It’s Chelsea tonight, a home game that gives us a chance to put some of the disappointment of the last few weeks behind us. Which includes one home game too, I suppose.
As you would expect, Mikel Arteta was sounding a positive note when he spoke to the press yesterday, insisting that the title race is not over:
We have achieved what was difficult to achieve [Champions League qualification] and we can still achieve the Premier League because there are five games to go and there are a lot of things that are still going to happen. What we have to do is forget about what happened last week, learn from it and move on to the next game at home with our people for a London derby and put things right.
Regardless of how likely you or I think it is that we’ll pick up the points we need and City will drop sufficient points for us to overtake them, that has to be the approach. There are still five games to go, and we need to get back to winning ways, just in case something mad happens. But also because winning games is the goal every week, whether there’s a title at stake or not, the aim has to be take all three points.
I don’t know what he’s going to do with his team this evening. After three draws and a chastening defeat, during which we’ve shipped 11 goals, it feels like we need to change things up a little bit. Of course, it’s easier said than done with William Saliba still absent and not improving, and options for the right hand side of the defence limited due to that and the injury to Takehiro Tomiyasu.
We could change shape, or offer the back four a bit more protection from midfield, and I do wonder if, as he reflects on this season, if the manager might think a bit on how he uses his squad. There’s a lot to be said for the ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach, because we spent most of the campaign top of the table. However, a few changes here and there keeps a competitive environment thriving. Look at how Brighton destroyed Wolves on Saturday having left out three of their best players from the starting line-up. I know it’s not an exact science, but I do think this is something we can get better at.
The thing about having a bigger squad with more quality is that good players are going to have to sit some games out. I think you can make a very good case for Leandro Trossard to start this evening – but for who? Both wide players have been fantastic this season and Gabriel Jesus has scored goals since his return. In midfield, Thomas Partey has been excellent this campaign, but struggled of late – do you bring in Jorginho this evening to face his former club?
It just feels like we need some defensive stability, as well as a bit of a spark. Which is much easier for me to talk about here than to implement, but I hope that when we see the line-up later, there’s something a little different to demonstrate we are adapting to our current circumstances.
As for Chelsea, to say their season has been a shambles is a bit of an understatement, but they still have a squad packed full of good players. We have to prepare for the best possible version of them, not least because we’ve been quite good of late at giving the opposition gifts which are ruthlessly unwrapped at this level.
Let’s avoid early mistakes, start sensibly, set the tone, and hopefully we can find ourselves again. The last few weeks have been tough, but the players and team have to respond rather than feel sorry for themselves. Hopefully we see that tonight.
As ever we’ll have live blog coverage for you, as well as all the post-game stuff on Arseblog News.
Finally for this morning, what a heart-breaker for Arsenal last night in the Champions League semi-final against Wolfsburg. It looked like it was going to go to a penalty shoot-out, but the visitors capitalised on a late error and won the game 3-2 (5-4 on aggregate) to go through to the final.
Football can be so cruel. Fine margins, as Jonas Eidevall said afterwards. However, when you consider the way this team has been hit by injuries to so many key players, it’s a testament to them that they pushed quality opposition that hard. I’m sure that’s of little consolation to them this morning, but in front of a capacity crowd last night, they put in a huge effort and came so close.
For more on the game, and the day itself, Tim has you covered here.
For some listening to pass the time today, we have a couple of pods available for you over on Patreon. First off, there’s a Chelsea preview podcast with Lewis, then The 30 with Phil, reviewing all the weekend’s Premier League action with much hilarity due to the events at Anfield. Get instant access right here.
Ok, that’s your lot. Catch later for the game.