Right, third place is now secure. Seeing as United ended our vague, vague hopes of the title, it’s now time to start sacrificing goats and things to make Chelsea royally screw up. They take on a Newcastle side in good form on Monday, and play Bolton in the last game, a side who could also be involved in a last day battle to stay up. Although at home you’d expect them to win that. We need them to draw against both sides. Maybe a Champions League hangover could hit them this weekend, then maybe they’ll slip up, and second place goes to the last day. Would certainly be interesting. But you’d expect them to be on a high after their Champions League semi final triumph, and with the title still a possibility for them they’ll be fully motivated. It’s our fault we’ve fallen to where are and are having to pray for another side to mess up in order for us to finish higher than third, after being five points clear a couple of months ago. Everton’s fifth place finish isn’t completely secure and they’ll be going for the win.
Wenger said this week that he thought that the loss at Old Trafford is what cost us the league. While I can see what he is getting at, it’s draws that have cost us far more than two high profile losses. We’ve drawn eleven games this season and lost three. United have drawn just six, and lost five. I’m not entirely sure what significance I was expecting that stat to have, but if we had won a few and lost a couple of those eleven draws, we could be top now. When United are drawing, you see them going all out for the victory, and while occasionally it means they might lose in a game where they over commit in attack, they’ll probably win more than they lose. There were home games this season where the score would be equal with half an hour or so to, and you didn’t see the absolute avalanche of attacks that you wanted to from our players. We would keep the same pace as the rest of the match and it would result in a draw. Win four, lose four and draw three of those eleven draws, and we’d be top of the league right now with seven losses to our name.
Everton have only won one of their last seven league games, and that was a victory scraped at home to Derby. They proved tough against us last season, but we beat them comfortably this season in a rather bizarre encounter and we really need a win this time, to end the campaign on a bit of a high in front of the home fans, and to keep our chances of finishing higher than we currently are alive. A win sees us a point behind Chelsea before they travel to St. James’ park, not a straight forward place to go to, and perhaps the pressure could get to them.
Everton have been one of our favourite teams to play in the Wenger era. We’ve beaten them eighteen times, drawn three times and lost four of the twenty five meetings between the two sides in all competitions. Two of those four losses have come at Goodison Park in the two seasons prior to this one. Everton have been our visitors for the last home game of the season twice before, in more celebratory circumstances than this one will be. The draw at Ashburton Grove last season broke a run of eleven consecutive home victories against Everton in the league.
I may have been hasty with my comments before the Derby game that Flamini is out for the season, it is suggested that he’ll be back in the squad for this game. Maybe for a farewell performance in front of the home crowd. We’ll have to wait and see about van Persie’s injury, considering he was able to score with said tight hamstring it can’t be that bad, but then again it is van Persie. After suggesting he might rest the European Championship players for some of the remaining games, he proceeded to start all of them against our easiest opposition of the last three, and rest Adebayor. So I have no idea what team he’ll go for this time, you’d assume Adebayor will be back starting, we’re of course without Rosicky, Sagna, Hleb and Diaby. For the last home game of the season he should go full strength, whatever that is with the players we have available, maybe rest some players against Sunderland if second place is definitely no longer possible by then.
Subs: Almunia, Senderos, Denilson, Gilberto, Bendtner.
Everton miss Tim Cahill and James Vaughn for the end of the season, but will welcome Mikel Arteta back to the starting lineup after injury.