pressing all over the pitch, giving the opposition no time to be comfortable on the ball. If we can’t manage that for two games as important as this, well, then we’ve got real problems.
Wigan will arrive with plenty of confidence having won a trophy, and beaten last season’s champions to do it, and, of course, they beat us in this fixture last season. But there’s also a reason why they’re staring relegation in the face and that’s what we need to exploit. The importance of Champions League football next season is impossible to ignore. It will shape what we do this summer, and how we can do it, and the players need to be aware of that.
On the one hand you want them relaxed and feeling good, not overly-burdened by the task at hand, but on the other these are professional footballers and pressure comes with the territory. If you can’t handle it, you’re in the wrong game. But our form is good, we’re 9 games unbeaten, the players have shown some serious resolve in certain fixtures even if we’ve struggled in others, and they should feel confident about this one.
It’s the final home game of the season, Champions League football next season is in our own hands and after some of the crap we’ve produced this campaign I don’t think we’re in any position to complain about the situation we’re in. Heads down, work hard, get on with it.
We’ll get some team news later on as Arsene meets the press this morning. I don’t think there are any fresh problems – unless somebody’s done something in training that hasn’t leaked – so we should have as full a squad as possible bar the suspended Giroud and Diaby. We can take a proper look ahead to the game tomorrow, and all the other bits and pieces.