Saturday, 23 May 2015

It could be a strange one…

Having secured 2nd place on Wednesday night without kicking a ball and thanks to a 0-0’er at the Emirates; with Southampton needing points to increase their chances of a European placing - depending on how the F.A. Cup Final plays out - tomorrow’s last game of the season could be a strange one.


Foot off the pedal? Give youth a chance? Swan songs?

It could be the most difficult predicted line-up I’ve ever had to make. Our team Captain will be pushing for a start in the last game of the season; this could be both Milner & Yaya’s farewell, it IS Super Frank’s farewell and there’s a good argument – and some rumours – that we’ll see an EDS player or two at some stage.
Will our manager rest Pablo Zabaleta ahead of the Copa America; putting Bacary Sagna in his place? Hart & [also Copa bound] Aguero will want to mark their Premier League Golden Glove & Golden Boot awards respectively with appearances – and I’m sure Aguero will start – but we might see Willy Caballero get a rare Premier League start on Sunday.
There are likely to be 2 European places up for grabs at least but, I understand, if top-4 finishing Arsenal also win the F.A. Cup against Aston Villa then 5th, 6th AND 7th place would get you a place in the Europa League competition. To be sure, though, The Saints will want to take all 3 points tomorrow and hope that the Spurs game at least goes their way.
With Southampton thumping Aston Villa 6-1 at home last Sunday and wanting one of those Europa spots; weaken the team too much and / or take our foot off the pedal and we could end the season – and a 5-game winning run – with a defeat…not that it’ll matter at all placing-wise for us.

Recent last games (all notably at home!)…

Forgetting – and brushing over as quickly as possibleseason 2012 / 2013 where we finished 11 points behind a certain team from Trafford and, like this season, had already secured 2nd place; the last game of the seasons either side of that runners-up year have proved to be so very vital in terms of needing points [to win the league].
It’s notable, then, that on the last game of the season in between those two league-winning years; not needing any points to secure 2nd we lost 2-3 at home to Norwich.
I’m sure this one won’t be an anti-climax – and I believe the Club are planning some kind of well-deserved Tribute to Frank Lampard’s long and fruitful career - but it might be a little flat in some ways tomorrow afternoon.

v Southampton

Predicted line-up, subs and outcome…
Subs: Caballero, Clichy, Sagna, Mangala, Navas, Bony, Iheanacho
In Pellegrini’s ‘presser’ Manuel Pellegrini seemed clear that the game against the South Coast men was ‘business as usual’ and that he won’t be changing the team; wanting to finish the season with a win, which would make for a strong & impressive 6 in a row.
So I’ve shied away from picking Willy over Joe but I am, however, going for ‘The Engineer’ to make a minor change to the back 4.
Kolarov – another player who may be saying his goodbyes tomorrow – should get rewarded for three back-to-back 7/10 performances; something I don’t think I’ve EVER been able to say since he arrived at our club almost 5 years ago!
However, someone who definitely didn’t have a 7/10 game at Swansea City last Sunday – a player who STILL seems to have plenty of errors in him and who scares the hell out of us City fans despite some slight, overall improvement in recent weeks – is Eliaquim Mangala. I’m going for the French defender to drop to the bench as Vincent Kompany joins Martin Demichelis and makes his first start in weeks following injury. Zaba to keep Sagna out again.
No Fernando through injury and so (for me the inconsistent) Fernandinho to keep his place alongside Toure’s possible last game for Manchester City. Same midfield [as last weekend] then…as our main attacking trio of David, Frank & James back up lone striker Sergio.
Just one change then from last Sunday in my predicted line-up; ‘an 11’ that contains at least ONE sure-to-be deportee [to America] and quite possibly 4 others in Aleks, Fernandinho (depending on our incoming midfield plans), Yaya & James. God I hope Milner stays!
A bench with no central midfielders, which contains a keeper, 3 defenders, a right winger (although ‘floating’ as he did against The Swans he looked more menacing in my opinion) and 2 strikers; one of which is EDS’ Kelechi Iheanacho…a very exciting prospect for me.
Of the bench, with regards to departures…I just wonder if Willy, Bacary & Jesus will be leaving also?
I can understand Willy wanting to play (much) more, although we’d then have to bring in another threat to ‘pressure Joe’ again, which has worked a treat this season!
I hope Bacary doesn’t go – I think he’s a decent player; one which Arsenal fans were very sorry to see leave. But, once again, I could understand if he wanted to leave after very limited chances, which is even more surprising when you consider that Pablo – apart form the last few weeks – has had a below-par season by his very high standards.
I can see Navas going though. For all his pace his end product is so frustratingly poor and with rumours gathering pace by the day that Raheem Sterling is heading to East Manchester; although the ex-QPR & England man prefers a more central / forward role he is essentially an attacking right-winger and, therefore, I can see our Spanish flyer heading back home.
Back to the game…
Notable absences: Fernando & Nasri (both injured), Dzeko & Jovetic (both not selected)…and more departing names in that little section too I’m sure.
Weather forecast: Cloudy start to the game but becoming brighter in the second half. Temperature is a non-May-like "high" of 55F with a fairly brisk West-North-Westerly breeze.

Result? I like the Southampton team and they can really hurt you when they attack. Very organised too.
But we’re at home, we’re playing really well and although there’s a ‘no motivation’ factor about this one for us; with the exact opposite applying to the opposition I can see them coming to attack…and that’ll suit us.
They’ll be goals at both ends, I think, but it's the home side who’ll score more.
Thanks as always for taking the time to read!
I’m sure they’ll be very little time if any to ‘draw breath’ before the transfer window starts and, whilst trying to avoid ‘spewing out’ the same stuff that’s already out there, I will be joining in the ‘transfer madness’ of course (although I do often look forward to a summer, footy 'refresh-break' myself).
They’ll be a purchase of a new, detachable-screen laptop in July (my first ever - ooooOOOOooo...) and so regular readers will know that this will help me to fill in some Blog-posting gaps whenever I go away. However, I won’t be getting this before a week’s holiday starting on 6th June and so I make my apologies now for a break in postings at that time (to about 15th June).
Although, due to a rather agreeable change in my work situation I will have PLENTY of time to Blog from July onwards, which will be a genuine pleasure!
Thanks once again for checking in.

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