Fourth Place Trophy Inside the Opposition Special: Arsenal

City get one last swing at beating a top 6 team this season with Arsenal’s visit on Sunday. Are City fans confident? No, not really. Every time City have come up against an important Premier League game the team have folded like a house of cards.

With fourth place in the balance this game is vital. City simply must win. From the red corner we have Lee Hurley of Dailycannon to take us through the opposition…

Coming so close to the end of the season, this game was always likely to be a crucial one for both of our teams. Speaking for City, I think that we probably expected it to be something closer to a Premier League title decider rather than a Fourth Place Trophy decider. Is that what it looks like at your end? Has Arsenal’s season been as disappointing as City’s?

I think ours has maybe been more disappointing, as at least you had a Champions League adventure (not sure how that will turn out as I write this). Then again, we probably all think our own woes are worse than our rivals. I think I was hoping it would be a title decider more than expecting it. I’ve been an Arsenal fan too long to have many expectations at this point, other than they will ultimately do something stupid and let you down. Fourth place trophy, yay!

Wenger has come in for a lot of stick recently – as well as one of the limpest protests since our fans decided that they were just fine with paying whatever the owners wanted us to pay, forever. It is difficult to imagine an Arsenal without Wenger anymore. Is next season the one where he leaves or will he still be in charge? Do you at Dailycannon still want him in charge or are you #WengerOut?

Until this season we were very much Wenger In but it’s hard to deny that the team are just stale and he doesn’t seem to be able to get out of them what he needs to. I want nothing more than to see him turn it around, I just don’t think he can any more. He’ll stay, but not past the end of the season when his contract expires, unless he wins a treble or something. Even then, it would probably be best to move on and let someone new build on his foundations.

I really like Santi Cazorla. He is a very good player. He’s broken ranks a bit and said that the team’s mentality must change if you’re ever going to win the Premier League again. How right is that in your view? And how crucial is Cazorla to the team? He’s getting on a bit but I wonder if he’s one of those players who will have a few years more in his prime than most?

He’s totally right. We have a team of bottlers who seem to look to someone else to take the lead when they are struggling. Cazorla is vital. In fact, you could point to his injury and the decline in Arsenal’s fortunes as cause and effect. We’ll never know, but if someone could go back in time and keep him fit, I’d bet money on Arsenal not falling to pieces (as much).

The Arsenal defence seems to be in as much  of a state as ours currently is. Per Mertesacker cannot be long for this world, Koscielny is getting on, Gabriel must be… interesting to watch every week for an Arsenal fan and Callum Chambers is nowhere to be seen. Your strength at full back with Hector Bellerin and Nacho Monreal is obvious but can your centre hold against the likes of Sergio Aguero, kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfried Bony (only joking on that last one)?

Gabriel! When he came on against Norwich I ran a poll asking if he’d score an own goal, injure someone or score the winner. Most people wanted to pick all three options. He’ll be playing on Sunday and has more pace than Mertesacker, but his decision making will make it incredibly nervy for Arsenal. It was notable how many people’s first thoughts when Mertesacker got injured was that Gabriel would have to face Aguero.

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Calum Chambers has been injured from what I can work out. Arsenal ‘vanish’ players at times and you never know what’s going on, but his appearance with the u21s tells me he’d picked up a knock. He’s a great player, far better than many realise but he’s not quite ready to be a first-team starter. As for Mertesacker, he maybe has another season at the club but as backup. We definitely need another centreback, but we said that last summer too.

Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere… I’ve never been fully convinced by either. Do they have futures at Arsenal? Surely neither will go to France this summer?

Wenger has to sell Walcott this summer and he might just do it. He’s been benched for a while now and offers very little when he’s brought on. No tears will be shed over his sale. Wilshere has a future at the club, and Wenger will stand by him through many more injuries. A new manager coming in in 12 months might not be so forgiving. Neither should go to the Euros but Wilshere probably will.

On a similar note, Olivier Giroud – he’s another who has never really looked top level, though he will go to the Euros this summer of course. What are your thoughts on him? Is he the danger man for Arsenal this weekend?

He’s a weird forward. Sometimes he’s really good, sometimes he’s really bad, but most of the time he’s just good. Nothing exceptional. His confidence, however, is made of the same stuff as Jack Wilshere’s ankles. I do feel he’s generally underrated but he’s had an awful second half of the season this campaign. No, he’s not our danger man this weekend. I’d be surprised if he even starts.

What would make a successful summer for Arsenal? Surely this is the year that the obvious problems in your squad are addressed?

A successful summer is all players returning from the Euros in one piece and Arsene Wenger splashing some cash on at least three established players. We need a goalscorer and a centreback at the absolute least.

We’ll probably get a 16-year-old French attacking midfielder or something stupid. Attacking midfielders are like crack to Wenger.

There have been rumours of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain coming to City. Normally I’d file that in my special bin shaped filing cabinet but they seem to be recurring in a way which makes me suspicious – not an obvious ‘transfer saga’ but just bubbling along nicely. What are the chances of that do you think? Do you want him to stay at Arsenal or would you be happy to see him leave?

The Ox has massive potential but has regressed somewhat over the past 18 months or so. Of course, he wasn’t helped by picking up a serious injury, but it has been worrying. Southampton’s Jose Fonte recently said he spoke to Alex about coming back to the Saints and said he’s happy at Arsenal. I’m not that fussed either way, to be honest.

Will the 2016/17 season see Arsenal Fan TV put out of its misery?

Ha! You know, I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched it. Others from Daily Cannon do and I hear reports, but it’s not my sort of thing. Other fans love it, though and I think we’ll see more sites doing this sort of thing than less.

Predicted score and lineup?

2-1 Arsenal solely because of your midweek commitments in the Champions League and Arsenal are due to turn up for a match as it’s been a while.

Santi Cazorla will be back in the squad but I’m not sure if Wenger will take a chance on starting him given he’s been out since November and played just one game with the u21s.

Cech – Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal – Elneny, Ramsey – Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez – Welbeck

Or if Cazorla starts, Ramsey will move to the right, where he’s less effective, Sanchez will swap to the left, where he’s less effective, and Iwobi will drop out as the kid is knackered.

Thanks Lee, and good luck on the weekend! 

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Written by Alex Timperley

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