Saturday greetings. It feels a bit weird not having any Premier League football to look forward to today, but at least Real Madrid and Barcelona are both on the box later as La Liga is decided so there’s the aperitif for tomorrow’s final-day feast.
Speaking of which, far from being an end-of-season dead rubber, our final fixture still has plenty riding on it of course. A win against Aston Villa would not only ensure we finish the season in third, negating the need for a Champions League playoff early next season, we could also pip Tottenham to the runners-up spot behind champions Leicester if Sp*rs somehow lose at already-relegated Newcastle.
And Arsene Wenger discussed the importance of our game against the league’s bottom side when he spoke to Arsenal Player earlier this week, saying:
There’s a big job to do because there’s a difference between finishing third and fourth. We are guaranteed to be in the top four and part of that is because of the job we did at Manchester City. Now we can still finish second, we can still strengthen our position in third, and that definitely gives us a good potential in the Champions League. We want to achieve that and we want to finish well at home as well in front of our crowd. There is not a big difference between second and third, apart from prestige, but that counts as well. We finished third last year so [if Arsenal finish second] we would have moved one place forward. It’s minor but no matter what it is, we want to do as well as we can.
Given Newcastle have nothing to play for and Tottenham players have been making noises this week about their determination to finish the campaign above Arsenal for the first time since the mid-nineties, it’s hard to see a home win. That said, Tottenham are sh*t, so who knows?
In terms of team selection I’d imagine there’ll be a few changes to our starting line-up from last weekend’s draw at Manchester City with Mesut Ozil fit again and Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere having had another week’s training as they build up match-sharpness following lengthy injuries.
Ozil will come into the side for the injured Danny Welbeck of course but I think Alex Iwobi may make way too, with Jack Wilshere brought in on the right and Alexis Sanchez resuming his role on the left. After that, whether Santi starts or Francis Coquelin regains his place is anyone’s guess because Aaron Ramsey and Mohamed Elneny played in the middle last week and didn’t do much wrong in fairness.
Longer term I’d prefer the former pair to be our primary partnership (at least until I’ve taken a closer look at Granit Xhaka) but perhaps Arsene will opt to go with the players in possession of the shirt. We’ll see. Elsewhere though – in goal, defence and upfront – it’ll surely be the usual suspects barring any last-minutes knocks.
So for one last time this season, a debut one for TremendArse no less, COME ON ARSENAL!
Catch you on Sunday after the game.