April and May are the final two months before the summer break. We have a lot to play for and – unlike all our rivals except for Liverpool – we are still alive in two competitions. Nine or ten matches, depending on the outcome of our game against Reading at Wembley, are ahead and we have every right to expect a lot of good things in the forthcoming period. Almost all our players are back from the sidelines, we’ve won the last nine out of ten games in the league and fourteen out of the last sixteen in all competitions, we are not a one-man-team and we are no longer a prey in big games. Let’s see what we can expect from the forthcoming fixtures.
Liverpool had been the 2015 in-form team before Manchester United gave them a painful punch in the face. The North-Western derby produced more than one blow for Liverpool as they lost a duel against a direct rival for a Champions League place, Steven Gerrard will serve a three-match-ban for a stupid red card, Martin Škrtel earned himself a rather stupid three-match-ban and Daniel Sturridge picked up a hip injury that will keep him off the pitch for a month. At the moment, Liverpool’s season can be saved with success in the FA Cup so my guess is they’ll focus on their tricky FA Cup Replay against Blackburn. To paraphrase Gerrard, the Champions League place has slipped away.
Prediction: 3:1 victory for us with goals from Giroud, Cazorla and Alexis. Coutinho will score a consolation goal for the visitors.
Burnley have over-performed this season but that hasn’t been enough to keep them above the relegation zone. Despite the fact they haven’t lost at either Etihad or Stamford Bridge, they face a tough battle to the very end to retain their Premiership status. We had a lot of problems opening the deadlock in the reverse fixture but in reality, it should have been a comfortable 5:0 victory for us.
Prediction: 2:1 victory with a come-back – Ings to give the hosts a lead before Welbeck and Ramsey restore the order.
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Chelsea will be a difficult fixture even if they stretch their lead ahead of Manchester City. It’s not just that Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho, it’s the fact we haven’t scored once in four matches since the big-mouthed Portuguese returned to Stamford Bridge. Their form has been in decline but even in those circumstances they have lost just three matches in all competitions this season. Also, the match against them will take place just after our game against Reading in the FA Cup where we have huge pressure to deliver a victory.
Prediction: 1:1 draw, Eden Hazard to score from a dodgy penalty before Theo Walcott’s late equalizer save us a point.
Hull City think we owe them a lot for the FA Cup Final in which they scored the first two goals of the game and the fact we escaped a defeat in the reverse fixture thanks to Danny Welbeck’s injury-time equalizer will probably give them an additional motive. We have a lot more quality though and teams like Hull – with rare exceptions like the one in the reverse fixtures – have been a gun-fodder for us lately.
Prediction: 3:1 victory, goals from Welbeck and Giroud either side of Ben Arfa’s equalizer, Cazorla to put the game to bed.
Swansea have been a bit of a jinx team for us since their return to the Premiership – each side have won three times with a draw at the Emirates in March 2014. We have won just once at the Emirates against them in the league – a lucky strike from Andrey Arshavin following a blunder from Michel Vorm in 2011-12 – and if there was a team that have beat us fair and square this term, it was Garry Monk’s side.
Prediction: a surprising 1:1 draw, Özil to give us the lead before Sigurdsson’s equalizer.
Manchester United have been on the up since we won at Old Trafford in the FA Cup. It seems Louis Van Gaal has found the right formation, brought Mata back to life and handed the key to the attack to Wayne Rooney. It could be the right time for The Red Devils to reach a Champions League place. If Manchester United lose at home to Manchester City (they have lost in that fixture for three years in a row) and away to Chelsea, they might be further behind us and hopefully with a goal-difference that will be far worse than ours. We might be comfortable in third place and too far from second by the time we play at Old Trafford so that game might mean a lot more to United as our focus will be more on the FA Cup Final.
Prediction: 2:1 defeat, goals from our two nemesis Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney for United, a consolation goal by Santi Cazorla.
Sunderland have been one of the worst teams in the league this term. Like it wasn’t bad enough to concede eight against Southampton in the first half of the season, they tried to match it by conceding four against the not-exactly-free-scoring Aston Villa side at home. Former Chav and Spud Gus Poyet was sacked and the man with the punniest name in a lot of European languages Dick Advocaat has been given a difficult task to keep The Black Cats in the Premiership. In order to do that, they’ll have to grind out as many points as possible until the end of the season. They should endure another humiliation at the Emirates though.
Prediction: 4:0 victory for us, goals from Giroud (2), Özil and Chamberlain.
Finally, West Brom with our old pal Tony Pulis will be our final opponents at the Emirates for the second season in a row. In one of the most boring dead-rubbers ever, we won 1:0 thanks to Giroud’s header last term. This time round we should provide a fine warm-up for the FA Cup Final with a victory that should seal third place.
Prediction: 3:0 win, Rosicky to score the opener before Alexis and Cazorla’s penalty score the last goals at the Emirates for 2014-15.
If things aren’t overcomplicated, we would retain our current third place:
3.Arsenal 38 23 8 7 76:38 77
Reading have been fully focused on their FA Cup campaign and they will leave their heart and soul on the pitch to beat us. Even if the clash against Reading in the 2012-13 League Cup doesn’t raise the alarm against complacency (we won 7:5 after being four goals down), our experience last year against Wigan should. Reading also knocked Bradford, the surprising winners against Chelsea, out of the competition. Still, we should have enough quality to beat them comfortably.
Prediction: 2:0 victory, for once we will deserve a victory at Wembley within 90 minutes. Alexis to score the opener before Koscielny’s header to secure progress to the final.
Liverpool have to win two games before they reach the final – Blackburn away and Aston Villa at Wembley – but their quality and the whole Steven Gerrard birthday that will coincide with the FA Cup Final should give them the edge over both teams. They should have all their best players available for the final though which means we could have a very tough battle ahead of us.
Prediction: 2:1 victory for us, Özil to score the opener before Alexis doubles our lead. Sterling to give us a nail-biting finish but the trophy will remain ours.
So, third place and an FA Cup trophy. Would that constitute a good season for you, Gooners? Feel free to comment below!