Road Ahead for The Arsenal

So, the bubble blowing team from London failed to do us a favour by getting something off Liverpool last week – the difference between our week being great and good. Honestly though, West Ham’s defence is very fragile, it is as if it is non – existent. A school team would do a better job than Slaven Bilic’s Hammers. It was a good week for us though, beating a lot of mental barriers. Away wins at Southampton and Stoke and Arsene Wenger finally being able to beat a Jose Mourinho side in the Premier League all in one week was indeed something. Coming into form too late, perhaps.

Despite winning four games in a row and maybe even five on the run may not give us a Champions League qualifying position.  City have one leg in the Champions League with them needing only one point to qualify on the last day which leaves Liverpool and Arsenal fighting for the one remaining spot.

Arsenal face Everton at home and we need to beat them at any cost. Three points is all we need and of course hope that Liverpool drop points against Middlesbrough. It’s hard to expect anything from an already relegated side but we’ve been in this situation before and God has been kind to us. But will Middlesbrough do a Newcastle? I honestly don’t think so; that does not mean I don’t want it to happen.

In any case, winning the last game is vital. To continue the momentum ahead of the FA Cup final against champions Chelsea would be extremely important. We’d all love a trophy, in what has been a torrid second half of the season.

Europa League looms over us, the thought of which is disturbing. First time under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal will not play the Champions League. But is Arsene going to be there? There is no clear picture and I don’t think there will be until the season is done with. I personally think he will stay for a year at least. He has always been a fighter and I don’t think he will leave. And so, I am going to continue writing assuming Arsene Wenger as Arsenal manager for next season.

Like last season when we signed Granit Xhaka very early, we seem to have signed Saed Kolasinac this season from Schalke 04. Lots of reports flying in regarding the same including journalists from Schalke and Sky confirming it. Nothing is done until it is official though, but it looks truer when Laurent Koscielny spoke about it in an article I read on Arseblog. We went under the radar last season after signing Xhaka. Lucas, who’s been sent to Hogwarts, and Mustafi came in but we left that business until the very end of the transfer window. With some regular players getting to full fitness and inexperienced centre halves in the ranks, Chambers and Holding played against Liverpool on the opening day and their inexperience showed. Had we not lost to Liverpool then, things would have been different now. We’ve lacked that killer instinct in the transfer market in the recent years, leaving things too late. We need to act quickly and act smartly this time around.

An important issue with us if we get Europa League football is going to be convincing players to join us. What we don’t want is squad players coming in. We need to get in players who would challenge for a starting position or even get thrown in the mix straight away. Without Champions League football, potentially, how big a factor is Arsene going to be in luring players! We’ve heard the likes of Ozil saying over and over again that the boss was a huge factor in him joining the club. Without Arsene, attracting big players is going to be even more difficult with a lesser attractive European League to play in.

Speaking of Mesut, there is still uncertainty regarding his future. And so is the case with Alexis. Two of our most important players going into the next season with only one year remaining on their contracts. It is very important to keep them at the club and to grow around them. Quality should never be let go off, and who better than us to say that! I did a piece earlier wanting Arsenal to keep hold of Jack and Wojo from next season and what they bring apart from their footballing ability; I’d love to see that happen.

For the first time, Arsene has reacted this season. He bent to get the results and results are what he got. I had never seen an Arsene Wenger team play three at the back, until this season. It came in as a surprise but we needed that. So far, it has worked. The performances have improved along with the increase in confidence, which is usually the case. Arsene said he was thinking about going to a back three in November but we’re flying at that time and I think that is why he did not change the system. Whether or not we continue to play with three at the back is still to be seen. Ox seems to be a very important player in this formation as most of our attacks have been from the right wing when he has played. Against Sunderland though, we found it hard to find the back of the net; can thank Jordan Pickford for that; he was outstanding.

We changed to a back four midway through the second half and looked more dangerous. Traditionally, Arsene Wenger teams have been known to dominate the midfield and control the game in that area. With a 3-4-2-1 of sorts, we lose that numerical advantage in the midfield. Ozil and Alexis both seem to play in the number 10 role so it is only two central midfielders most of the time. Arsene also said that he changed the system to get some confidence back, and I think he will continue to play with this system until the end of the season; he will go back to a four man defence next season.

Changing a winning system now with two games of the importance of a cup final (one actually being a cup final!) remaining in the season doesn’t make sense. Arsene has won the FA Cup more than any other manager which shows the importance he gives to the competition. The final, taking place after us knowing our European fate for next season, becomes an even bigger game. To win it, beating the champions of England, would either make us feel better if we lose out on a top 4 finish or would add to the joy of doing it, again.

 



 

Kshitij Gokhale

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