Saturday greetings. Despite Leicester being crowned champions earlier and our top four place all but secured already, Arsene Wenger underlined the importance of winning at Manchester City tomorrow when he spoke at his pre-match press conference yesterday.
With Tottenham hosting a dangerous Southampton in the early kick-off on Sunday, before travelling to a Newcastle United side battling for their Premier League lives on the final day of the season, second spot is far from out of reach for Arsenal, even with just two games to go. But to give ourselves a chance, we’ll have to win both games and the boss says the “future of Arsenal Football club depends on this game”:
Sunday’s game is still important, even if Leicester are champions today and we are second best. It is still a very important game because part of the responsibility of being professional is to prepare the future. The future of Arsenal Football Club depends on this game. There’s a European Championship and there’s a Copa America [in the summer]. To get our players back, we made a schedule. It’s absolutely very difficult because the European Championship finishes on July 10. If you think that you have to give at least three to four weeks of holiday to the players who go to the end [of the tournament], that means they come back at the beginning of August. Our target now is to secure a position in the Champions League next year. If possible, to get second place or at least secure third place. On Sunday we can achieve that. We still have two games, and if we win those two games we will be alright.
In terms of how we might line-up, my guess is we’ll see a few changes to the starting line-up from last week’s win over Norwich. Gabriel will come in for the hamstrung Per Mertesacker of course, but I’m also expecting Danny Welbeck to be restored upfront in place of Olivier Giroud.
I think a change in central midfield is also very likely, with either Aaron Ramsey moved forward at the expense of say, Alex Iwobi, or dropped to the bench to make way for Francis Coquelin or even Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere. I hope so anyway!
This fixture last season was a springboard for a superb run of form in the calendar year of 2015 of course and Danny Welbeck, who missed out on the 2-0 win in January last year, says Arsenal’s game-plan that day was spot-on. He told Arsenal Player:
I remember watching it at home on TV with my family. The performance was outstanding, from the first minute until the last. It was a great team performance, everyone worked hard throughout the game and I think tactically we were spot on with how we approached the match. I’ve got some good memories [at Man City], and a couple of bad ones as well. I think it’s important to focus on the next game coming and make sure that it’s another good memory.
And although Manuel Pellegrini’s men come into the game off the back of a hugely disappointing Champions League semi-final loss to Real Madrid, Welbeck warns City will prove difficult opposition for Arsenal. The striker said:
For them to be going into a Champions League semi-final second leg and having the opportunity to progress to the final is a major situation. Them not qualifying will put a bit of a downer on their confidence but City have a great squad, a great team and have great players in and around the whole club. There’s a lot of players who can come in on the weekend and provide a very stern test for Arsenal.
Which is very true. Even without David Silva and Vincent Kompany, who are likely to miss the game through injury, City can still field a star-studded selection who may just want to thank Pellegrini for his management in what will be his final home game as City manager by putting in a top performance. Lets hope not.