Until it is mathematically impossible, Arsenal won’t give up their fight for a place in the top four. They go into Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur just five points behind Manchester City in fourth, but with a game in hand.
However, they are 14 points adrift of their city rivals and that will sting just as much as missing the top four.
Anything but a win at the weekend for Arsène Wenger’s team could have a double blow as the expectations would be on City beating Middlesbrough at the Riverside.
Since moving to the 3-4-3 formation, Arsenal beat Boro and Leicester City, and beat Pep Guardiola’s side 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final. Wenger’s biggest injury concern surrounds French defender Laurent Koscielny and it will have huge consequences.
The Gunners coach admitted that there was a 60 per cent chance the former Lorient centre-back would feature after he picked up a late knock against the Foxes. Without Koscielny, it makes it hard to play with three centre-backs.
Wenger also confirmed that Shkodran Mustafi would continue to miss the next two weeks due to an on-going injury.
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) April 28, 2017
Arsenal would be left with Nacho Monreal, Rob Holding and Gabriel. Wenger was full of praise of the young English defender, but it would still be a risk:
“I believe he has a great future because he’s very intelligent and has a very objective analysis of his own performance,” said the Arsenal boss.
“The biggest part in the improvement of a player is to be capable of analysing his performance in a very objective way, [be] a little bit harsh, and I think he has that in him.”
Outside of the back three, Wenger will need to decide whether to go for Francis Coquelin or Aaron Ramsey in the centre of the midfield and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain available again after he was kept on the bench on Wednesday. It will be between the Englishman or Spanish full-back Héctor Bellerín on the right.
Who would make your XI if you were in the Gunners’ hot seat?