Lineups from 15:00
MANCHESTER CITY: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Navas, De Bruyne, Iheanacho, Aguero
Subs: Caballero, Angelino, Demichelis, Delph, Toure, Sterling, Bony
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Ramsey, Elneny, Welbeck, Sanchez, Giroud, Iwobi
Subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Coquelin, Wilshere, Walcott, Cazorla, Campbell
(The Arsenal Perspective by @JamrockRover)
With Leicester freshly crowned as Premier League champions Arsenal are faced with their annual struggle for some crumbs from the champion’s table. It might be a different team claiming all the glory and a completely unexpected one at that, but there’s nothing unusual or unexpected in where Arsenal will finish this season. They need only one win from their last two games to guarantee a top four finish and entry into the Champions League qualifying rounds at worst.
The easy path would be a victory away to City today or even a draw, but this Arsenal team rarely takes the easy path. If they beat City today they will finish third at worst and go straight through to the Champions League group stages and avoid a tricky qualifying round so early in the new season. The chances of finishing second are very slim, but with Spurs playing Southampton earlier in the day they will at least know if those hopes are still alive.
No matter what happens today Arsenal will finish in the top four if they beat Villa at home in the final game of the season next week. Even an Arsenal team struggling towards the finish line like this one is must be able to win at home to a Villa team who have only managed 17 points this season. Villa may have got a point at home to Newcastle yesterday, but that was their first point in 12 games.
As for today we play a City team fresh from an insipid display away to Real Madrid on Wednesday night which saw them exit the Champions League in the semi finals. City have probably been more disappointing than Arsenal this season, but they did at least make some real progress in the Champions League and win the Capital One Cup. Their performance in Madrid on Wednesday night was pretty awful though and it’s hard to understand how they could go so far in the competition and then exit with a whimper.
On the face of it Arsenal are on a good run at the moment as they are unbeaten in their last eight games. They needed to win all of those games if they wanted to stay in the title race though and they did lead three of the four games they drew. The only game they didn’t lead was the 0-0 draw away to Sunderland and even then they had chances to win the game.
The lack of fight and bottle the team displayed when the chips were down is why so many fans are disillusioned. We have seen it season after season and no matter who the players are the outcome is the same. The only conclusion for me is the problem is coming from above and the manager has to be changed.
His insistence on starting Olivier Giroud as the central striker in the last three games is baffling. He looks like a fish out of water as Arsenal try to play their intricate passing game and he hasn’t scored a league goal since his brace against Liverpool almost four months ago. He may be the leading scorer with 12 league goals, but that only speaks volumes for Arsenals inaction in the transfer market last summer.
Arsene Wenger recently said Arsenal had the form of champions away from home and it was their home form against teams from the lower half of the table which had ruined their season. A further look at the facts simply does not back up his claim as Arsenal have only won twice in their last nine away games and they have only won away to one of the top 10 teams so far. It’s typical of Arsenal that the only away win was 5-2 away to the new champions, but that away record against the top 10 simply isn’t good enough.
They have not lost the league against the teams in the lower half of the table. Their results against the other teams from fifth to tenth place have cost them everything this season and it was very similar last season too. They have managed to raise their game against the rest of the top four and have only dropped 12 points from 19 matches against the bottom 10 teams, but 11 points from 12 games against the rest of the top 10 is an awful return.
There is virtually a full squad to choose from today with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the only absentee. Arsenal just need to avoid defeat to finish in the top three and City have an awful record at home against the teams around them in the table. If Arsenal can go there today and attack a City team fresh from their midweek defeat I think the game is there for the taking.
Unfortunately this Arsenal team is so devoid of confidence that it’s hard to see them doing that. The chances are we will see a very similar team to the one which has performed so ineptly week in and week out since early January. It’s hard to think this team are playing for the manager at this stage and it’s been a very long time since I’ve had so little confidence in them.
Of course I still want them to win as I always do every single time they play. I’ll be cheering for them from first minute to last and I have no doubt the vast majority of Arsenal fans will feel and do the same. They are more than capable of doing so based on their ability, but it takes more than just ability to win football games.