All the talk in the last week has been about Lukas Podolski, but the German's goals, power and deadly left foot cannot do anything to help us at lunchtime this afternoon. The two remaining games of the season for Arsenal will decide whether the new recruit and his Arsenal colleagues will take a place amongst Europe's best next season.
Tottenham and Newcastle sit in the long grass one point behind, waiting for an Arsenal slip before they pounce. Two victories will assure a clean get away but failure to do so will mean that fate will not be in our own hands,
As Arsenal are the only one of the Champions League teams to play today, it is a great chance to put the pressure right back onto our challengers.
I always get rather nervous when all and sundry write off our opponents, whether that be due to form, quality or both. How many times have we seen a team lose to everyone they face until it comes to us. We stick on the shades and the fluffy slippers only to leave the field red faced and have to hear half our squad talk about complacency in the post match interviewers. In a game of such importance, complacency would be utterly criminal. I trust that this more mature Arsenal side will be far too sensible for that.
While we must respect our opponents today, we should be good enough to score more goals and concede less than our opponents today and we have to go out and do that.
If we do what we need to do then third place can be wrapped up if Aston Villa can take something from their game against Tottenham. Has anyone told Alex McLeish that Tottenham don't like it up em? McLeish seems to think that is the way to go about beating Arsenal so it will be interesting if passing team Tottenham get similar treatment. A victory for the Villains will keep them safe for this season so just in case they were not aware, I think they should go out and do all they can to get a result. Newcastle United whilst in wonderful form have to face Manchester City who have the title in sight.
Back to us, Arsene has stated that we will have the same squad as against Stoke City minus a calf strickened Abou Diaby.
We have not played two direct attacking wide forwards in the same game since we beat Aston Villa at home in early March, that day Gervinho and Walcott terrorised Villa. I would love for us to be that direct today and really go at Norwich from the start. That would mean Oxlade-Chamberlain starting on the right and Gervinho on the left of Robin van Persie. I suspect Yossi Benayoun will retain his place in the team and if you are going by his last performance you would have to say fair enough.
The only other possible selection choices would be Santos over Gibbs as well as Francis Coquelin over Aaron Ramsey but I see neither of those changes happening, so I assume the same folk who started at Stoke will do so again this afternoon.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
We have not quite been at our best in recent weeks but we have played well enough in patches to have beaten all of our opponents since our 1-0 victory against Manchester City. I just hope we do not look back at the end of the season and beat our hands over our foreheads when looking back at Koscielny hitting the crossbar against Chelsea, van Persie having his header saved at Stoke or Gervinho not connecting with a cross in the same game.
At least we are currently in the position where we can look forward and ignore recent results. As Arsene would put it, at top level sport you want to be in the position of your own destiny and we can do that. Those behind us cannot do the same and would love to be in our position.
What would be fantastic is the Arsenal support providing the energy that the players can feed off. We are best when we play at a high tempo and we often play at that tempo when the crowd are on song.
They will have something to cheer about as Pat Rice has his last home match alongside Arsene Wenger as he prepares for retirement at the end of the season.
Thank you for everything Pat. Often overlooked, he has given so much to this club since his playing days to all his hard work on the training ground today. Let us hope the players give you the send off you deserve.
Three points today, nothing more, nothing less.