Do or Die week for Arsenal

Well, the weekend threw up some bittersweet results for Arsenal fans, a wide range of emotions will have been experienced by the fans that watched the games of their Champion’s League place rivals. Always starting with highs then come the final whistle that emotional was substituted for lows.

At the end of the day it boils down to the Arsenal having their destiny in their own hands, win their games and they get a top four place anything else and the opportunity arises for Tottenham to steal in.

It’s funny how Arsenal fans that experienced the drive for third place last season with the need for an Arsenal victory away to West Bromwich Albion in their final game were most probably unanimous in agreement that a finish to a season with so much riding on the final day should never be repeated.

afc celebrate

Fast forward twelve months and that is the exact position Arsenal find themselves in, hardly ideal and it’s probably worth getting a check up from the doctor that the heart is in good working condition because next Sunday it will be tested to full capacity.

Now with the weekends round of games complete there’s a clearer picture of what is required and the positive and negative factors that await Arsenal.

Wigan relegation/F.A. Cup

Now I certainly do not know many fans that have a dislike for Wigan Athletic, the relegation survival specialists pulled off an amazing feat on Saturday when they beat Manchester City to lift the F.A. Cup. The underdogs had fans up and down the country if not the world saluting the efforts of a modest well run club on a small budget triumphing over the money bags mercenaries. That victory alone is enough to add to the already massive number of neutral fans that would like Wigan Athletic to survive relegation once more this year.

wigan celebrate

As things have played out both Arsenal and Wigan need a victory to stand a chance of achieving their current goals. A victory for Arsenal will relegate Wigan; a victory for Wigan will almost certainly hand the remaining Champions League place to Tottenham and provide them with a chance of survival on the final day of the season. As an Arsenal fan I would take no pride in relegating Wigan but a win is vital now, and as much as any potential headlines would state Arsenal send Wigan down I would look further back to Wigan’s game with Swansea last week as the straw that broke the camel’s back. They had a real chance to put the pressure on those around them; they were playing a Swansea team with nothing to play for and failed to take advantage. Arsenal if they win will play a part in Wigan’s relegation but cannot be seen as the villains.

Their performance against Manchester City on Saturday I’m sure will have been watched by the Arsenal squad, they will realise how much of a threat they can be as Saturday was no fluke, and it was a deserved victory. Wigan will be fully aware of what they need to do and as much as Arsenal fans would like to think Wigan would be inhibited by their post match celebrations in reality they are professional football players who know what is at stake and will prepare for it as you would expect any professional football team would.

Newcastle safe                 

Newcastle secured safety with their victory over Queens Park Rangers on Sunday and will mean they will approach the game with Arsenal in a slightly different mindset. That does not mean they will roll over and let the Arsenal walk over them. They owe their fans a good performance to make up for the stress they put them through in the last few weeks. It will be their final home game of the season and I expect they will put in the effort to win the game. Depending on the result from Tuesday’s game Arsenal will be taking on the Toon army either desperate or super desperate with added prayers to win the game. One thing Arsene Wenger will not expect is any favours from Alan Pardew, the two managers have a long history of clashes over the years and the chance to put one over his rival is incentive enough for Pardew to take the game seriously with his team selection. Sunday’s game will be massive no matter how you look at it

Sunderland to coast or panic?

Many onlookers see Spurs final game as a home banker; it’s hard not to disagree. The awkward thing to take into consideration is Arsenal winning against Wigan on Tuesday saves Sunderland from relegation; they would turn up at White Hart Lane in party mode. The two clubs have no acrimonious history that I remember and the possibility of an upset there is very slim. Paulo Di Canio as a new manager would send his team out to put in a good performance but without the added incentive of something to play for his players may struggle to rise to the occasion. On the other hand If Arsenal fail to win on Tuesday the pressure will be on and we might have some sort of game on our hands.

di canio and larsson

I suppose there’s no point looking too deep into other team’s results until the midweek game is out of the way. As it stands Arsenal’s destiny is in their own hands, the players know what they need to do, the fans know what they need to do, Arsene knows what they need to do, time for Arsenal to make it happen.

Enjoy your day people.

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Backs to the wall first for the Gunners

Large respect due to every Arsenal player on the field yesterday that contributed to the victory over Sunderland. On a day in which everything that could go wrong did; it was a nice surprise that the Arsenal refused to crumble and stood up to the challenge set in front of them. For all the plaudits Arsenal have received over the years for their style of football one thing they have struggled to exhibit is resilience and a backs to the wall, win at all costs attitude.

cazorla goal afc

If the top four places do come down to the wire this season the points gained yesterday will be looked back as a vital victory contributing to Arsenal’s fortunes. Experiencing the game had to be one of the most testing on the hearts of Arsenal fans; my heart was pounding so hard it took 10 minutes after the final whistle to return to a normal level.

The start to the events of the day centred around the centre back position in the Arsenal back line with skipper Thomas Vermaelen already ruled out; doubts remained on the fitness of Laurent Koscienly. Despite passing a late fitness test on Friday all was not well with the Frenchman; he was named in the starting line up but after pulling up in the warm up it was clear he could not play.

This lead to a last minute reshuffle of the defence, Arsene Wenger opting to move Bacary Sagna into the middle and drafting Carl Jenkinson into the right back role. An initial strange decision considering a centre back was available in Ignasi Miquel though given his lack of game time with the first team this season; the experience of Sagna despite being out of position was required for a potentially testing game at the stadium of light. One does wonder if the decision to let Johan Djourou go out on loan and not bring in a replacement was a wise decision if Miquel is not deemed good enough to start ahead of a right back who has never played at centre back before for Arsenal.

First half of the game Arsenal were actually in complete control, they played with purpose, passed the ball well and were fully deserving of their half time lead from Santi Cazorla’s strike. If ever there was a negative to draw from the first half it would be the wastefulness when on top. The Sunderland keeper Mignolet pulled off some great saves to keep the score at only one goal difference which gave Sunderland hope.

There were two turning points in the second half which certainly swung the game heavily in favour of Sunderland. Firstly Jack Wilshere who carried over his top form from last week’s international against Brazil finally succumbed to the barrage of fouls on him in the game. It seemed it was a Sunderland tactic to target him in the game and even as strong as Jack is he isn’t superman. After a heavy knocked he signalled the bench and was removed from play.

jack injured

The second turning point was the red card for Carl Jenkinson after he picked up two yellow cards. The cards cannot be disputed, they were bookable challenges and it is hoped he can learn from the experience. Many have been calling for Bacary Sagna to be replaced at right back by Jenkinson due to the Frenchman’s recent form but yesterday may have been evidence of exactly why Jenkinson is not ahead of Sagna right now. Jenkinson is still young, he still has a lot to learn but is a definite talent who has the potential to make the right back slot his own for years to come but Sagna has not turned into a bad player overnight. The competition is good for the team but I think absence has made the heart grow fonder with many Arsenal fans, we cannot write off a player like Sagna after a few below par games.

Going down to ten men certainly threw the game into Sunderland’s favour and from then on Arsenal had to content with constant pressure on the back foot. Aaron Ramsey stepped in as right back while Wenger still resisted the temptation to bring on Miquel. The pressure was really hard to witness but I must commend all the players who dug in to hold onto that lead, we rode our luck several times but deserved the three points. Each player has earned the right to wear a big ass chain in celebration of their efforts.

big ass chain afc

Wear than chain with pride boys

I will even forget the wasted finish from Olivier Giroud when Arsenal found themselves three on one late in the game; with options he decided to hold onto the ball and eventually blast the ball high and wide despite the better options available. Hopefully Arsene will pull him aside and have a word as a goal at that time would have sealed the win and halted the immense pressure in the game. Despite that moment he played his part in the victory and so I will not draw too much from it.

Special mention must go to Sagna, Ramsey and Szczesny  in the game, the two outfield players have split the fans faith this season but they managed to put in excellent performances yesterday despite playing out of position. They have certainly won over many of the fans with their efforts yesterday and I hope that effort will continue for the rest of the season. Keeper Szczesny pulled off some important saves yesterday to preserve the win; he did have a couple ropy moments in the game but when called upon he really pulled of the stops that showed why he is our number one.

Next up is Blackburn in the F.A cup next weekend; enough time hopefully for Jack Wilshere to recover from his knock and our injured centre backs to return.

Enjoy your day people.

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