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Fill em up, its the end of the road (sorry river). Fillem v Arsenal.

By Phil Gregory

And here it ends, the final week of Premier League football is upon us. We’re away to Fulham and whilst reliant on City to stumble for us to slip back into fourth place, but the real drama of the day is at the bottom of the table. Fourth place wouldn’t be a disaster but it would be a disappointment. Out of all the teams, we put together the strongest challenge to Manchester United and could yet sit fourth in the table on the final day. That would be hard to swallow.

On injury news, there’s unlikely to be much changing for the final game. Fabregas is out, while Clichy Nasri and Diaby are subject to fitness tests and we’d be “lucky” according to Wenger if they were involved. With little riding on this game I can’t imagine us taking any gambles, so I assume none of that quartet will be involved. Will we give some of the kids a run out? It seems unlikely with third place a possibility, but perhaps we’ll see a couple of new faces on the bench, the likes of Miquel and Henderson potentially.

Szcznesy

Sagna Vermaelen Koscielny Gibbs

Song Wilshere

Ramsey

Walcott Van Persie Arshavin

I expect the team to be largely as expected. Szcznesy plays in goal, with Sagna at rightback and Gibbs in for the injured Clichy at leftback. The main area of interest will be centreback, in regards to who is paired with Vermaelen.  The Belgian international is clearly our top centreback, but it remains to be seen who will be paired with him next season. Against Villa he was paired with Squillaci due to injuries to the other centrebacks, and earlier on in the season he played at Liverpool with Koscielny until the Frenchman got a ban for two yellows. Given the emergence of Djourou is this season, who will be paired with Vermaelen next season? This game might tell us, but with Djourou a doubt for the game, any decision may not be completely indicative of where Wenger’s thoughts on the matter lie.

Further forward, Song is paired with Wilshere in front of the midfield. The young England international is still in the headlines due to his under-21 call-up, and it seems bizarre how Capello doesn’t prefer giving Wilshere a rest with Euro2012 in mind the following summer. Arsenal’s sports scientists have apparently put together some evidence illustrating to Jack and England what will happen if he doesn’t get a rest. Credit to Jack for wanting to represent his country, but sometimes you have to make decisions for the long term. He wouldn’t be sacking off England, he’d be doing it as a necessity to ensure his quality is there for the Euros.

As an England supporter, I’d rather we rest him with the Euros in mind, while as an Arsenal fan I’m worried he’ll have an injury hit season next year. The problem is obvious: Pearce wants to take the best players he can with him, as any U21 success is great for Pearce’s CV. Unfortunately, he’s forgetting it is a squad aimed at development of players, and should look to assist the full England team rather than hinder it.

Further forward in the line up, Fabregas’ absence means Ramsey continues to deputise. The attack is likely to be Arshavin on the left given Nasri’s injury troubles with Walcott on the opposite flank and the sublime Van Persie playing through the middle. Van Persie is an unbelievable player: out for three months and still right at the top of the Premier League goal scorers table, and that’s not even considering his fantastic passing and build-up play. Tevez has scored plenty this season but only around twelve Premier League goals if you don’t consider penalties (in my view open play goals better reflect a striker’s contribution versus that of other strikers). Berbatov leads the table but cannot get a game for good reason at Manchester United, and the value of his strikes is limited by the majority of them coming in the same games. Unless Van Persie runs riot, we’re likely to see a weaker candidate taking home the Golden Boot.

Onto this match then. Fulham don’t have much to play for – bar the chance to equal their highest-ever league finish if results go their way – given they’re well away from the relegation scrap and almost certainly in Europe thanks to the Fair Play table. With little to play for I imagine they’ll be the most sporting of gents to ensure that European opportunity, and what a story it would be if Fulham were in Europe again after reaching the final superbly under Hodgson recently. It’s a shame the Europa League is so undervalued (Spurs recently announced they plan on playing the kids in it…) it’s a European trophy for crying out loud!

Part of the problem in my view is that it is not financially rewarding (I would siphon off some of the Champions League money to augment the Europa prize fund if it were up to me), not to mention the crazy distances the competition can involve travelling. Perhaps a restructured qualifying round where you have a Western and Eastern European qualifying stage (though the former would be harder surely?) before the two come together for the group stages. Or just simply guarantee both the finalists a place in the Champions League group stages… that might get Clubs’ attention.

Anyway, I’m rambling now. Not to worry, seeing as it is the final day and all. Erm, Bobby Zamora is a great front man and Danny Murphy can play a good pass, so we should watch out for those pair as both are fit. They have a couple of absentees such as Duff and Dembele but nothing too major. I’d really like to end this with a win, so fingers crossed for a 2-0 to the Arsenal (Van Persie double)

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7 comments to Fill em up, its the end of the road (sorry river). Fillem v Arsenal.

  • Nitesh

    i would really like to see lansbury play in this game, like last season. i think he is back from his loan spell, isnt he??

    further forward, if van persie scores it would be 9 consecutive away matches in which he has scored, no wonder the blokes at MOTD havent picked up on that !!

  • Dark Prince

    Btw, if Van Persie scores even one goal, he will equal the premier league record for the most number of goals scored in any league since 1st jan. All his 17 goals came after 1st jan. The record is held by Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo at 18 goals.

  • happygoonerdays

    chamack instead of shava he played well when he came on v villa shava has no confidence lately

  • Nitesh

    @Dark Prince
    why not go for the jugular, score 5 goals and become the league’s top scorer??? 😀

  • Dark Prince

    @Nitesh- Both Tevez and Berbatov stand at 20 goals each, not 21, bcoz the league disallowed one of their goals each, which was deemed own goal by the opposition team. So technically, Van persie needs to score only a hat-trick to win the golden boot award. Though by scoring 21 goals, he’ll be the outright winner of the golden boot.

  • Nitesh

    Nah seriously now, i think fulham as always will provide us with a fight. last season they rested half their team for the europa league final but this time round they will put up a much more improved fight. i, personally cant see them scoring off a set piece (except for hangeland) whatsoever our defensive woes may be. zamora is a tricky player, but it will be more of the runs that the wingers make in behind him off the long balls that will pose a problem. arsenal would do well to start with chamakh ahead of van persie to enjoy the freedom between fulham’s midfield and defence, and also give a rest to wilshere before he heads off to the u-21s.

    Sczcezny
    sagna koscielny vermaelen gibbs
    ………song………
    ………ramsey…….
    walcott van persie henderson
    …….chamakh……..

    lansbury to come on later on.

  • mikeyb

    Well – an utterly underwhelming season in which our defenders (in the broadest sense of the word) have cost us everything. Wenger has faith in them but then again he had his day six years ago – You will not win anything conceding 43 goals. I believe this is the worst season under Wenger and with the garbage he has been coming out with I expect nothing to change in the summer. 12 points behind the winners – no progress at all.