I write this after the Manchester Derby, where United struck a 93rd minute blow to City’s Champions league aspirations. If anything, this result should galvanise Sp*rs into beating Chelsea – as fourth place could well be theirs if they beat the table toppers, although the title could well be Chelsea’s if they beat Sp*rs. If Chelsea do win, the league will look like this: 80,76,71, although we do have a game in hand, and that game is against Wigan at the JJB tomorrow.
For us, the title has gone, the three points that we would have had if we had beaten Sp*rs – well, we didn’t beat then and therefore no three points. When I looked at the run in, it was clear that our arch rivals would have a say in the title race and of course, they have. But for us, it’s a race for second place and despite United’s win over City, the race for second is definitely still on.
Wigan will pose a threat – they can definitely get themselves up for a big game and we will have to put in a performance to gain all the three points. The team at the moment are without their spine, they are without 4 of our most inspirational players in Vermaelen, Gallas, Song and Cesc. The exciting thing tomorrow is that we have Van Persie back in the squad and could be ready to start. With Denilson suffering an injury and Vermaelen out for the season too, there will be some changes from the last game.
It’s a tough one – do you bring in Eastmond, or do you change formation? Does Arsene play a player like Silvestre who has already probably packed his bags or does he blood a youngster and if it’s the latter, who would be available? All in all, he’ll probably go for the former and try and field his strongest XI. Without Song and Denilson and with Van Persie and Bendtner (and Eduardo and Vela both fit) and without Arshavin, a 4-4-2 is crying out – “play me”, but we’ll have wait and see if Arsene could adapt the formation based on the players available.
The line up will most likely be:
Eboue – Campbell – Silvestre – Clichy
Diaby – Nasri
Walcott – Rosicky – Van Persie
Of course, I’d prefer to see the same XI players in a 4-4-2, as personally, Van Persie is a better player through the middle. Of course, we may see Bendtner deployed wide left and Van Persie through the middle, but against Wigan, who technically aren’t as good as us, a more attacking formation should be played.
Arsene was in good voice during his last press conference, saying various things about the season and the players. He took considerable time out to talk about the Cesc situation and in lieu of recent information by Peter Hill Wood and a retaliation by Barcelona – the long standing saga of Barcelona wanting to buy Cesc, potentially this summer. Arsene was quite incensed and re-iterated the stance that Cesc is under contract and we don’t want to sell him. We have no intention of selling him, nor do we need the money. But the most interesting part of the message was most likely aimed at Cesc when Arsene said that the kids had a duty to repay back the club who have been training them and given them the chance. A note to Cesc – “you owe us to stay”… there will be a lot more about Cesc in the summer, I’m sure, so I won’t divulge myself too much into that subject right now.
Other key points Arsene made were related to the will and want that the team as a whole showed against Sp*rs – or more specifically, the lack of it – he singled out praise for Campbell and talked about his winning mentality – a realisation that having a goldent oldie in the team may just help – the mix of youth and experience could be re-addressed this summer, and it will be interesting to see if our best player against Sp*rs will remain at the club next season.
Back to the Wigan game and Arsene had some words about the game:
“The curve [for us] is going up for sure. The others are coming down, that is for sure as well. Chelsea have six or seven players over 30-years-old. They will not go up. But of course Roman Abramovich can say in the summer ‘I buy seven players of 24′ and you are in the race again. And Man City, they will be a challenge next season. They have a serious chequebook. But we could make 86 points this season and, in every year, that would give you a chance to win the title. So for me it is not an exceptional season in the Premier League it is just that the competition has been high. The future of our team lies in how well we can respond to big disappointments and that’s a good opportunity on Sunday to show that. Our season will be assessed on how many points we made and how we finish. That of course depends on our result at Wigan.”
We do have a good opportunity tomorrow to win a game (it feels ages since we last won a game in any comfort), and keep us in the race for second. The gap between us and Chelsea could be either 3 points at the end of the weekend or 9 points depending on how results go. It’s impossible to win the title now, but finishing as close as possible to the top will be a signal that as a squad we’re not that far off the top and of course, keep us in good stead for next season. A season where I hope we can have our key players fit for the season, players like Van Persie, Arshavin, Walcott and Cesc as well as a few new faces to help increase the quality of our squad.
“That’s one of the aspects that I am keen to see,” said Wenger. “They say it’s better so we will see but Wigan try to play football. It is in their interests as well to have a good pitch. The Premier League has to create a criteria committee where the pitch is part of the requested level. If we want to be the best league in the world then we need the best pitches in the world and the Premier League has to act on that.”
We’ll see this time tomorrow how the pitch has faired for us, but I would like nothing more than a win tomorrow to shake off the doom and gloom… I hope we can finish the season on a high and transfer the momentum to the beginning of next…