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Looking for a safety net

Looking for a safety net

Since the Bayern defeat in midweek, the Arsenal fan-world has truly been split into 3 categories. One which still has the full belief and trust in Arsene Wenger, one who will only continue to support the manager if he changes his way and one who wants to see a new regime. After all that he has done for the club, any change from now till the end of the season is highly unlikely. That part of the change, if any, will have to wait. For now, the concentration remains on the focus of the team primarily in the Premier League.

It was about this time last season that we embarked on a good period of the season where we won most games. A period which was crucial to us finally clinching that 3rd place spot in the league. So far this season, we’ve not seen the same run being achieved by the squad. We do need to go on one, now. The matches that are coming up includes Villa (H), Spurs (A), Everton (H), Swansea (A), Reading (H), WBA (A), Norwich (H) and Fulham (A). That are the fixtures right before the match against United. Bayern return leg is somewhere in there but ……

That’s 8 games in there and 24 points on the cards. On one hand, even if we win all those games and United don’t play any of those 8 games, we would only be 3 points ahead of them. That’s how far apart both teams are in the league. However, 68 points could potentially put us in good stead heading into the last 4 games of the season. However, judging by the way we’ve played this season, it would be almost impossible to get 24 points. Somewhere around 18 – 20 points would be considered a good haul by the team.

The main thing is to create momentum. One that takes us into games full of confidence as well as creating fear in the opposition. Which puts great pressure to Spurs and Chelsea who will no doubt look down the table with a little bit of trepidation. The time for rest is over. Every single one of the main players in the team will have to stand up and be counted for. It is each individual’s responsibility to ensure that we achieved at least another Champions League qualification. If the players themselves are adamant that Wenger is not at fault, it’s bloody time they do something on the pitch to help their manager.

A home match against Aston Villa is the start of that run of games and it is one which we absolutely cannot drop any points. Paul Lambert’s side had a horrible turn of the year period where they suffered huge deficit defeats. However, they have since recovered and have put in some strong performances in the league. Highlighted not least by that 3-3 draw at Goodison Park. That said, no less than 3 goals have been shared in their last 4 matches. Combined that with the thrashings they got on either side of the New Year, it is a wonder how we only managed a 0-0 draw with them, the last time around.

A combination of Fabian Delph, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Barry Bannan, Simon Dawkins and Yacouba Sylla normally forms Villa’s midfield. No matter which combination is selected, no reason why we cannot dominate them. Even if Lambert decides to give Stephen Ireland another chance, it would still be very upsetting if we cannot overpower and overrun their midfield. Even if ours was a combination of Aaron Ramsey, Emmanuel Frimpong and Abou Diaby. On talent alone, we would win but football is not made that way.

Should the team not be prepared and come up with full concentration and desire to win the the game, then Villa are going to give us a lot of trouble. If the team thinks that by turning up, the game is won, then tonight’s game is going to be unbearable. We’ve heard Wenger speak about the problem countless times and if we are still unable to remedy it, then we can count today as when we let the Champions League spot slip.

The older, more experienced heads in the team will have to ensure that in our search for the win and sending more and more men into attack – that we need to remain responsible at the back. Christian Benteke is dangerous if we allow him the time and the space to pick his runs. I’m glad that we have a specialised left back returning for the match. The more players we use in their preferred position, the better.

It will be hard for the squad to shake off or ignore what have been said in the press and/or by the fans in the past week. They will all know that the manager is under a lot of pressure because of the last 2 defeats. If the players still believe in Wenger, then it is up to them to perform and win the game for the manager. If they don’t, then I suspect the relationship chain has been broken somewhere. Let’s hope, that’s not the case………yet.

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