It’s not quite the end to the season we hoped for. Recent form put paid to qualifying for the Chanpions League through the top four; three costly defeats in a week and then last weekend’s draw ripped the heart out of that ambition.
As Unai put it after Thursday’s win in Valencia, “We had two possibilities. One is Premier League and we lost“. Too often away from home is what he didn’t say. Stupid games as well. No disrespect to Southampton and West Ham, but we need to be winning this games – Everton too – if we are to genuinely challenge for the top four.
One of the contributing factors is squad rotation and tactics which Emery hasn’t always got right on the road. It’s not very reassuring to read his comments post-Valencia when he opined that he will “decide with the players who are hungry and in good physical condition to play this match.”
I understand the latter thinking but the former? Even the crappiest player at the club will be hungry to play but it doesn’t mean it is right to pick him.
It looks as if Unai knows what to expect from Burnley given his observations about their recent performance against Chelsea. That’s a positive but doesn’t mean we will cope with it.
Essentially, everything Burnley are good at is a weakness for us. Emery came up with a novel solution: “we need to defend well in these situations.” A pity we didn’t try that earlier in the season; who knows what we might have achieved…
As it is, we now find ourselves needing a win to be sure of fifth. Or hope that Manchester United continue to implode. I don’t know about you but it’s hard to believe the latter will happen again.
The league placing does matter to some extent. It is a small tangible if you are looking for signs of improvement year-on-year. Measuring league positions is something of a fool’s errand; you only have to look at City and Liverpool to realise the variables at play each year which render the comparison moot.
Crucially, football’s foibles may impact on our money-spinning summer tour. How ICC organisers will react when a bunch of teenagers pitch up to play Real Madrid in the States while the first XI is playing some obscure Eastern European team. We’re Arsenal, it won’t be a short trip to somewhere like Scotland, Wales, etc.
That becomes reality if we lose, United win (both entirely plausible outcomes this afternoon) and City balls up in the FA Cup final (they have form in this one). Maybe that’s what the club needs to happen for Kroenke to loosen the purse strings? Not that I expect him to invest but to approve some borrowing to fund a summer splurge.
That’s become complicated with Mkhitaryan’s agent Mino Raiola being banned by FIFA for three months. Or one transfer window, if you like. The one in which there are strong rumours that the club was looking to move the Armenian on to free up wages. Of course, he could cut Raiola loose but is Mkhitaryan that desperate to leave? A healthy wage and comfortable life in London? It’s the same circumstance as Özil whose agent made it clear his client isn’t leaving until 2021.
It’s that time of the season.
On a positive note, the club is reportedly ready to begin talks with both Lacazette and Aubameyang over new contracts, two players who earned themselves new wage deals. Perhaps they could sign off with a couple of goals each at Turf Moor?
Which brings us full circle to this afternoon. Finishing the season with a win gives us a bit of a ‘bounce’ through to Baku, which might be the only way left to get there. And that is contrived a link to this as you’ll ever find:
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.