Monday, May 20, 2024

Just win

This is one of those mornings where writing a blog feels somewhat redundant. What is there to say that you don’t already know? What can I talk about in terms of how we play the game that feels more relevant than the fact we just need to win?

What Man City did yesterday might have been a bit disheartening, but it doesn’t change a single thing about what we have to do at Old Trafford. It might well be a case that the venue is the most challenging aspect about today. We don’t have a great record there, and even if this version of Man Utd is a long, long way from the best we’ve seen, that’s still something we need to overcome.

Speaking ahead of the game, Mikel Arteta said:

If you want to win the Premier League and big trophies, you have to go to these grounds and impose yourself and beat them. That’s the journey that we are in and that’s for sure what we’re going to try to do on Sunday.

I’m fascinated by how United might approach this one. On the one hand, it’s a game they have to win to keep alive Europa League qualification, so they might come out all guns blazing. But their biggest issue this season has been how stretched they get when they do that. They leave all that space in midfield we’ve seen teams exploit time and time again, and if you give that space to players like Martin Odegaard and Declan Rice and Kai Havertz and Bukayo Saka, you’ll likely pay the price for it.

They could try and sit in and defend deep, but they’re also without some key players at the back, which could make that plan more difficult to execute. Which is to say, I don’t really know what they’ll do, and I suspect that in his preparation for this one, Mikel Arteta has considered the possibility of that variance.

As for our team, I don’t think it’ll be any different from the one we played in the last couple of games, unless there’s an injury to take into consideration. Takehiro Tomiyasu was missing from training in midweek, and the manager hinted he might be a doubt in his press conference, but who knows? If he’s not available, I think it has to be Jakub Kiwior, but I hope Tomi is fit and ready to go.

This is a game where if Arsenal play well, I think we’ll win. If United cough up the same volume of chances they do in almost every game they play, I think we’ll win. But football is weird and random, so you just never know. I’m fluctuating between confidence in my head based on what I’ve seen from these two teams this season, and terror in my stomach. It’s because the stakes are so high, it’s because of what is on the line, and the fact this is the penultimate game of the campaign so the margin for error is literally zero. It’s high-wire football, and as much as it’s great to be here and I love the fact we’re at this point of the season with so much still to play for, it’s also nerve-wracking. I can’t remember being this fluttery about a game in a long time.

That said, how we feel as fans and how the players feel are often quite distinct. I’m sure they’re relishing this challenge, they’ve performed so well this season for this game to mean so much, and let’s hope they can do it again later on. There are big players and big characters in this team, blessed too with big talent, and hopefully that’s enough to win this one and knock the ball back into City’s court for midweek and the final day of the season. It doesn’t even matter how we do it, just win.

Right, let’s leave it there for now. We’ll have all the usual live blog and post-game coverage on Arseblog News.

Come on Arsenal!

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