Awkward & Title Run-in: Fourth By Merit or Chance?

Well, that’s a bit awkward.

Most of the time now we think when we sign a player for five years we have a good player for five years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they practice, they play their best. Because they might be in their comfort zone.

Arsène Wenger doesn’t ride to You-Know-Who’s aid

Last night’s FA Cup tie was a ‘no-lose’ for us; one of the two rivals for the top four was going to suffer a psychological blow while the other gets a similar boost. United face Liverpool at the weekend so a comfortable win for the title-chasers wouldn’t go amiss. 6 – 0 is too much to hope but anything for three and above is a bad result, one which is hopefully damaging.

Manchester United face both Chelsea and Arsenal during the run-in. The FA Cup and this weekend’s EFL Cup final interfere. There’s a feeling that Chelsea are on the verge of imploding; a thrashing at Wembley and defeat to Tottenham? Surely that’s on the cards. It could see them six points behind us and in rotten form.

DateArsenalChelseaMan Utd
24-02-19Southampton Liverpool
27-02-19BournemouthTottenhamCrystal Palace
02-03-19TottenhamFulhamSouthampton
10-03-19Man UtdWolvesArsenal
16-03-19 Everton 
01-04-19NewcastleCardiffWatford
06-04-19EvertonWest Ham
13-04-19WatfordLiverpoolWest Ham
20-04-19Crystal PalaceBurnleyEverton
27-04-19LeicesterMan UtdChelsea
04-05-19BrightonWatfordHuddersfield
12-05-19BurnleyLeicesterCardiff
    
TBAWolvesBrightonMan City /
Wolves

Bold text denotes home fixtures

The reality is that we’ve got to win our home games. No ifs, buts and maybes; it’s clear-cut. There’s an element of the results being the be-all and end-all of football. It determines whether the future is Champions League or Europa League.

Firing Up or Firing Squad

However, form underpins that and therein is Unai Emery’s biggest challenge. We’re playing badly but overall the results are holding up. Three defeats in ten with, let’s be honest, the only bad result being the defeat at West Ham. Which given Manchester City and Liverpool put eight past us is an almost contrary statement to make.

Those performances served to show us how far the gap remains to the top of the table and the weaknesses in our squad.

The question is whether we’re going to reach the top four on merit or because we cock it up less than the other two? It’s a tough one to answer. United’s performance last night was almost a carbon copy of the one at the Emirates, hitting Chelsea on the break. In the Premier League encounter in a fortnight’s time, we’ve got to be more alive to the consequences of losing the ball when attacking.

That fixture, coming hard on the heels of the North London Derby, is season defining for us. While I want us to win at Wembley, I somehow don’t see it happening unless Emery manages to fire up the troops as he did for the match at the Emirates. That remains the benchmark for his reign; we know the players are capable of such performances and until they are the norm rather than rarities, it won’t easily be forgotten.

It is hard to pinpoint whose run-in is best or worst. It works in our favour to some extent that the Manchester derby is postponed. Chelsea travel to Old Trafford in the third-last game which, together with the rearranged derby, gives United less time to recover points dropped. United’s trip to Wolves is also postponed in April. There is some congestion building.

Stick or Twist

Conversely, the back-to-back tough matches we face are helpful in that there are still 24 points to play for after United. We may need a helping hand along the way though.

And I think that is what concerns me more than anything. I don’t have confidence that we can reach on the top four on our own merit. We seem to have a mistake or two more in our system than United. Chelsea can’t be dismissed but they are imploding. They may sack Sarri for his team’s performances but honestly, who knows? [checks quickly to see if Sarri has indeed been sacked]

Irrespective of whether they do or not, it’s hard to see how a team which is on course to lose their next away game 8 – 0 can claim fourth without more help than we need.

Bookmakers think fourth is United’s to lose and I have to say that I am inclined to agree. That’s not to say we can’t ‘win’ the fourth-placed trophy on merit, but we seem unlikely to do so. One thing I wonder is whether finishing fifth but within a point or two of the Champions League places will loosen the purse strings a little more than we might expect. To go close with our problems suggests Emery is on the right path; will that incentivise the board?

’til Tomorrow.

36 thoughts on “Awkward & Title Run-in: Fourth By Merit or Chance?

  1. Jonnygunner says:

    A lot of ifs,buts and maybes in there YW-and I’m inclined to go along with your thoughts.
    Fourth place will be a bloody hard slog for us.
    If only Maureen could’ve held on a bit longer eh?….dammit

  2. ferkov says:

    Well it looks like we’ll still have something to play for well into March.

  3. Dukey says:

    Sod 4th . I don’t think we are ready to dine at the top table still and don’t 10 2 fancy another slapping and pant pulling exercise at the hands of a big club.

    Let emery have another few windows to weed out the slackers and try to get a squad that can all sit round a campfire singing kumbyar.

  4. Damon says:

    Agree with pretty much all of that YW

    What I would say though is whilst Huddersfield will be mathematically gone by the time United play them, they do have some fixtures that potentially will see their opponents fighting for their lives. We do too, it’ll depend on the results pan out.

    Makes those last five or six ties either a stroll as their mid table with one eye on the beach or fighting for their lives. There’s always an upset or two when relegation candidates are fighting to stay up.

    Chelsea do look like a stone’s throw from blowing up though. The players have form for downing tools when it all starts to go pear shaped already. There’s no one there no (think Lampard or Terry) who looks like they’ll drag the dressing room out of the doldrums. hurrah!

  5. LSG says:

    A very useful post, YW, for this point of our season. Helpful table that confirms my perusal of the remaining fixtures. I would argue that we do have the easiest run-in on paper. We only have Spurs away—it’s a derby and maybe we can get a point but a loss isn’t thoroughly damaging—and United at home. We have to win that 6 pointer. If we do, we are in good shape if we do what is expected: win at home against lesser opponents and not drop too many points away. Our other challengers both face Liverpool and MU plays City.

    The problem is our proneness to mistakes, defensive porousness, and lackluster performances. But if Emery is any good, he really has a chance to get us into the top 4.

  6. LSG says:

    The humiliation at OT v PSG might have an effect especially if PSG now eliminate them at home comfortably. It might shake a little confidence and help end the Solskjaer effect to some extent. He had a very favorable run of opponents and results in the post Mourinho euphoria.

  7. CorporateMan says:

    My deep worry is with the away games. And we have all 7 of them! If we could improve on our away form while retaining the home record, we could have a good chance of a top four finish.
    Ironically, we need to be in the CL to be able to attract the type of players needed to improve the team – both in terms of quality and our ability to afford them.

  8. LSG says:

    Funny that AW didn’t really back Ozil. He might not have been in favor of such a rich contract.

    Arseblog mentioned on the Arsecast an interesting story that AW, perhaps sensing the imminent decision by the board or recognizing a second successive poor season, preemptively announced his resignation and caught the club a little bit out with the announcement. It was a bit abrupt.

    Theories, implications/consequences, YW? Maybe none of importance, but you m have a canny sense for Arsenal politics, so we’d benefit from your views on this.

  9. Pete the Thirst says:

    It could come down to how we do against United at Home. Hopefully we put in a better showing than the FA Cup game.

    I noticed the cameras lingering on John Terry last night. I wonder if he is being lined up to take over from Sarri?

  10. ferkov says:

    Pete the Thirst,

    Hopefully if so, he’ll do a Shearer.
    Haha. I always think of That, when I’m forced to regard him on motd. P.Rick.

    LSG,
    I too hope that Scums bubble bursts, but they have now turned over Spuds Chelski and US!
    If Pool and PSG do consecutive numbers on them, then maybe we’ll see a dip.
    They still get away with Fergie tactics tho. Hack hard in defence, and break quickly. If the refs don’t come down hard on the former ,then it’s hard to stop the latter.
    Imo and very late to the fray, I felt that’s what we suffered at Bate. And having no appetite or Spine. Ffs who am I kidding

  11. thrillbo says:

    Howdy, thanks for the post good sir and thanks to all of chat here. Love yall!

    Have to add in some praise for young Mateo. Honestly I love his vision and his willingness to battle and push on. He dwells on ball a bit , but he often carries the ball forward at pace before spraying outwide. To be quite honest, I think he has made some brilliant passes this season the kind we havent seen since the cesc->RvP era. Those killer over the top through balls, eliminate all of the defense with a single pinpoint pass, one touch from the striker and slot it home with the chocolate peg-erino. You can see it with Mateo, he gets his head up and is looking for a killer pass… Still i’d sell him, and yes 50mil? Please he is what 19 years old? we should hold them for 75mil or no deal. To be quiet honest though, i’d take 50m right now for the guy. 1 year performance in EPL? I looked up his stats in EPL , not sure if this is right but i dont see a single goal or assist, in any competition??

    RE today’s post… we are in the fight for CL spot definitely but do any of us really have confidence that we can hold steady? I would feel better if we ran a tighter ship defensively but we are not there. Have a feeling that Laca/Auba will need to score us across the finish line this year. Maybe Koscienly will make his cameo at our closing match. A cheeky header to put us ahead on goal difference with manure , slotting us into the 4th spot?

  12. MikeSA says:

    LSG:
    Funny that AW didn’t really back Ozil.He might not have been in favor of such a rich contract.

    Arseblog mentioned on the Arsecast an interesting story that AW, perhaps sensing the imminent decision by the board or recognizing a second successive poor season, preemptively announced his resignation and caught the club a little bit out with the announcement.It was a bit abrupt.

    Theories, implications/consequences, YW?Maybe none of importance, but you m have a canny sense for Arsenal politics, so we’d benefit from your views on this.

    Well it looks like the media were taking a very large chunk of “out of context” with their “quote” from Wenger “on Ozil”.

    To the degree that It turns out that particular comment wasn’t about Ozil at all.

    In fact, when he was asked about Ozil , he specifically said that he didn’t want to comment on situations within the club.

    What he actually did say about Ozil though was that replacing that calibre of player costs around 100m, so paying a large monthly chunk to a player of that calibre who you’ve already got for free is cheaper than buying that calibre of player from another club.

    Mind you, there are some that think the midfield and any creativity from it are just a waste of time, so I guess that wouldn’t register anyway..

  13. LSG says:

    MikeSA,

    Good points. But I thought that the context for those general sounding comments about players after a big contract were asked in terms of Ozil—so implicitly despite not commenting on specifics it might have been fair to read them as somewhat related. I didn’t watch the video, just wondering, if that was the context of the original question?

  14. LSG says:

    thrillbo,

    He has a goal in EL for sure. Perhaps an assist or two as well in EL? But PL, no. Has had lots of chances and some good passes but trails behind several others on key passes, incl Xhaka and Torreira, I believe.

  15. andy1886 says:

    MikeSA,

    Sorry Mike, but if it costs £100m to deliver what Ozil has been producing for the last couple of seasons then football has well and truly gone to the dogs!

    It’s not about what a player could potentially do, it’s about what he actually does. Potential without delivery is worth the square root of sweet FA.

    I get that we could do with some more creativity, but I’m not convinced that he’d deliver it on a regular basis.

  16. MikeSA says:

    LSG,

    Apparently it was in response to a completely different question (7am news have got the whole q&a), so it is the media being more than just a little dishonest (how unusual…….).

    I saw Yw’s favourite publication, the Daily Heil, had an article how “outcast” Ozil had just decided to go off to Turkey and visit a film set there, as if he was away from Colney whilst the rest of the squad were there, slaving away.

    It turned out that Emery had given the entire squad the weekend off to do as they pleased as we are no longer in the FA cup.

    There was absolutely fuckall wrong with Ozil being there, but the Daily Heil made out it was a major “fuck you” by Ozil to the club.

    The media are pushing this whole agenda like ten men, just like they did with Anelka – remember “le sulk”?

    Turns out Phil Thompson from Pool, hardly a shy and retiring sophisticate, said that Anelka was an incredibly polite but very shy young man, and the media just decided to go for him because he wasn’t very interested in talking to them, so they became unmitigated cunts about it.

    Guess what’s happening with Ozil?

    I was never a fan of Joe Kinnear and Wimbledon (latter day Stoke were merely their mild offspring), but when he was at Newcastle and called out a few of the journalists, telling one specifically that he was a cunt, I thought it was hilarious.

    The media tried their best to turn the football public against him for that, but they failed dismally because virtually everyone told them straight back that Kinnear was right, they were all cunts.

    The journalists all sulked like crazy about it and tried several times to get their agenda in, but every time they were just told “no, you really ARE just a bunch of cunts”.

    It was very funny at the time, and well deserved.

  17. MikeSA says:

    andy1886:
    MikeSA,

    Sorry Mike, but if it costs £100m to deliver what Ozil has been producing for the last couple of seasons then football has well and truly gone to the dogs!

    It’s not about what a player could potentially do, it’s about what he actually does. Potential without delivery is worth the square root of sweet FA.

    I get that we could do with some more creativity, but I’m not convinced that he’d deliver it on a regular basis.

    That wasn’t the point he was making.

    He was saying that if you want a player of that level, you pay for it.

    The rest is opinion and debatable.

  18. andy1886 says:

    MikeSA,

    But he clearly isn’t at that level, or anywhere near. Three or four years ago yes, but not now.

    As for Wenger he did his best work on a shoestring, but struggled to buy big money ready made players. While it might look like Emery could be another Bruce Rioch this time around there will be no DB10 (a British record signing) and David Platt to leave if he goes, nor will there be the solid base to work with (quite the opposite). Stanley is more Mike Ashley than David Dein and in the long term that’s what will probably dictate where we go as a club for the foreseeable. That and a cripplingly large wage bill total out of sync with the ability in the squad.

  19. andy1886 says:

    Watching the ‘Pool/Bayern game on RTE as I’m in Ireland. Chippy representing Arsenal on the pundits sofa. Will be interesting to see how Gnabry does. Not sure who I want to win as I don’t like Liverpool but Klopp deserves some success, he’s done a really good job. Not a fan of Bayern either.

  20. Bill says:

    Andy.

    We have a grand total of 2 assists in PL games in the 12 1/2 months since he signed the big contract. I am not a huge fan of iwobe but he has given as much or more creativity and we could get someone from our academy for no fee and probably around 10-20K/week

  21. C says:

    Too bad Arsene didn’t think Gnabry was good enough and now he is flourishing at Bayern. Its funny we always hear about it taking atleast a year to recover from being out 8+ months.

  22. LSG says:

    C,

    Watched him recently—phenomenal young player. Was MOM in destruction of Schalke recently.

  23. LSG says:

    MikeSA,

    MikeSA,

    I went and read the 7am transcription post and it seems he was asked twice about Ozil. First time he said the quote YW has above in his response. The second time he makes the points you raised. So I think it can viewed in nuanced manner as AW speculating that Ozil might have struggled post contract in various ways and justifying a hard decision to give an aging but quality star player such a massive contract because of the difficulty of finding, recruiting and paying for a replacement.

    Of course nuance and balance has not been terribly evident in a lot of discussion about Ozil, but we do try for it here. And I appreciate several things you raise in both comments above. Ozil is the new AW, polarizing Arsenal supporters. Thank goodness we have something to divide us all deeply after AW’s departure!

  24. C says:

    LSG,

    Well he is destroying Robertson at present for fun and putting in some extremely dangerous balls.

  25. YW says:

    Mike

    Ozil, like the rest of the squad, had last weekend off. Others reported the Turkey trip last week so be surprised if he isn’t in training again. Unless he’s knacked his back again, of course.

  26. LSG says:

    C,

    Overall though Pool the more dangerous. Firmino, Keita especially good. Mane a threat, but has to take one of these chances. Bayern not exploiting the absence of van Dijk. But Gnabry looking the best Bayern player so far.

  27. C says:

    LSG,

    Bayern are looking dangerous just last some ditch defending and poor final ball all thats stopping them. Liverpool will always be dangerous when they get space to play in. Keita looking nuch more like the player he was in Germany but MY OH MY what a miss from Mane.

  28. C says:

    Gnabry looks the best or arguably the best player on the pitch.

  29. andy1886 says:

    Much as I like Klopp I have no idea why Origi gets game time unless injuries force his hand. Simply nowhere near CL standard or even a player suited to a top half PL side. Decent game but I can see Bayern nicking it late on.

  30. MikeSA says:

    andy1886:
    MikeSA,

    But he clearly isn’t at that level, or anywhere near.Three or four years ago yes, but not now.

    As for Wenger he did his best work on a shoestring, but struggled to buy big money ready made players.While it might look like Emery could be another Bruce Rioch this time around there will be no DB10 (a British record signing) and David Platt to leave if he goes, nor will there be the solid base to work with (quite the opposite).Stanley is more Mike Ashley than David Dein and in the long term that’s what will probably dictate where we go as a club for the foreseeable.That and a cripplingly large wage bill total out of sync with the ability in the squad.

    “Clearly” is actually your opinion, and that opinion does not seem to have been shared by the Arsenal representatives who signed the contract extension.

  31. MikeSA says:

    YW:
    Mike

    Ozil, like the rest of the squad, had last weekend off. Others reported the Turkey trip last week so be surprised if he isn’t in training again. Unless he’s knacked his back again, of course.

    That was my point, there was nothing untoward about it.

    However, your “favourite” publication, the Daily Mail, sought to make it an issue about Ozil.

    That’s what I was pointing out.

  32. Damon says:

    Watched Bayern last night

    I’d swap Gnabry for any one of Ozil, Miki or Iwobi in half a heartbeat

    On slightly less sour grape notes, but only slightly, watching Pool and taking Origi out of the equation, how many of our first teamers would get into their side ahead of what they’ve already got?

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