Whoever is writing the Arsenal script right now is doing a great job of putting up obstacles for us to overcome. Just as Arsenal are enduring a torrid time of it, facing big defeat after big defeat against the heavyweights of the world, they come across plucky underdogs Lincoln City. It should be a straightforward victory for the mighty Arsenal, but never underestimate the effects of damage confidence and an existential crisis.
Such is where Arsenal are at right now. We’ve won only twice in our last seven games and a game that would have been straightforward two months ago now looks anything but. We need the team to be itching to get back on track but when they look at the fixture list and see its Lincoln rolling into two next they’re probably not going to be too hyped.
Illness may have something to do with that as well. Wenger confirmed in his Thursday press conference that a bug has been in the camp. It’s knocked Ozil out of commission for a while, and seems to have spread to Welbeck and Iwobi too. Who knows who else has picked it up. It’s not an excuse but I wouldn’t be surprised if half the team wasn’t operating at maximum capacity.
It’s all set-up for Lincoln, then. Sutton United was a difficult game if only for the unfamiliar surroundings that would have been uncomfortable for the pampered elite. Lincoln present a different threat, as a team not only pushing for promotion to League 2, but also one that has already gone to a Premier League ground and won. They won’t be intimidated by a failing Arsenal team plagued with illness and playing in a tense stadium that could go off at any misplaced pass. Luke Waterfall, one of their defenders, even believe some Arsenal fans will want Lincoln to win.
I’m sure those fans are in the minority. A lot of fans will expect a comfortable victory. It would be nice after a miserable February, but right now the priority is getting this game out the way and progressing to the semi-finals of the cup. Nobody at the club can afford a slip-up here.
After our mid-week exertions I imagine a couple of first team players will be rested. Ospina will likely keep his spot in goal, and I suspect Gabriel, Holding and Gibbs will come into the defence for Bellerin, Koscielny and Monreal. In midfield, the game could be an opportunity for Ramsey to get more minutes after his return from injury. He’ll likely line-up alongside Coquelin, who didn’t start the game against Bayern. In front of them could be an attacking trio of Lucas, Reine-Adelaide and Chamberlain. Giroud will probably spearhead the attack.
Whatever the situation surrounding the manager and certain players, and no matter how bad things seem to be, it’s vital the fans get behind the team for this one. The players will be nervous and will know how important a victory will be. Hopefully, everyone will realise that we’re a win away from a cup semi-final at Wembley and prioritise that ahead of anything else.
As for the team, hopefully they realise the same thing and put on a performance people can be happy about. I’d certainly be pleased if they replicate the first half against Bayern; if they went at Lincoln with real intensity and pace. If, for once, they overwhelmed a weaker team and showed the difference in class. It might not last long, and ultimately people will say its only Lincoln City, but we’re overdue some cheer.