The final 7 games in their premier league season will decide whether or not Arsenal rejoin the sport’s elite, in the prestigious Champions League. On paper, it looks like a good run-in compared to their competitors, but there are still spots that could prove sticky for Arsenal before the end of the season.
I want to start by saying that the club has shown spectacular improvement, beyond what I thought possible for one season’s work. Of course, there are still issues to be addressed but Arsenal is a club in evolution. The most important thing is for us to be stepping forward, not remaining stagnant.
At the start of the season, I wrote about realistic expectations. Champions League qualification was at the tip of those expectations, however, it still comes as a surprise to see them in such a strong position heading into the finalities of the Premier League. They’re not quite there just yet. Something tells me there are still a few twists to come before the end of the tale.
Underneath the bubble of excitement, there is a scalding reminder that Arsenal can still feel the burn of disappointment. As fans, we know it all too well. I’m sure that Emery and his team have identified potential sticking points in the mission to achieve a top-four finish, though some things are not always in your control. As we are all aware, football is equally beautiful and cruel in its unpredictability. So where could it all go wrong?
Let’s start by looking at the fixtures. Everton (A), Watford (A), Crystal Palace (H), Wolves (A), Leicester (A), Brighton (H), Burnley (A). Out of those 7 games, five of them are to be played away from home. It is well documented that Arsenal struggle on the road. Since the turn of the year, Arsenal have won just two games away from home. Which is not a good record at all.
Considering the teams the club will be playing on their travels, it looks like there could be a few points dropped. Wolves did us a big favour on Tuesday night, beating United 2-1, but it also struck fear into the Arsenal fans who have to watch their team travel to the Molineux. Arsenal need to be getting at least 15 points from these games. This is not the time for the club to lose their bottle in games they really should be winning.
Upcoming games aren’t the only point of concern either. The squad is two or three injuries/bans away from a crisis. Sokratis has proven his worth and ability as our only true warrior at the back. If Arsenal were to lose his presence in defence, it would make for even more uncomfortable viewing.
Next up is Xhaka. A player that receives a very mixed bag of feedback from fans. Personally, I think he is one of the most important players in the squad. Though he is probably the lesser miss of the three I will mention, his dictation and leadership are critical to the push for a top-four finish.
Finally, and perhaps this will come as a bit of a shock to some of you Gooners, is Kolasinac. The Bosnian has five assists to his name this season and has created ten big chances. Since Bellerin’s season-ending injury, Kolasinac has become one of the main production lines in Unai Emery’s Arsenal. The team have been working with an awful lot of cutbacks this season and most of the chance creation is coming from these wide areas. Kolasinac has proven a vital piece to the puzzle going forward for Arsenal this season. Without his overlapping runs and cutbacks to the area, I fear we will begin to see a breakdown in the team’s creative play. Not what you would want coming up against the kinds of Wolves who are already a difficult team to breakdown.
Having said all of this, here we are. At the brim of the pressure pit. Exactly where we wanted to be, and it was always going to be nerve-wracking. We’re in pole position and it will be a racing finish. I’m positive heading into this last stage of the season. I feel like a top-four finish is ours, but that also means it is ours to lose. This is what we live for as football fans. Enjoy ladies and gentlemen. We’re in for a bumpy ride.