By the time we kick off at 1.30pm on Sunday, we will know a little bit more whether our “miracle” will come true. Manchester United play West Ham on Saturday and should they win that game, the chances of us winning the League will be firmly stuck at 0%. This may create a low atmosphere for Sunday’s game and the final lap of the pitch. Shoul
d they lose it, well, there is still a miniscule chance of us winning the Premier League. This should provide motivation to get past Everton.
A loss for Manchester United and a win for us would leave us 1 point behind with one game to go. That would require a further dropping of points when Man Utd visit Wigan. To give us a chance, we need United to pick up only 1 point due to their superior goal difference. It may seem like I am clutching at straws and to tell the truth, I am. It is hard to see Fergie allowing his side to pick up only 1 point from the next two games. Both are very winnable and they have home advantage in one of them.
Should the situation arise where Man Utd do drop points and we win, there is still a reliance on Chelsea. We will not know how they have done until Monday evening. Due to their far lower goal difference we can afford two draws for Chelsea. That would leave us level on top, as long as we win our last two games. This really is sounding more and more unlikely with just two games left. We can dream though; it gives the Everton game that bit more importance.
Emmanuel Adebayor was rather too hopeful in his statement of how real our chances were. It may well have been a plea to the fans not to give up, as well as a tiny boost for the players as we go into the final two games. Wenger was rather more cautious in his review of the situation. He was also rather more realistic. The chances are miniscule, but stranger things have happened.
Whatever happens, I ask all Arsenal fans attending on Sunday to support the side in the final home game. Oh, and please do not leave before the parade. It was pretty embarrassing last year when so many fans filed out of the stadium way before the players even returned to say thank you. It was a message of disappointment and one of ungratefulness.
Wenger may well leave his team selection until after the United game. If that game results in a United victory, he may well try out a few new options and partnerships. If West Ham come away from Old Trafford with some sort of result, Wenger has no choice but to go for it. As he did against Reading, he will have no choice but to field a very strong side if there is even a small chance of us winning the title.
A strong side is likely to be the same on that started against Derby. Adebayor would replace the injured Van Persie. The news on Robin is that he is not going to play as a precaution. Hopefully they just want to send him away to Euro 2008 in mint condition. The only worry for me is that this injury is more than just a niggle. His track record suggests that a precaution could rule him out for around a month. I fear he will go away to Euro 2008 and suffer further injuries. The backroom staff must be careful over the next few weeks.
Apart from that change it would be the same team and hopefully it could continue where it left off at Pride Park. We had a more clinical side to our play on Monday but still were wasteful at times. Everton will be far more secure at the back and we will have far fewer chances during the game. Everton have something to play for and that prize is pretty high for the blue half of Merseyside. Villa are in hot pursuit for the 5th place finish. They need a draw at least to give them some space going into the final game.
Everton have players to hurt us in attack. Yakubu is a handful for any side and we will have to defend far better than we have done recently. Against Reading we looked vulnerable but managed to hold out. To concede two goals against Derby is pretty embarrassing. They have only scored 2 goals in two league matches this season; our match being one of them. There were alarmingly big gaps down the centre of our defence and even Derby cut a wave right through it. Everton have players to unlock this door and we must be wary of this as we attack.
There were a few aspects of our last game that pleased me. First of all, we got wide at every opportunity and looked to stretch the opposition. With the quality of our passing game, when we get the ball wide and move it in and out, we are a massive threat. Gaps open up when we move the ball at speed and add variation to the play. At times this season, our play has become far too narrow and defending is made far simpler for the opposition. The inclusion of Walcott created this width as we had Theo on one side and Eboue on the other. Eboue may be ineffective in games, but he does get wide which has its benefits.
The second thing that encouraged me was the midfield support to the strikers. In particular, Cesc Fabregas got forward at every opportunity. It was great to see him marauding forward in search of a goal and it creates more options for other players. He can open up defences and is even more potent the further forward he gets. Again, Theo Walcott improved this aspect of our game. His striker’s instinct means he wants to join the attack and his pace and directness is so fresh to see. If these two can reproduce the same sort of performance on Sunday, the goals will come.
Nicklas Bendtner had his best game for the club against Derby. he took his goal very well and linked up well with the whole team at times. I am interested to see if he can produce the same sort of performance against a largely team. He worked well with Adebayor when he came on and the relationship between Nick and the rest of the squad seem to be better. He must build on Monday’s performance as it proves nothing against Premiership’s worst ever side.
Should the result for Sunday have no meaning whatsoever, Wenger may elect to have a look at some other people. As it is the last home game of the season, he will not want to lose. A final flourish at home will be a reward to the fans who have seen their side throw away a 5 point lead. Any changes will be small and there will be one or two at the most.
One thing I would like to see in the game is Traore on the left wing. I know Theo was a real threat cutting in from the left but he has been awesome on the right recently. His pace can get in behind defences and he gives the side balance out there. Eboue is poor and still has not even scored this season. He managed to fall over and get injured when presented with an open goal against Derby! Traore has recently made the switch to a winger for the reserves and rave reviews have alerted Wenger to this option. He has pace, skill, crossing ability and a powerful shot on him. It would be worth a go to see him on the right.
The others could come off the bench. I would like to see Gibbs and Barazite ready to come on. This way, if the result might matter come the end of the season, Wenger can field a strong side while having the option to bring young players on if the game is going to plan. Barazite has flourished in the reserves this season and could come on up front or on the wing. Bendtner and Adebayor do not always work well together and Wenger may want a way to change this in the game. Walcott could move further forward with Barazite or Gibbs moved to the wing. That is one option for Wenger to consider and it would be exciting to see one of these two promising players on the bench.
Subs: Almunia, Djourou, Gilberto, Barazite, Eboue/Traore
Whatever Wenger decides to go with, he will want to continue our good run until the end of the season. He was correct on his statement that we were probably one win away from being Champions. We need to put out the message that we will come back better and stronger next season. Everton is just another pre season match for the next campaign.