Arsenal’s 5-1 thumping of Bournemouth stated the team’s intention of finishing fourth in the final Premiership table – or even higher. The title race is a foregone conclusion as it will go to either Liverpool or Manchester City, both of whom, given their current form, have unassailable leads. But what’s wrong with The Gunners aiming for third place?
The North Londoners rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of Burnley, followed by a hugely disappointing performance (only if you’re a Spurs fan of course) against Chelsea – Arsenal’s second main rivals after Manchester United for the fourth (or third) place slot.
Tottenham face Arsenal this weekend, and they still have to play Liverpool at Anfield and Manchester City at the Etihad. Although they step up their game a little when they meet the better sides, it really does look like they have lost their bottle, and if they carry on dropping points, it can only be to the good of Arsenal.
Most impotantly – if Unai Emery’s men can beat Spurs, they will be only one point behind them with all to play for.
The Gunners have already played Liverpool and City, so that is to their advantage in terms of vying for a fourth or third place finish. The next crunch game in achieving their bid, on the assumption that they can humble Tottenham, will be when they entertain Manchester United at the Emirates of the 10th of March.
Many soccer pundits seem to have accepted that Tottenham will finish in third place. But the rivalry between the two North London clubs is part of the fabric of the game, and if the Gunners can take that third-place spot at the expense of their neighbours, that will be sweet indeed if you’re a Gooner.
So, with everything to play for, Arsenal must be prepared to take what’s on offer and win both games – first against the Lily Whites and then against the Red Devils.
Tottenham are there for the taking. Pochettino admitted when they lost to Burnley that his team are now out of the title race. After the ensuing defeat by Chelsea he has now told the world that Spurs are ten years away from being real title contenders. With Spurs’ moral at an all-time low, now is the time for Arsenal to assert themselves.
But Emery needs to get his tactics right, and one of the questions uppermost in many peoples’ minds is whether or not his will pick Mesut Ozil in his starting eleven. Ozil had a terrific game against Bournemouth. He opened the scoring himself before setting up Henrikh Mkhitaryan to score and he was the main contributor of making the team tick.
Emery was quick to recognise Ozil’s performance when he said how much he helped to seal an emphatic win with his quality and work.
Given the underwhelming start to Arsenal’s opening form this season, no-one would have thought they would now be challenging for a fourth or even third place finish. We mustn’t also lose sight of the fact the Gunners are still in with a chance of winning the Europa League.
Making all this happen won’t be easy. But if they can, as suggested by former player Laureano Bisan-Etame Mayer, (more popularly known as simply Lauren), it will turn an average season into an excellent one and it will grant them a place in next year’s European Champions League.
From Unai Emery’s point of view, coming in after the exit of Arsen Wenger was no simple task. If his team does land a third-place finish and lift the Europa League crown, it will have been a more than satisfactory start to his reign.