One last chance
So here we go. Nine months of pain and pleasure (mostly pain, let's be honest) all comes down to one final ninety minutes in West Bromwich. If someone had told you after the humiliation at Old Trafford, and the defeat at Blackburn, that Arsenal would have Champions League qualification in their own hands going in to the last game you would have taken it. Conversely, if someone had told you that would be the scenario as we went in to the Wigan match a couple of weeks ago you'd have been wondering how the season could collapse again quite so quickly. It's been that kind of a season I suppose. Now the players simply must rouse themselves to put together a proper performance at The Hawthorns. This group has put the supporters through the mill this season, and they seriously owe us a win on Sunday.
The team news is that Theo Walcott looks like being fit for the game. Just how fit he really is I don't know. I would also question whether it's even worth bothering with Theo if he is any less than 100%. After Gervinho's performance last Saturday, and the fact that Oxlade-Chamberlain must be champing a the bit for a game right now, as well as Yossi Benayoun, we are not short of options in that position. What I would really like to see is a switch to the 4-4-2 that saw us create a plethora of chances in the last fifteen minutes last week. We have to win, and our defending is awful, so why not just go for it? I know many would question the point in bringing in Marouane Chamakh, but he is certainly due a goal! We all know that a change in formation is most unlikely to happen.
At the back we have the problem of how to fill Bacary Sagna's position at right-back. I can see Arsene bringing in Carl Jenkinson, but I would far rather see Francis Coquelin continue there. The energy and pace of Coquelin will be needed in such a game so I see no point in bringing in a lad who hasn't played in weeks. There was a rumour earlier today that Wojciech Szczesny might be injured, but I've not seen anything else about it so I hope it was just a not very funny joke.
West Brom have their own problems. They will be missing their skipper, Chris Brunt, and Jerome Thomas is also doubtful, which might dent the attacking side of their game slightly. Having said that they do have Peter Odemwingie fit again and he has damaged us in the past. Paul Scharner is also fit for what looks like being his final game for the Club. I have always rated Scharner, who will give us no end of trouble at set-pieces, and also with his strength and power in midfield. They also have Ben Foster in goal, and we all know how he has been inspired against Arsenal on the big occasion before - we owe him some real punishment after Wembley last year.
Arsenal have a pretty average record at West Brom. This being Roy Hodgson's final game in charge is another thing that could go against us. Their players should be really up for it, as will the crowd, as they look to give Hodgson a good send off. What we need is for our players to prove, for once, that their words about Pat Rice can be backed up with actions on the field. We simply must win. There is no other option. The consequences of not winning do not bear thinking about.
I'll post a match review on Monday morning when, hopefully, we will be celebrating a place in the European Cup, having finished above that mob from up the road. Please God let that be the case.