The week draws to its close, and the trip to Merseyside is firmly in sight. Whilst the results of City, Chelsea and Liverpool aren’t irrelevant, for once they are not the prime focus as Arsenal seek to resume winning ways following a shaky couple of months. Too often we hang a match on the must-win peg; it makes a change to have one that is must-not-lose. Perhaps if the players adopt the mantra of must-not-concede for every game, that will serve us well.
Ahead of the match, Arsène dropped a bombshell with Aaron Ramsey fit enough to be considered for the squad. Given he only returned to training yesterday and only last week he was a fortnight away, we can only hope that his recuperation is complete and this is not a precursor to an injury to someone else forcing Wenger’s hand. I seem to recall that last time the manager got our hopes up about the midfielder being in the squad, they were dashed a day later. Ramsey is surely only going to be on the bench and may not even be used but having missed three months of competitive matches, getting back up to speed is going to take time, something of a precious commodity with seven weeks left in the season and only six games to ensure fourth spot is retained as a minimum. Any higher than that will be a bonus and need a collapse in form from one of the teams above. Chelsea are offering to do just that with their away form and there would be a certain poetic justice if they fell to fourth and lost out on a Champions League place with United becoming the weakest ever winners of the tournament. It’s a shame that we can’t guarantee Arsenal will take full advantage of any slips.
Ramsey didn’t have any trepidation about returning to the squad, he had Nacho Monreal there to hold his hand as the Spaniard too returned just in time for the FA Cup Semi-Final. How incredible that the players are being declared fit with another biggest game of the season match just around the corner. Mesut Özil is trying to join them but it seems unlikely with Arsène observing that the German international should be back before the end of the season. He didn’t say which season and with our habit of developing setbacks in rehabilitation, next season can’t be ruled out. I should imagine that anyone dropped next weekend will be on the basis that the team has to get used to playing without them; “Yes, I dropped X because he hasn’t been injured for a while and I feel that a super-injury is coming so we have to get used to playing without him“. The superstitious amongst you will be pleased that no names were used and I can confirm that no players have been injured in the creation of this paragraph. They were already.
The players according to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, cannot read anything into the emphatic scoreline during the recent FA Cup quarter-final. He’s right, the real difference between the two sides did not emerge until late in the game and whilst I am sure Everton will want to take revenge, both sets of players should be more motivated by the prospect of Champions League football. Arsenal must guard against complacency and I am sure they will need little reminding that Sunday’s hosts were well worth a point at The Emirates in December. Everton manager Roberto Martinez is emerging as a prospective manager for Arsenal, leading to a swift campaign to denigrate him by some of Arsène’s staunchest supporters. It’s a ludicrous position to adopt. Appointing a new manager is like signing a new player; it’s an adventure in risk and if we apply the same criteria to Arsène’s appointment, he would never have got the job in the first place.
The current incumbent will be meeting the press today and more will become apparent. In the meantime, Ladbrokes are running a free quiz how well do you know your team and with plenty of time to kill between now and Sunday, there is an opportunity to keep your mind on the football. Arsenal fans aren’t faring too well, not even fighting for fourth place with a median score of 5/10, half of what I achieved. Yes, that was the electronic equivalent of a gauntlet being smacked across your face. Is it really that hard to improve upon being distinctly average? It could be worse, we might be Tottenham but no, we’re not that bad. Twice as many Arsenal fans know everything about the club – 8% scored 10/10 – than Tottenham supporters. Even in online quizzes, the North London sky remains red. Bizarrely, 1% of people taking part in the quiz scored absolutely nothing – 0%. How can you know that little? Even though CSKA Chelsea were formed in 2003, their supporters still have problems recalling facts. Just 5% registered a perfect score, which goes to prove that if you hit a keyboard with a clenched fist you are bound to get something right. It’s good clean funm, surprisingly addictive and free; yes, free. I got 10 twice by the way…