Malaysian Gooner, Ooi Kin Fai, assesses Arsenal’s upcoming EPL fixtures and how they can book a spot in the Champions League next season after an emphatic four-game winning streak
Another week of Premiership action passed by and it’s time to assess the possible implication of those matches played. Arsenal continued their fine form as they picked up a fourth consecutive win - a first this season. This in truth, also speaks volumes of the kind of season that we’re having.
The win, played a day before the other top-four-spot challengers play their respective matches, sent out a strong message and increased the pressure on the rest. While Chelsea were able to give Paolo Di Canio his debut defeat in the Premier League, Tottenham and Everton played out an entertaining draw at White Hart Lane.
Only two points separates us from both Chelsea and Tottenham, with the latter already played one match more. This puts our Champions League future in our own hands. If we win our last seven matches, then we are confirmed a top-four finish. Fourth only guarantees a qualifying spot but such is our seeding and we’re only likely to face a weak side.
Due to Chelsea’s involvement in the FA Cup, by the time Tottenham take to the field to play in the Premier League again (against Manchester City), Arsenal would have already played three league matches. Potentially, we could build a seven- point gap from Spurs by then. That would be massive and further send doubts into the minds of Andre Villas-Boas’ side.
The first of those three fixtures will have to be played with an enforced change in the defence that has served us well in our current winning run. Per Mertesacker’s red card at the Hawthorns meant that he will serve his suspension against Norwich. The big German’s presence will be missed as the back four seemed to have developed a cohesive working unit.
Mertesacker was unfortunate to see red for a clumsy challenge on Shane Long against West Brom.
One’s loss is another’s gain as club captain, Thomas Vermaelen finds his way back to first team football once again. The Belgian has been a major let down this season with some very poor performances and hopefully the time served on the bench would reignite the fire within him to find his best form. There’s no doubting the talent that Vermaelen possesses but even with his experience, there’s a certain rashness in his game which must be eradicated.
How we fare in the next three matches is likely to be dependent on the contribution of Saturday’s hero in Tomas Rosicky. There are some players whose presence makes the others play/work better. The Czech is one such player and for the second season running, he has come in and made an impact in the last period of the season.
It is obvious when you compare videos of us playing with and without Rosicky. Whenever he’s on the field, we automatically pressed higher and prevented the opponents time and space to pick their passes out of the defence. The other players seem to take the cue from the effervescent Rosicky and press accordingly. The only way the tactic will work is if everyone works along the same path.
With him and Santi Cazorla working in tandem, we have more variety in our game and creativity from two separate sources. The former, likes to drive forward and make the quick passes while the latter tends to draw opponents in before releasing a free player. It makes the opposing team harder to mark us out of the game and when we click into gear.
We had to dig deep to find the result at West Brom, repelling the pressure thrown by the home side after the red card incident. In such cases, it helps when the team with less players on the field has someone up front who can hold the ball and ease the pressure on the defensive side of the team. Unfortunately, Olivier Giroud proved that he is hardly the man for the task.
Now is not the time to talk about transfers but hopefully, questions will be asked about that come the end of this season. For now, things are certainly looking good for Arsenal.