We’re only nine points off the top with four games left. It can still be done! Failing that, we now need to secure fourth and hope that maybe Chelsea slip up enough that we could perhaps nick second and avoid having to qualify for the Champions League. It really would have helped if Everton weren’t an absolute abomination against them on Thursday, but their next two games are Manchester United at home and Newcastle away, while ours are at home to Reading and away to Derby. The pressure’s off us, and that has to be six points. It would take Chelsea drawing against Newcastle and losing to United, which is feasible, and then second place would go down to the last game if we managed to win our next three. It’s unlikely, but it’s the last thing we have to go for this season. We also need to improve our offensively bad record of two wins in thirteen games just for the sake of ending the season with some sort of high morale. We’re five points ahead of Liverpool, and we should pick up enough points against Reading, Derby, Everton and Sunderland to finish third at least, which is an improvement on last season.
We need an emphatic victory. The fans have been subjected to two months of, two games aside, absolute torture and disappointment. It’s been the end of season collapse to end all end of season collapses, and now that the pressure is off we need to pick up some wins so that the fans stop preparing the nooses in the crowd. We need to get behind the players and show them we still love the team, and the players need to pick themselves up after two high profile defeats and give the fans something to smile about. We can’t really fall into the inevitable end of season lull when we have nothing left to play for, we’re not completely clear of Liverpool and we can still finish higher than we are, which would mean more money for Arsene to not spend.
We’ve beaten Reading four times in four attempts in recent history. Of their last sixteen league matches, Reading have won only three, losing eleven and drawing two. They’re still fighting for their Premiership survival, they’re only three points clear of Bolton and if results go against them they’ll find themselves in the bottom three after this weekend. They’ve only managed one win and three draws on the road all season. Reading’s goal difference is the second worst in the league.
Sagna didn’t make it to full fitness in time for the Manchester United match and won’t be back for this game. Maybe Everton next weekend. At this stage of the season it doesn’t really matter too much, but he certainly improves the side and it would be nice to see him play again before the end of the season. Flamini is out for a couple more weeks. Rosicky could not only miss the rest of the season, but the European championships as well. Which would mean his injury, which according to Arsene is "strange, but not bad", could see him out for at least six months after the Newcastle game. Ludicrous. Diaby is banned for one more game following his red against Bolton. Lehmann will keep his place in the first team with Almunia being declared unfit for this match. Denilson could return to the squad after an injury, Hoyte won’t be involved at all as he has a hamstring problem. Not sure how the defence will work, we could go with Toure at right back again with Song or Senderos at centre back, or Eboue could move to right back, Toure moving into the centre with Walcott playing right wing. Who knows.
Subs: Lehmann, Traore, Denilson, Eboue, Bendtner.
Reading don’t have any significant absentees, they’ll be at full strength.