Well, what can we say other than how nice it is to see the squad playing cohesively once again. Of course, as Arsenal fans we’re extremely wary of false dawns, but somehow this feels a little different. The question now is can we push on and keep the momentum going. In other words, can we make it into Europe?
Should we be excited?
Okay, so let’s talk about tempering expectations and the whole false dawn thing first. The midweek match was against a team that has accepted its fate as relegation fodder. The way things have gone for us in the past, this match could have easily been a major banana skin. Norwich are still a Premier League team that have a capable defence and striker and beating them so soundly is certainly cause for excitement.
Aubameyang, in particular, impressed with his tenacity and vision while Granit Xhaka is still on an upward curve. So yes, we can get excited about beating ‘lowly’ Norwich, but we should bear in mind that there are tougher tests to come.
The run-in sees us up against Wolves (away), Leicester City (home), Spurs (away), Liverpool (home), Aston Villa (away), and Watford (home). Of those six fixtures, only the last two are games that we can feel nailed on to get three points.
Six points behind Man United in 5th, we have to hope that the teams above us suffer some blips along the way. Realistically though, if we are to qualify for Europe, we’ll have to take a minimum of 12 points from the remaining games. Not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. However, with Pogba and Fernandes starting to find their groove as a midfield pairing, it’s hard to imagine United dropping too many points. In fact, if we were to amass the 12 points mentioned, we would need United to get no more than 4 points from their final six games. Highly unlikely.
So as heartbreaking as it is to admit, qualification through the league is completely out of our hands. So that just leaves the FA Cup as our only realistic hope for qualification. And to be fair, it’s more realistic than you might think.
The FA Cup route
Man City are the opponents and Luiz will no doubt be back in defence once again. But we’re taking a more positive stance on this than some other websites might. Luiz had an absolute nightmare at the Etihad. Poor judgement on two occasions and he left the team in the lurch. But fresh from signing a new contract and despite second-guessing his decision to join, he’ll have something to prove.
The FA Cup also represents our only chance of winning silverware this season whereas our opponents have the league cup and are still in the Champions League. Arteta will have learned from his mistakes at the Etihad and we fully expect to see a much more competitive Arsenal this time around.
So can we win it? The truth is, there are no poor teams left in the FA Cup but Man City are arguably the strongest. Beat them in the semi-final and confidence will be sky-high going into the final. Neither Chelsea nor United instil any sense of fear and to be honest, both defences aren’t up to much this season. Harry Maguire turning at the speed of the Titanic is still our favourite analogy of the year.
City are the biggest test yet and IF we pass that one, we have an amazing chance to lift a cup and qualify for Europe in the process. Chelsea already showed us that even with their frailties at the back, they were a match for City’s supposed greatest attacking threat ever. Sterling was nowhere in that game and even De Bruyne (amazing free kick aside) was kept relatively quiet but for a threatening 15-minute period in the second half.
So can we qualify for Europe? Why the hell not? With Aubameyang finding his scoring boots once more and Xhaka commanding the midfield, we should be more than a match for City and whoever we may face in the final.