Arsenal are hot and are playing possibly their best football of the season. On Tuesday, they host a relegated and humbled Sunderland side in what looks to be an easy contest. However, we know at this point you can take nothing for granted this season.
This Match Matters, But Less So Than Three Days Ago
Stoke was a critical match for the Gunners and they came out with a dominant 4-1 victory. But, Manchester City also escaped with a victory over Leicester and Liverpool again gained all three points. So Arsenal still sit in fifth, still the same number of points back from a Top Four spot but with one fewer match to make up ground. And while Arsenal passed what might be their easiest remaining match, so did the two clubs they are chasing.
As we know, in football anything can happen. Boro can trip up Liverpool despite having nothing for which to play. City can be schizophrenic so anything can happen to them. However, the Gunners were the beneficiaries of luck last season with Spurs implosion that allowed them to finish second. Luck isn’t limited to one year, but it’s dangerous to expect it to keep repeating.
Are Others to Blame?
In his pre-match press conference, Arsene Wenger took aim at clubs with less to play for changing their intensity from match to match. He mentioned in particular how peculiar it was that West Ham could upend Spurs one week then get thrashed by Liverpool the following. The latter, of course, was a major blow to Arsenal’s chances at a Top Four spot.
Wenger noted without irony that if Arsenal win their remaining matches, they will finish with 75 points or nine more than City needed last season to finish fourth. Using strictly that metric, he’s right that it is odd that Arsenal could not finish in the Top Four and something outside the club is to blame. However, that would be to ignore some other obvious factors. Yes, it is unfortunate – some would say unfair – that Arsenal’s rivals are facing clubs that in some cases have had nothing to play for in weeks. That said, you win two more matches instead of drawing them, or even better losing them, and you are the beneficiary of an easy schedule.
Predicted Arsenal Starting XI:
The biggest question is what will David Moyes do during or after this match to further call his contract into question. Only one of these clubs will have something to play for, and it may or may not be in front of a large number of fans. Regardless, Arsenal continues to roll with a 3-0 victory.