Two wins. That’s all we need now to guarantee a place in the Champions League for a 17th successive season. That’s following Everton’s dismal display against Southampton on Saturday afternoon. The Merseyside club were in the driving seat after they beat us but now after their recent losses we’re a point clear with a game in hand ourselves.
Monday evening sees us take on Newcastle United at home. A game which last season saw us win an enthralling clash 7-3 at the Emirates. Last season we also meanwhile faced them at the back end of the campaign. It took a 1-0 win at St James’ to ensure Champions League football and it may well take another win like that against the same opposition for the same outcome to occur.
Newcastle looks like a side that just can’t wait for the season to end, something that should be a huge advantage to us when we face them at home. Following routine wins over West Ham and Hull we now look to have our flow back after a troubling period throughout February and March. It’s no surprise that with Ramsey and Ozil now back in the side we look a completely different outfit. Had Ramsey stayed fit for the whole season then we could well still be challenging for the title. However, finishing in the top four and winning the FA Cup, if we do next month, will still be seen as a great season.
Ever since his days at Charlton, Alan Pardew hasn’t taken a particular liking to Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. It’s always usually a fiery occasion when his team’s take on the Gunners. His supposed hatred for Wenger, although they have mutual respect for each other, leads to an extra incentive for a side managed by Pardew. Both managers are the longest serving in the Premier League. Arsene Wenger has been in charge for over 6,400 days whilst Pardew’s tenure has passed just 1,200 days.
A key figure for Newcastle this season has been Loic Remy. He’ll be looking to cause trouble amongst the Arsenal defence and will be eager to impress having been linked with a move to the Gunners. How he does for the Magpies though will have a key bearing on the game. If he’s isolated then Mertesacker and Koscielny shouldn’t have a particularly tough game.
From the game against Hull, I wouldn’t expect any changes in the starting line-up. Everyone that was fit a week ago should be fit to play whilst Thomas Vermaelen could return to the 18 man squad. Abou Diaby is still short having played for the U21’s in the week whilst Wilshere remains one or two weeks away. Lukas Podolski will be looking to continue his fine run of form out on the left flank having scored four in his last two matches. The German’s overall tally over both seasons of 19 goals and 11 assists is the third best minute per goal involvement in Premier League history behind Aguero and Henry!
As said, our fait this season lies truly in our hands after Everton’s slip up in recent weeks. It’s time to finish the season in style with these final games against Newcastle, West Brom and Norwich. I expect nothing less than 9 points, taking us to a total of 79 for the season. A points tally that would exceed last season’s by six.
By Matt Dawson