Back to Premier League matters after our dramatic Europa League Semi-Final first leg win over Valencia at The Emirates.
We play our final home game of the season versus Brighton and with spurs losing against Bournemouth, it gives us an opportunity to take the battle for third place to the final day of the campaign.
Four points behind our neighbours, we must look forward and forget our previous three league games – all losses and in the most dire fashion – and instead take inspiration from our heroics against Valencia on Thursday.
We will want to end our home campaign in suitable fashion, but Brighton will prove to be stubborn opponents, and could still be in danger come kickoff. All will depend on the Crystal Palace Vs Cardiff fixture being played mere hours away as this is written. If Cardiff fail to pick anything up from the Eagles, Chris Hughton’s men will be safe from the drop and the pressure will be off. That would make it easier for us, as the Gulls dug in for a point against Newcastle last weekend with a resolute defensive show.
Unai Emery and his men will no doubt have one eye on the second leg of our Europa League semi-Final against Valencia this Thursday, but that approach will see us out of the reckoning for the top four. We need every man focused on our remaining games. If we win our two league games left, we should have enough for Champions League qualification.
Who can Emery count on?
Our Spanish coach could ring the changes with Thursday on the horizon. Legs will be tired, so rotation could well be on the cards. The trouble with that is when we did this last, we lost.
Laurent Koscielny was taken off early on Thursday, but should be fit for selection. Emery may well give him a spot on the bench to save the Frenchman for the second leg, leaving Shkodran Mustafi the most likely man to come in to replace Kos.Carl Jenkinson could also come in at right-back.
In midfield, Matteo Guendouzi and Granit Xhaka started against the La Liga side, so Lucas Torreira could come into the side, leaving Guendouzi on the bench. Alternatively, Mohamed Elneny is another option.
Alexandre Lacazette is in red hot form, but with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in for a shout of the Golden Boot, he will be eager to start this game. Mesut Ozil could do with another game, although Mkhitaryan could start and Emery could save the German for Valencia.
Player to Watch
Gross’ goal against Newcastle ended a run of more than 700 minutes without a Brighton goal. The big man steps up for the Gulls when it matters. He provides decent link-up play, and is a threat in the air. If we keep Gross quiet, Hughton will be bereft of his main threat. That requires our defence to be switched on at set-plays.
How This Could Go
This could be a tense affair. So much hinges on if Cardiff can beat Palace the day before. If Brighton are still in danger, they will chuck everything at this game.
That could see them want the result more than us, who may have their minds on preservation rather than all-out victory.
If we play like we do normally at home, then we will stretch them and our strikers will do the rest. Dunk and Stephens though, will give our star men a severe workout. They are among the best in the league as a partnership at the back. We will need our playmakers to be creating and scheming in order to get past the duo.
Keep things solid early on, try and lure out what will be a stoic midfield and defence to create space, and then exploit. If we let them bed down two rows of resistance, then it could be a long ninety minutes.
Predicted Lineup – Leno, Jenkinson, Mustafi, Sokratis, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan, Iwobi, Aubameyang, Lacazette
Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal