Saturday greetings. So it’s Sunderland away tomorrow afternoon and after Manchester City today handed Stoke their second 4-0 drubbing inside a week, we need all three points if we’re to take back third spot in the standings.
With the scenario that Manchester United finish third, City win the Champions League and we end the campaign in fourth place still a possibility, our seat at the top table of the European game for next season is far from secured.
Because if that’s how things unfolded, City would take our place as holders and we’d be relegated to competing for the Europa Cup. Arsene Wenger also highlighted another problem with finishing fourth – the pitfalls of the playoff. Speaking at his press conference yesterday, he said:
It’s difficult because you can play teams who are in the middle of a championship because they have started already in June. But for us, we don’t know where we will finish. We are not guaranteed the top four and we have to fight for that. Manchester United are behind us and they will fight for it as well. We have difficult games, they have difficult games as well. What has changed over the years is that the impact of the finances in the Champions League is not as big anymore. It was vital for us for a period. The supporter impact, the planning of next season changes completely, especially when you have a big tournament like the European Championship, which is now like a World Cup because it starts on June 10 and finishes on July 10. When you have to play qualifiers the European Championship is still going on.
With four games left we still have it in our hands to avoid both a playoff and the possibility of missing out on the Champions League altogether simply by winning our remaining games and that has to start against the Black Cats tomorrow.
In terms of how we might line-up, my hope is that Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck will return in place of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud respectively for a simple reason; the former pair are better players in my opinion. As regular readers will know, I think Ramsey’s a good footballer but a poor central midfielder and Giroud’s a decent striker but Welbeck offers us more at the tip of our attack. More pace, more ability on the ball and given Giroud’s current barren run in front of goal, more chance of scoring.
That said, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if we’re unchanged from Thursday night because Arsene doesn’t often alter a winning formula unless he’s forced to. We’ll see I guess.
Just a short one today because in all honesty, I can’t be asked.