An exclusive Arsene Wenger interview, classic goals, team news and a poll. This is your pre-match briefing ahead of our Premier League clash with Everton.
The last time we headed into the final day of the season outside the top four, a dodgy batch of lasagne is famously said to have intervened.
That was back in 2006, back when we were on the cusp of leaving Highbury and with a Champions League final to look forward to.
OP = Outfield PlayersGK = Goal Keepers
Fast forward 11 years and we once again have a final on the horizon, but our hopes of securing a Champions League place next season look even more precarious.
The permutations are both simple and somewhat complex ahead of Sunday’s last round of Premier League fixtures - as long as we beat Everton.
If we better Liverpool’s result, we will secure a top-four place – but that appears unlikely as the Reds host already-relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield.
We can also reel in Manchester City – who are away at Watford – but only if Pep Guardiola’s side lose and there is a five-goal swing.
The prospect of a play-off for fourth is also not off the table, making for what could be a fascinating finale to the campaign.
“We know we have to win the game,” Arsene Wenger told Arsenal Player. “The only chance we have is to win the game and hope Middlesbrough do the job.
“Overall, for the worst [case scenario] if we win our game [we only miss out by one point] but let’s do the job until the end and see where we stand after.”
HITTING OUR STRIDE
Whether we ultimately make the top four or not, Wenger has every reason to feel satisfied with the way his side have responded to the doom and gloom of February and March.
|Arsenal: Cazorla (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring), Koscielny (calf - doubt) Everton: Stekelenberg (groin), Lennon (medical condition), Funes Mori (knee), Coleman (leg), McCarthy (hamstring), Bolasie (knee)|
A fine run of five wins in six games was extended on Tuesday night as we eased past Sunderland and made it four victories on the bounce, and the boss is pleased with the momentum we have generated – especially with an Emirates FA Cup final around the corner.
“[What I’m happiest about is] the fact that we maintained the focus against Sunderland, because we played three difficult games on Sunday, Wednesday, Saturday,” he said. “We had to finish the job in the fourth game. That is always very difficult.
“As well that, even if we were frustrated at half-time, we kept going and in the second half we maintained the pressure again. Our pressure became stronger and we were relentless for the 90 minutes.
“The confidence is higher, and the confidence creates easier connections between the players on the field. Overall that is something you always look for, to get the team to that stage.
“After that it is important to find a good balance between confidence and urgency, not to become too easy but I don’t think that will be the case. We play against a big team and we want to finish the season well, so I think everyone will be on board.”
CECH SETTING THE STANDARD
With Alexis going for the Golden Boot, Mesut Ozil rejuvenated and Granit Xhaka delivering some eye-catching displays, it is perhaps no surprise that Petr Cech’s fine form has gone under the radar.
But the goalkeeper – who turns 35 on Saturday – has been essential to our recent run. He made a magnificent save to deny Yaya Toure in the Emirates FA Cup semi-final, before thwarting Riyad Mahrez from close range as we beat Leicester City.
Cech was our man of the match in the north London derby after making a string of brilliant stops, and made two vital first-half saves against Sunderland on Tuesday night.
Wenger knows exactly how important Cech is and he insists there is still plenty more to come from his No 1.
“You have examples like Edwin van der Sar, who had similar stature, who played until 40 and played until 40 with top-quality performances. So yes, I think Petr has a few more years left,” the manager said.
“He has recently been very sharp. We have three world-class goalkeepers in my opinion and that maintains the focus of everybody. Petr has recently had some great performances.
“He’s highly focused and very professional. You do not make a career like he has made by coincidence. All that of course is always a consequence of the attitude to be a winner, the attitude every day to push yourself. Overall I think it’s fantastic to have people like that at the club.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
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Referee: Michael Oliver
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