Arsenal: Final eight Premier League matches previewed in-depth as race for Champions League hots up for Unai Emery’s Gunners
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Arsenal sit in the coveted fourth spot in the Premier League after having played 30 games. With only eight matches to play the race is on to qualify for Champions League. Layth Yousif previews the remaining fixtures which will shape the season.
Newcastle United (h), Monday evening
The 2-1 victory at St James’ Park back in September was an early indication that Emery’s side possessed steel to go with their evident talent. Goalscorer Mesut Ozil put on a performance which showcased his quality while Granit Xhaka had an influential game which put the Geordies on the back foot from the start. The reverse fixture might be on April Fools Day but there will surely be no surprises in North London as the home side pick up all three points.
[See the Islington Gazette for our in-depth preview of the match]
Everton (a), April 7.
Arsenal’s 5-2 victory the last time the teams met at Goodison Park on Arsene Wenger’s birthday resulted in incumbent Ronald Koeman being sacked the next day after the Toffees slipped into the relegation zone. The Gunners attacking performance was superb with the goals shared around through Nacho Monreal, Ozil, Alex Lacazette, Aaron Ramsey and someone called Alexis Sanchez (who?). Yet the same defensive frailties that blighted the final years of Wenger’s reign were all too evident. More of a pointer was the 2-0 win over Marco Silva’s side in September when an improved second half display sealed the points. More of the same at grand old Goodison a week on Sunday against the Blue half of Merseyside would go a long way to boosting hopes of fourth spot.
Watford (a), April 15.
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Perhaps one of the most depressing results towards the end of the Wenger era occurred at Vicarage Road last season when the Gunners, 1-0 up and coasting, subsided to two late goals, prompting an honest, if naïve Troy Deeney to taunt the Gunners with his now infamous ‘cojones’ jibe. Of course, we all know what goes around comes around in football and the notorious Deeny was mocked unmercifully after Petr Cech saved his penalty at the Emirates in an easy 3-0 victory. The jibe hurt because sometimes it was true. A better indication of where things stand was the 2-0 victory against the Hornets at the end of September thanks to two goals in the last nine minutes through a Craig Cathcart own goal and an Ozil strike won the points, prompting Rob Holding to speak of a winning mentality. The match will be tough against an impressive Watford side currently sitting in eighth place. But whatever happens on the night you’d like to think that against an Emery side no opposition player will again be able to accuse Arsenal of a lack of character.
Crystal Palace (h), April 21.
This match comes three days after the second leg of the Europa Leagaue quarter final in Naples. Will Arsenal be fired up after reaching the last four, or jaded after falling to the Neapolitians. The Gunners faced the Eagles 72 hours after winning 1-0 in Lisbon last October and ran out of steam in an entertaining 2-2 draw at Selhurst. However a point in the rematch may not be good enough.
Wolves (a), April 24.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side’s 1-1 draw at the Emirates was proof this Wolves side are a tough team. Nothing they’ve done in the six months since has changed that opinion and the Gunners will have to be on their game to get anything out of a passionate Molyneux
Leicester City (a), April 29.
Ozil’s best game of the season had pundits purring during the 3-1 victory over the Foxes in a Monday night game at the Emirates in October. More of the same at the King Power will ensure three points and banish the memory of a poor performance in the 3-1 loss to Leicester in Wenger’s third from last match in charge.
Brighton (h), May 4.
The 1-1 draw at the Amex on Boxing Day was perhaps one of the most disappointing games of the season from an Arsenal point of view. Not so much in terms of the point but the Gunners stodgy second half performance after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang put the visitors ahead on the south coast. Three points against Chris Hughton’s FA Cup semi-finalists will go a long was to remedying that.
Burnley (a), May 12.
The Gunners eked out a late 1-0 victory through Sanchez last term at Turf Moor. With Sean Dyche’s Clarets struggling for Premier League survival a repeat of the same result would go a long way to sealing a top four spot.
Follow Arsenal reporter Layth on Twitter @laythy29 for all your latest Gunners news including live updates from the Emirates press box during Monday evening’s Newcastle match