16th April 2016: Wenger still hopeful and determined to tighten defence

Welcome back. It seems like just the other day Mesut Ozil was crossing for Olivier Giroud to acrobatically volley us ahead at Selhurst Park, Francis Coquelin was riding his luck on a yellow card, and Alexis Sanchez was forcing a winner through sheer will by seeing his header deflect in off Damian Delaney, but that was as long ago as mid-August, in what was only our second game of the season.

Tomorrow, we welcome the south Londoners to Emirates stadium looking to secure the win that would send us back up to third in the standings after Manchester City walked to a win at Chelsea earlier today, thanks to a Sergio Aguero treble.

And whilst talk of an Arsenal title challenge is pretty futile at this stage in most observers’ opinion, Arsene Wenger isn’t giving the ghost just yet, suggesting at his press conference yesterday that West Ham can get something from their game at Leicester tomorrow, whilst his own side must go on a ‘strong run’ at home. He said:

West Ham have beaten many big teams at home and I feel we were not happy with the result [last weekend] because we conceded three goals when we were 2-0 up. On the other hand, we have shown resilience to come back to 3-3 when we were in a desperate position. For everybody it is tight, and we have to look behind us because everybody is chasing. There can still be twists and turns until the end and everyone is fighting to put teams in front of us under pressure. We need a strong run at home now and I think that is what we want to do. It is perceived that the championship is over but I don’t think that completely even if Leicester are in a strong position. I think we have to continue to fight until the last minute of the season. Crystal Palace should now be completely safe but they still might need one or two points. I think they have nearly got out of their relegation problems. They have a lot of potential offensively with individuals like Bolasie, Zaha, and Adebayor. They have a big offensive force. We need to rectify the fact we conceded goals at West Ham and come back strong defensively.

One obvious way to improve at the back would be reinstalling Petr Cech in goal and though David Ospina has performed pretty well in recent weeks, I think the boss will do just that. Per Mertersacker for Gabriel seems another good bet but otherwise I think we’ll be unchanged. And Arsene also discussed the importance of communication in defending, saying:

We try to work a lot on that. I think maybe it was a bit more obvious before because maybe in training everybody had the same culture before. People come from different countries [and] it’s sometimes a bit more difficult to communicate. I would say the communication in England was always at a higher level than in any other country. I noticed that when I came with Monaco. We made a tour here in 1988 and I looked at some training sessions and was always surprised by how loud the communication was in the English teams compared to my team. Monaco were much quieter. The communication is very important, especially at the back. Sometimes just to tell your guys around you to come closer or drop off. That can save a goal. It’s a vital part of the defensive efficiency.

So six games to go with four at home starting with Palace tomorrow. If we can somehow take 18 points we’ll definitely secure third and a place in next year’s Champions League and who knows, perhaps more. There’s no harm in hope.

Back post-match.

COYG!

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