Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Norwich City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, April 30
12:30 p.m. EDT, 17:30 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Jones
    • Assistants: Richard West and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Kevin Friend
  • Reverse Fixture: Norwich 1 - 1 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 4 - 1 Norwich (October 19, 2013)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 26 Arsenal wins, 11 Norwich wins, 19 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-D-D-W-D
  • Norwich's League Form: L-D-W-W-L-L
This pretty much encapsulates our season.
I'm not going to lie, I just Googled explosion GIFs and one of
the first ones that came up with this Michael Bay-ified
Arsenal GIF. I think what's most enjoyable is that the the goal
they're celebrating won a fourth round League Cup tie.
Now that Arsenal and Sunderland played out their fourth scoreless draw in the last six years, there's not much I have to say here. Most Arsenal fans just want this season to be over, while some have at least been able to take some schadenfreude in Tottenham's draw with West Brom that has all but handed this year's title to Leicester City with three games to play.

But, let's remember that these remaining three games are not dead rubber for Arsenal. The Gunners are in fourth, goal difference behind Manchester City for third, with a trip to the Etihad next week. Manchester United are breathing down their necks, five points back but with a game in hand. We certainly know that Arsenal need to bring in reinforcements this summer and we all know that it's much easier to do that when you're guaranteed Champions League football. Finishing third is critical for more reasons than just match profits.

Arsenal have City away, Norwich at home, and Aston Villa at home. City have, aside from that Arsenal game, Southampton and Swansea, both away. Manchester United have Leicester at Old Trafford on Sunday, then Norwich away, West Ham away, and Bournemouth at home.

The point is, Arsenal still control their own destiny for finishing third. They just have to win their remaining games. Easy, right?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (match fitness)
Doubts: Cazorla (match fitness)

What demonry is this? Arsenal's entire squad is in full training! Much like last season, Arsenal have managed to get completely healthy just in time to be completely out of the title race.

Case in point, Jack Wilshere returned from the bench last week, much like I thought he might. Wilshere had been injured in training in the build-up to the very first game of the season. Just for shits and giggles, let's take a look at what I said at that time:

Jack Wilshere is expected to miss what the club has called "several weeks" (which can literally mean anything with this club) after suffering a hairline fracture in his left tibula during training. I suppose with Abou Diaby gone, his lack of luck has been transferred to someone else.

Harsh! Several weeks was eight months, if you are keeping score at home.

Meanwhile, Santi Cazorla, who was injured in the reverse fixture against Norwich, is back in training as well. I went back to see what I said about his injury at the time, but there were so many other injuries in the squad, all I did was joke about the number of injuries in the squad. It also references Diaby.

You may recall that Santi recently said that he expected to be back in April. **checks watch** Oh, this isn't a calendar... Arsene Wenger stated that Santi could be involved this weekend, so he might just make it for April! Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will still be too short (not a height joke.)

Anyway, this match. I hope Danny Welbeck gets to start up top again, after Olivier Giroud got to be useless for a while last week. I think the only other question is in the center of midfield, where Wenger has to choose from Mohamed Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Aaron Ramsey, and now Jack Wilshere.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Wilshere, Ozil, Alexis, Iwobi, Welbeck.

Norwich Squad News

Out: Tettey (ankle,) Klose (knee,) Wisdom (knee)

Andre Wisdom, on loan from Liverpool, had a nightmare two weeks ago against Sunderland. Not only did he concede the first half penalty that gave the Black Cats the opening goal, but he left injured in the second half. He now joins two other players on the Norwich City roster who are out for the remainder of the season.

That includes another defender, Timm "I'm Not Miroslav" Klose. The Frankfurt-born Swiss international (again, not to be confused with the Polish-born German international) injured his knee against Crystal Palace on April 9. Meanwhile, midfielder Alexander Tettey needed ankle surgery after he was injured against Chelsea in March.

Predicted XI: Ruddy, Martin, Bennett, Bassong, Olsson, Redmond, O'Neil, Howson, Brady, Naismith, Mbokani.

Current Form

Arsenal are now unbeaten in the league in seven matches, though they've accomplished that in the stupidest way possible. Across all competitions, the Gunners haven't lost since they played Barcelona at Camp Nou on March 16. That was over a month ago, yet, their season is in shambles and it would be impossible to argue otherwise.

When Arsenal overcame Francis Coquelin's red card to get a point at White Hart Lane, the result was not exactly what we needed, but it wasn't a death sentence either. I turned to a group of friends and basically just said "well, we might as well win 'em all now." And that seemed plausible, as Arsenal, on paper, had a winnable run-in. Follow that up with a 2-0 win over Everton and a 4-0 win over Watford and, in spite of their cup crumbles, things weren't looking so bad. Problem was, of course, Leicester kept winning (and, in fact, still have kept winning.) Still, the Gunners were, at the very least, four points back of Spurs with a game in hand.

Then, the 3-3 draw with West Ham. Then, the 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. Then, even after winning the game in hand against West Brom, they played a 0-0 draw with Sunderland. Six dropped points in three weeks. Win those games and Arsenal are in second place right now, though Leicester's form still would've made the title out of reach.

Norwich City's 2016 has not gone according to plan, either. They were 14th on January 2. Then, they went ten matches without a win. Now, they're in the relegation zone on goal difference, after a 3-0 loss (at home!) to Sunderland. They and the Black Cats now have four matches apiece to separate themselves out, with Newcastle just a point behind them (though the Toon have played an extra match.)

Match Facts

Speaking of Arsenal dropping stupid points and how that has ruined their title race, Arsenal and Norwich played to a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road at the end of November. One week after losing Francis Coquelin to injury, the Gunners lost Santi Cazorla to injury as well. Santi played the entire second half while carrying his knee injury, which meant Arsenal's midfield struggled mightily. Arsenal had 63% of the possession, but only managed to generate three shots. Mesut Ozil had Arsenal's goal, but Lewis Grabban had Norwich's equalizer before halftime. Laurent Koscielny also left injured on 11 minutes and Alexis Sanchez injured his hamstring on the hour mark. Not a good day at the office.

Prior to Norwich's yo-yoing through the Championship last season, Arsenal had taken all six points from the Canaries in 2013/14. This fixture, played in October of 2013, ended 4-1 to the Gunners, a match which included Jack Wilshere's endlessly viewed tappy-tappy-tap-tap goal. Mesut Ozil scored twice and Aaron Ramsey added the fourth. Norwich had, briefly, made it 2-1 during the course of the second half through Jonathan Howson with 20 minutes to play before Arsenal put it away.

Norwich took points from Arsenal in each of the two seasons prior to that one. Norwich took a wild 3-3 draw from the Emirates in May of 2012 before winning a 1-0 match at Carrow Road the following season, in October of 2012.

The Referee

The referee is Chester-based Sting lookalike Mike Jones. Arsenal have seen Jones on three occasions this season and have scored 10 goals across the three matches, so maybe he's exactly what their sputtering offense needs? Jones was the man in the middle for Arsenal's 3-0 win over Watford in October, their 3-3 draw at Anfield in January, and their 4-0 win at Hull in their fifth round FA Cup replay.

Norwich City have seen Jones twice so far this season, losing 3-0 at Tottenham on Boxing Day and drawing West Ham at Carrow Road 2-2 in February (in which they surrendered a 2-0 lead.)

Around the League
  • Saturday: Everton v. Bournemouth; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Crystal Palace; St. James's Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Sunderland; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Watford v. Aston Villa; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. West Ham United; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Sunday (early): Swansea City v. Liverpool; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Sunday: Manchester United v. Leicester City; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (late): Southampton v. Manchester City; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Monday (night): Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur; Stamford Bridge, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is an American-born nothing international. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to debate whether or not he's still eligible to be called up for England.

Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion AND Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal

To quote our own erstwhile manager, I did not see it. And by that, I mean either one of these matches, although it was for different reasons. Either way, I'm not sure that four points out of this is going to be enough to get us over the line for the Fourth Place Trophy, given the mini-resurgence going on in Manchester these days.

The Thursday match, if nothing else, was a dress rehearsal for our boys in case everything does go pear-shaped in the end. I can normally keep an eye on these games when I'm at work (the beauty of a two-monitor setup), but it was a crazy week last week and I couldn't spare a moment. The way I read it, it was a perfectly functional and drama-free match won by some moments of brilliance for Alexis Sanchez.

So, of course that was the one I had no opportunity to see, right? Today's game was on my DVR. But, right as I woke up, I checked my e-mail and a pop-up notification from Facebook Messenger came up. It said, and I quote: "This club is taking years off my life." So, OK, great! At that point it wasn't n any doubt that I was going to spare myself the 90 minutes of frustration - in fact, seeing 0-0 when I logged on to the Guardian was kind of a relief after that sort of introduction.

I only saw the highlights that NBC showed before the Leicester City match started, but it did look like a decent game. Petr Cech saved our ass on several occasions, but then again, so did Vito Mannone for them. At some point, I'd love to know what the overall record of our former goalkeepers is against us - poor old David Seaman had a howler against us for Manchester City (cheers, Spunky), but Lukasz Fabianski and now Vito Mannone have gotten the better of us on a few occasions now.

Then again, Pat Jennings worked out OK for us back in the day, right?

I'm digressing, but really, what else is there to say at this point? The Norwich and Villa matches do loom large, now. Both are at home. Both would be absolutely inexcusable to lose. Neither is a sure thing at this point. Given that the Manchester City away match is probably a guaranteed loss, it becomes more and more vital to get the three points against the sorts of teams where it shouldn't be a problem.

Men of the Match: Alexis for the West Brom game, Petr Cech for the Sunderland match.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. West Bromwich Albion / Sunderland v. Arsenal

I've talked at length about how Arsenal's remaining run of fixtures looks, on paper, to be reasonably uncomplicated. Then, the squad went out and snatched a draw from the jaws of victory against Crystal Palace at the Emirates at the weekend. Now, I suddenly don't trust Arsenal to beat anybody anymore.

So, perhaps it's fitting that Arsenal will get a weird little taste of Thursday night football this week as they make up their game in hand against West Bromwich Albion. The quick succession of games also means I've had to throw in a preview of Sunday's trip to Sunderland as well, for your reading pleasure. Otherwise, I have no idea when I would've had the time to write up that preview.

The title challenge is long gone now and Arsenal find themselves in their comfort zone, fourth place. Manchester City have pipped the Gunners for third, but then failed to consolidate that position by drawing 1-1 at Newcastle on Tuesday, meaning Arsenal can take back command of the last Champions League group stage place with a win tonight. An Arsenal win would give them 63 points to City's 61 with four games to play. Arsenal trail City by six in goal difference, as it stands.

Arsenal have to keep their heads above water here and get back to winning ways. The alternative is too frightening to consider.

Emirates Stadium, London
Thursday, April 21
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Andrew Halliday and Simon Bennett
    • 4th Official: Lee Mason
  • Reverse Fixture: West Brom 2 - 1 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 4 - 1 West Brom
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 68 Arsenal wins, 37 West Brom wins, 31 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-D-W-W-D-D
  • West Brom's League Form: D-W-L-D-L-L
Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)

No change in the injury list from an Arsenal perspective; Jack Wilshere had another run out with the reserves and scored a goal, but won't be expected back for the West Brom game. There's an outside chance he could make the bench for the trip to Sunderland at the weekend, however.

Elsewhere, Santi Cazorla is back in full training; he's been out since late November with a knee injury that I believe also turned into an Achilles problem? I have a suspicion he won't be back until the last game of the season, however. Just a hunch.

With matches coming Thursday, then Sunday, I would suspect there'll be some squad rotation involved here, with possible starts for Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud on the horizon. But please, let's keep Theo Walcott as far away as possible? I say that, but if there's rotation, he'll probably start, so I might as well prepare myself for it...

Predicted XI v. West Brom: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Walcott, Ozil, Giroud.

West Brom Squad News

Out: Brunt (knee,) Morrison (ankle,) Pritchard (hip)

It's not expected that Tony Pulis will make any changes to West Brom's XI as they prepare for the trip to London. The Baggies' injury list remains static, as Chris Brunt will miss the remainder of the season after an ACL injury, James Morrison is out until May with ankle problem, and Alex Pritchard, who is on loan from Tottenham, is struggling with a hip problem.

Saido Berahino could be dropped from the XI after he missed two second-half penalties against Watford last weekend, in a match that ended 1-0 to the Hornets. He became only the fourth player in Premier League history to fail to convert two penalties in the same match. If he is dropped, I would expect Salomon Rondon to play up top, with Craig Gardner coming into the midfield off the bench; or Rondon could stay in the same midfield role with Victor Anichebe getting a start.

On the other hand, Berahino's not going to break out of a slump from the bench, so my prediction is that West Brom's XI will remain unchanged.

Predicted XI: Foster, Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Chester, Yacob, Fletcher, McClean, Rondon, Sessegnon, Berahino.

Current Form

Arsenal have extended their unbeaten streak to five! Of course, this is a bad thing, because of the five, they've drawn three and the latter two especially needed to be wins in order to stay in the title race. Now, we're looking at desperately trying to hold onto third place. So, you know, the usual...

As for West Brom, they've been comfortably mid-table all season, though they have gone winless in their last four, including losses to Norwich, Manchester City, and Watford, as well as a draw with relegation-threatened Sunderland. Their last win came on March 6 against Manchester United. The Baggies currently sit 14th in the table, but they are ten points clear of relegation, sitting on the usual mark of safety, 40 points.

Match Facts

Arsenal had a streak of 10 matches unbeaten against West Brom snapped when the Baggies beat them 2-1 at the Hawthorns in November. Mikel Arteta came on for the injured Francis Coquelin on 14 minutes and Arsenal struck first through Olivier Giroud after 28 minutes. West Brom equalized from a set piece just seven minutes later, then led through an Arteta own goal five minutes after that. To add injury to insult, Arteta was removed on 49 minutes, and then to add insult to injury to insult, Santi Cazorla skied a late penalty that would've stolen Arsenal a point. Arsenal had 73% of the possession, which I hope you now realize is a useless statistic.

The Gunners won this fixture 4-1 last year, on the final day of the regular season. Theo Walcott nabbed a first half hat trick and Jack Wilshere scored a wondergoal as Arsenal jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead. Gareth McAuley scored a consolation goal for the visitors on 57 minutes just to make everyone think "they couldn't possibly blow this, right?"

I mentioned earlier that the November loss snapped Arsenal's 10-match unbeaten run against West Brom; that previous loss came on September 25, 2010. Manuel Almunia injured himself saving a first half penalty, which led to three West Brom goals in a 23-minute span, the first two coming two minutes apart. Samir Nasri grabbed two back, but Arsenal could not complete a three-goal comeback in a quarter of an hour. Only Laurent Koscielny remains with the Arsenal team from the XI that started that day, an XI which included Sebastien Squillaci, Emmanuel Eboue, Abou Diaby, Andrei Arshavin, and Marouane Chamakh.

The Referee

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss. Arsenal entered this season having never dropped a point with Moss as the referee, including last season's 4-0 FA Cup Final win over Aston Villa. That streak increased to 11 wins from 11 matches with the 2-0 win over Stoke in September. However, Arsenal have not won with Moss since, drawing 1-1 at Carrow Road in November and losing 4-0 at Southampton on Boxing Day.

West Brom have a mixed string of results with Moss in the middle as well. Moss worked both of West Brom's matches with Crystal Palace this season, with the Baggies losing 2-0 in October and winning 3-2 in February. He was also in the middle for their 1-1 draw with Tottenham in December and their 1-0 win over Bristol City in the FA Cup fourth round.

There are plenty of clubs out there who have not been thrilled with Moss this season; you may recall Jose Mourinho tried to chase him down at halftime at Upton Park in the fall. Of course, most recently, Moss was at the center of attention last weekend when he sent off Jamie Vardy for a second yellow after his attempt to dive for a penalty. I agreed with the call as it happened; it's almost identical to what Vardy did to Nacho Monreal at the Emirates in February, when it was hailed as "clever." On the other hand, Moss's decisions throughout the rest of the match were wildly inconsistent, leaving everyone furious with him.

Around the League
  • Tuesday: Newcastle United 1 - 1 Manchester City
  • Wednesday: West Ham United 3 - 1 Watford
  • Wednesday: Liverpool 4 - 0 Everton
  • Wednesday: Manchester United 2 - 0 Crystal Palace

Stadium of Light, Sunderland
Sunday, April 24
9:05 a.m. EDT, 14:05 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Mike Dean
    • Assistants: Simon Long and Michael Salisbury
    • 4th Official: Mike Jones
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 3 - 1 Sunderland
  • This Match, Last Year: Sunderland 0 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 60 Arsenal wins, 50 Sunderland wins, 40 draws
  • Sunderland's League Form: D-D-D-D-L-W
Sunderland Squad News

Out: None
Doubts: Rodwell (knock,) Lens (knock,) Borini (calf)

Sunderland have no injury absences as it stands right now, though a few players are less than 100%. Jack Rodwell has a knock, Jermaine Lens has a knock, and Fabio Borini is listed as having a calf problem despite playing all 90 minutes last weekend.

As a result, and just like West Brom, I predict no changes to the starting XI. The only question, therefore, is whether Borini starts.

Predicted XI: Mannone, van Aanholt, Kaboul, Kone, Yedlin, Kirchhoff, M'Vila, Cattermole, Khazri, Borini, Defoe.

Current Form

It took Sunderland ten matches to finally grab a win this season, which they did in the derby against Newcastle back in October; as such, Sunderland have been relegation-threatened all season. In fact, they have only found themselves as high as 17th following a match three times this year: November 28, March 1, and March 5.

They have only lost one of their last six, however, and picked up a tremendous 3-0 win at Carrow Road last week against 17th place Norwich City. That scoreline was immense, too, as it improved Sunderland's goal difference as compared to Norwich's from +1 to +7. Sunderland are now just one point from safety and have a game in hand against their relegation rivals, which will be played during the final midweek of the season.

The 3-0 win last weekend might just have saved Sunderland's season; their odds of relegation dropped from 79.2% to 47.3%.

Match Facts

Arsenal have faced Sunderland twice at the Emirates this season, in the league in December and in the FA Cup in January; both matches ended 3-1 to Arsenal. Arsenal's goalscorers were the same on both occasions as well, with Joel Campbell, Olivier Giroud, and Aaron Ramsey all scoring for Arsenal on both days, in that order both times. The only difference was the timing of Sunderland's goal. In December, Sunderland equalized before halftime with an Olivier Giroud own goal from a set piece. In January, Sunderland scored first, through Jermaine Lens, before Arsenal came back to win comfortably.

Arsenal have won four straight visits to the Stadium of Light in Premier League play, though they did lose an FA Cup tie there in 2012. In this match last year, Alexis Sanchez scored twice from Vito Mannone errors as an Arsenal side that was desperate for a win escaped with a 2-0 victory. The last time Arsenal failed to win a league game at the Stadium of Light, Darren Bent nabbed a 95th minute equalizer for a 1-1 draw on September 18, 2010. One week later, Arsenal lost at home to West Brom, which you read about earlier in this double-preview.

The Referee

The referee is Wirral-based Mike Dean. Arsenal have only seen Dean twice this season, for obvious reasons after how the first match went. You might recall Dean was the man in the middle for Arsenal's 2-0 loss at Chelsea in September, in which both Gabriel and Santi Cazorla were sent off. Incidentally, Arsenal's record with Mike Dean as referee had considerably improved over the last few years, before Diego Costa got involved. Going into that match against Chelsea, Arsenal had lost only one of their last nine with Dean in the middle.

Arsenal also had Dean for their fifth round FA Cup tie against Hull City, which ended scoreless. Dean denied Arsenal two penalty shouts on the day.

Sunderland have a win (2-0 over Stoke in November) and two losses (4-1 to Tottenham in January and 1-0 to West Ham in February) with Mike Dean this season. Sunderland were aided in their win over Stoke by a 67th minute red card to Ryan Shawcross; the Black Cats scored their goals on 82 and 84 minutes.

Around the League

  • Saturday (early): Manchester City v. Stoke City; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Southampton; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Chelsea; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Newcastle United; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday (FA Cup Semi): Everton v. Manchester United; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Sunday (late): Leicester City v. Swansea City; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (FA Cup Semi): Crystal Palace v. Watford; Wembley Stadium, London
  • Monday (night): Tottenham Hotspur v. West Bromwich Albion; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is made of thunder. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to ask how one can be composed entirely of sound.

Arsenal 1-1 Crystal Palace: Yup

We has roughly 99.99999999% possession. Again.

It was largely slow-paced sideways tippy-tappy. Again.

Alexis scored a nice headed goal, perfectly placed over Wayne Hennessey. That bit was fun.

We failed to create any serious number of chances, otherwise. Again.

Hennessey made an excellent save on Danny Welbeck.

Our subs came on and did the square root of fuck all. Again.

Theo Walcott came on and pratfalled over his own two feet. I dunno, I thought it was funny.

We got hit with a preventable sucker-punch. Again.

Gabriel screened Petr Cech a bit, but a near-post shot from Yannick Bolasie still should have been saved. Hell, at least that's a new one.

It's a brave new world, folks. A brave, unbelievably shitty world. There will be no St. Totteringham's Day this year, though you have to admit that, in part, it's because they've built themselves an excellent team. Speaking of, there may not be one of those for a while yet. Don't you get the whiff of impending "years spent in the wilderness, Liverpool-style" with this team?

Oh, here's the other good news, too. Remember the new TV deal coming in next season? Middlesbrough (or whoever else comes up from the first division) will basically be able to spend the GDP of Guam on players if they want to.

Not one outfield player this summer - the only club in any top league. Hmm, I wonder why the qualifier is there - is there some club in Fiji or Tajikistan that also did not? One for the pub quizzes, that.

Man of the Match:  Alexis scored and was generally good, but I have to go with Mesut Ozil. Once again, a world-class artist playing on a wavelength most of his teammates can't get near.

PS: I don't want to hear that old "who would you buy then?" bollocks. If you're going to press me though, then officially my answer is Aymeric Laporte (center-half from Athletic Bilbao with a 50M release clause), William Carvalho (defensive midfielder from Sporting Lisbon) and Goncalo Guedes (a front-three type from Benfica). 

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Crystal Palace

Emirates Stadium, London
Sunday, April 17
11:00 a.m. EDT, 16:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Roger East
    • Assistants: Richard West and Mark Scholes
    • 4th Official: Mike Dean
  • Reverse Fixture: Crystal Palace 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 2 - 1 Crystal Palace
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 25 Arsenal wins, 3 Crystal Palace wins, 10 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: L-L-D-W-W-D
  • Crystal Palace's League Form: D-L-L-D-W-D
Sure, you may win the league, but can you drive a car?
Arsenal's come-from-ahead-then-come-from-behind 3-3 draw with West Ham last weekend had a little bit of everything, insomuch as it was bonkers, neutrals probably loved it, and it effectively ended Arsenal's outside chances at the title. The Gunners are now 13 points back of Leicester City with six matches to play. Leicester only have five to play themselves, so it's hard to see them dropping 10 points when there are only 15 available to them. So, at the top of the table, it's "Operation Anyone But Tottenham" as Leicester's lead on our nearest and dearest is a healthy seven points.

So, from an Arsenal perspective, now what? The Gunners are now six points back of Spurs with a game in hand, meaning the odds of St. Totteringham's Day this season are dwindling fast. The bigger concern is, of course, Manchester City in the rear view mirror. City are just two points back of Arsenal with an even number of matches to play and Arsenal will visit the Etihad in the penultimate match of the season. Big three points on the line there. City have advanced in Europe, so personally, I hope that keeps them just distracted enough.

Because, aside from that trip to the Etihad, Arsenal's other five matches are games that they absolutely have to win. They've got home games against Aston Villa, Norwich City, West Bromwich Albion, and this one against Crystal Palace; none of those teams are higher than 14th in the table. Their other remaining road game is next weekend at Sunderland.

If Arsenal win all five of those games, they'll have 74 points. The only way City would catch them is if they won the head-to-head encounter and also won all five of their remaining games, which includes a tricky trip to Stamford Bridge tomorrow.

That all means that Arsenal control their own destiny to comfortably finish in the Champions League group stage next season. In a season of so many disappointments, that's now the absolute bare minimum expectation yet again.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)

Visual evidence that Rosicky and Wilshere played a match.
Seriously, this isn't doctored or anything!
There's very little to say about the injuries, because very little has changed. Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky came out of their run-out for the Under-21s last Friday unscathed and got another run-out for the reserves yesterday afternoon against Swansea. Tomas Rosicky completed 71 minutes and
Jack Wilshere played 90 as Arsenal lost 3-1; Serge Gnabry (remember him?) had Arsenal's goal. Obviously, both Jack and Tommy are short of a first team return.

As for Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, out since November and February respectively with knee injuries, they are not back in full training, but could be next week.

There are no other injuries to report in the squad. Personally, I would hope that Petr Cech returns between the sticks. Perhaps Per Mertesacker should return to the XI since last week's center back pairing proved three times that they couldn't deal with Andy Carroll...

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.

Crystal Palace Squad News

Out: Hangeland (knock,) Chamakh (groin,) McArthur (ankle,) Appiah (knee)
Doubts: Gayle (knock)

Everyone's favorite living Pokemon has been out for
two months.
Dwight Gayle left Wednesday's match against Everton at halftime, which, for lack of further information, slots him straight into the "doubts" column right now. Gayle was replaced by Connor Wickham, himself returning from injury. After missing a month and a half, Wickham has come off the bench in each of Palace's last two games.

I know you're curious about how Marouane Chamakh is doing. He hasn't played since February 6 with a groin injury and he hasn't scored a goal all season.

Elsewhere in the squad, Brede Hangeland, who scored at the Emirates last season, has made only nine appearances this season and has played just once since October (that was in December.) I've only seen his injury as a "knock," which means it's a little weird he's missed over three months. Kwesi Appiah suffered an ACL tear on international duty with Ghana in June and will not play this season. James McArthur has not played since early February.

Predicted XI: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, N'Diaye Souare, Delaney, Cabaye, Bolasie, Jedinak, Sako, Zaha, Puncheon.

Current Form

Crystal Palace could not find a winner against Everton on
Wednesday, despite James McCarthy's 52nd minute red card.
If you stretch really far, you can take some positives out of Arsenal's 3-3 draw last weekend; they've know gone four league matches without a loss, dating back to those consecutive setbacks against Manchester United and Swansea City in late February and early March. It's two wins and two draws, though, so it has not been enough to keep Arsenal relevant in the title race, especially since Leicester City keeps winning. Last weekend's draw snapped Arsenal's league winning streak at a paltry two; the Gunners have not won three straight in the league since December.

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, have not won two straight league games since the same period in mid-December. On December 19, Palace beat Stoke City 2-1. The Eagles had 29 points through 17 games and were sitting sixth in the table. Then, they drew two in a row to close out the 2015 calendar year. At the halfway point of the season, Palace were fifth, eight points back of first place Arsenal.

Then, Palace lost five straight, drew Swansea, lost two more, drew Sunderland, lost two more, then drew another. Going into last weekend's game against Norwich, Palace were 16th. They had picked up three points in 2016. Suddenly, it was a relegation six-pointer, which Palace won 1-0. They faced Everton midweek and played a 0-0 draw, despite playing against ten men for the final 40 minutes. So, Palace are still 16th, but they're 11 points clear of Sunderland for relegation; the Black Cats have a game in hand.

2016 has been terrible for Palace in the league, but they are going to Wembley for an FA Cup Semi-Final against Watford next weekend, having beaten Southampton, Stoke City, Tottenham Hotspur, and Reading.

Match Facts

Remember Giroud's blonde highlights?
Since Crystal Palace's 2013 promotion to the Premier League, Arsenal have scored twice in each match and won all five meetings between the clubs. Each of the last three matches between the London sides has ended 2-1; the first two ended 2-0.

Arsenal won the reverse fixture 2-1 way back on August 16, in what was the second match of the season. After the Gunners lost 2-0 on opening day to West Ham, Olivier Giroud notched Arsenal's first goal of the season on 16 minutes. Arsenal's lead lasted only a dozen minutes as Joel Ward scored from long distance to equalize for Palace. Arsenal took the lead on 55 minutes when an Alexis Sanchez header was turned into the net by Damian Delaney. It was a nervous encounter for Arsenal, much like many of their recent matches with the Eagles, but it should be noted that it came at a time when Palace were playing much better football than they are now; Palace won three of their first four matches this season, losing only to Arsenal in the stretch entering the first international break.

This match last year was played on that season's opening day, meaning it was also August 16. Brede Hangeland gave the visitors the lead on 35 minutes from a set piece, but Laurent Koscielny equalized for Arsenal just before halftime. Arsenal left it late, but Jason Puncheon's 89th minute red card meant that Aaron Ramsey was left alone for a 91st minute winner, as the Gunners escaped with a 2-1 win. That match came less than 48 hours after Tony Pulis resigned his position as Palace's manager.

Crystal Palace have beaten Arsenal only three times in 37 all-time meetings; two of their three wins came at Highbury, one in 1970 in the League Cup and the other in 1994. Overall, Arsenal are unbeaten in 13 against the Eagles, winning nine of them, including six straight.

The Referee

"This is where the whistle goes!"
The referee is Wiltshire-based Roger East. Arsenal have two wins from two matches with East so far this season, including the 2-0 win over Bournemouth in late December and the 2-1 win over Burnley in the fourth round of the FA Cup. The only other Arsenal match East has ever worked was last year's 2-2 draw with Hull City, in which Danny Welbeck scored an injury time equalizer after a sub-par second half effort from the team.

This is the first time Roger East will work a Crystal Palace match this season. Last year, he took charge of only one Palace match, a 1-0 loss to Everton at Selhurst Park in late January. The year before that, he also took charge of only one Palace match, also in late January and also at Selhurst Park; that, however, was a 1-0 win over Hull City. So, as you can see, I have very little to go on here...

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Norwich City v. Sunderland; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Everton v. Southampton; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Manchester United v. Aston Villa; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Newcastle United v. Swansea City; St. James's Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Watford; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Chelsea v. Manchester City; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (early): Bournemouth v. Liverpool; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday (early): Leicester City v. West Ham United; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Monday (night): Stoke City v. Tottenham Hotspur; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is allergic to ocelots. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to ask if he's allergic to himself, too.

West Ham United 3-3 Arsenal: Mental Lapses Cost Us Again

There was no way that 7:45 was happening again (for roughly the 10,000th time this season - seriously, who did the east coast of the US piss off in the Premier League?), so I recorded this one. At 1-2, I started fast-forwarding. I've seen this movie before.

Also, before any of you lot give me shit for leaning on the FF button, I thought I had somewhere to be at noon today, only to find out it's actually next week. So, you can see the kind of day I'm having.

Anyway, while we generally bossed the proceedings up until they pegged us back to 1-2, let's not forget that the entire complexion of the match may have changed had they not had a perfectly good goal chalked off for a phantom offside inside of the first 10 minutes. Look at the replay again, Hector Bellerin was playing everyone onside.

We also may have been a bit fortunate on our first one, too. When Mesut Ozil was played in by the again-excellent Alex Iwobi, he may or may not have been fractionally offside. I couldn't tell even on the replay, but the flag stayed down and Mesut finished well past Adrián.

The Nigerian was in the thick of it again for the second, this time scooping a pass over West Ham's backline and into the path of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean, after a horrendous dry spell, now has two goals in two games as he easily beat the keeper.

Again, up until the 44th minute, everything was ticking along nicely after the gift of that goal being chalked off. Mohamed Elneny was dictating play in the center of the park, was Danny Welbeck's runs were causing chaos in a West Ham team trying to adjust to a new 3-4-3 formation. They didn't look comfortable and Arsenal were turning the screw.

But, as ever with this team any time they get any kind of comfortable lead, they switched off in the assumption that the game was already won. It is utterly astonishing how often this happens to us - or, it would be if I were at all still capable of astonishment with this lot. And, I don't know how many times I've said it, goals right at the beginning or the end of a half are absolute killers.

The first was bad enough, though it was mainly down to our continued inability to cut out crosses than anything else. I swear, one day someone is going to find me in a room with a typewriter like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and the paper's just going to say "Fullbacks too narrow. Fullbacks too narrow. Fullbacks too narrow. Fullbacks too narrow." over and over again. Once the cross came in, it was just a matter of a guy who is exceptional at heading the ball exceptionally heading a ball.

Losing a goal there is tough, but you CAN'T lose another to get it all the way back to 2-2 before the halftime whistle goes. You shut up shop, get back into the locker room, and compose yourselves. But, you know, this is Arsenal. A corner was punched out well by David Ospina, but the Arsenal defense couldn't come back out fast enough to prevent the second ball coming back in. Still, even when Carroll took the first shot, we were fine. Gabriel - aka The Worst Arsenal Player of the Last 20 Years - could have easily cleared it. He didn't, allowing Carroll to volley it back in. Even still, we were fine. All Ospina had to do was shout "leave it", and that goes into his hands. Instead, Gabriel stuck his face out and deflected it into the net. I suspect the dubious-goals panel will eventually change that to an OG, but either way the collapse was complete.

Oh, wait, no it wasn't. Slaven Bilic changed Emmanuel Emineke for James Tomkins at halftime, putting them into a more familiar 4-2-3-1. They looked more comfortable, though apparently Carroll might have seen a second yellow for an elbow on Gabriel. I didn't see the incident myself, but it reads to me like something we'd have been furious to see given to any of our guys.

Either way, there was no excuse for their third goal, either. Monreal got torched to allow a cross in (FULLBACKS TOO NARROW. FULLBACKS TOO NARROW. FULLBACKS TOO NARROW.), and Carroll got up there to thump it into the net. So simple. So preventable.

Arsene threw on Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud, but it was Laurent Koscielny who had to save the day. Not only did he have to play center-half with THAT, but he popped up to give us a most unlikely equalizer. It was a bit lucky in the end, as Ozil's cross clanked off of Welbeck and into his path. But, Koscielny rasped it in past Adrian like any good predatory center-forward. What a finish, and what an important point this may end up being.

You know the drill from here, we started bombing men forward in a showy but utterly futile display of force to try and win the game. West Ham defended comfortably though, and in fact they had the better chances. But, just to make this Peak Arsenal, Sanchez did cut into the area once with plenty of time to shoot, but he over-elaborated and had it nicked off of him. Of course.

So, two big points dropped then. Sure, this was one of our toughest fixtures left and we did end up getting a point off it in the end. However, from 2-0 up, this result is simply not good enough. I don't want to hear a thing about mental goddamn's like...dammit, I'm too angry to think of a metaphor right now. To quote Sterling Archer, "I HAD something for this."

The title is long gone...we knew that already, but we've got to start worrying about St. Totteringham's Day now. If they beat United, I have to seriously think that may be gone, too.


Man of the Match: Gabriel was probably West Ham's best player, but we'll give it to Andy Carroll for the (probably) two goals. 

Sean Swift is a staff writer for the Modern Gooner, a board member of Arsenal NYC, and Lana....Lana....LAAAAAAAAAAANNNNAAAAAAAAA!

Preview by Numbers: West Ham United v. Arsenal

Boleyn Ground, London
Saturday, April 9
7:45 a.m. EDT, 12:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Craig Pawson
    • Assistants: Lee Betts and Darren Cann
    • 4th Official: Jonathan Moss
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 0 - 2 West Ham
  • This Match, Last Year: West Ham 1 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 60 Arsenal wins, 34 West Ham wins, 38 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-L-L-D-W-W
  • West Ham's League Form: D-W-W-W-D-D

...from 1.9% to 2.0%, but hey! Math!!!

Leicester's odds of winning the league shot up to a healthy 87.9% thanks to their win and Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Liverpool. A title for the Foxes is starting to feel inevitable, since they're so plucky and handballs in the box aren't penalties for them. But, I digress.

Arsenal have a relatively favorable fixture list the rest of the way (which is a meaningless statement considering Arsenal have proven that they can lose to just about anybody this season.) The two trickiest remaining fixtures for the Gunners are their trip to Manchester City in May and this fixture tomorrow. West Ham have been excellent all season, especially at home, but will regret their dropped points against struggling Crystal Palace last week.

If Arsenal have any intention of finishing this season on a strong note, regardless of whether they can catch the teams ahead of them, they have got to start winning games like this one again.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)
Doubts: Flamini (hamstring,) Ramsey (thigh)

We'll start with the more salacious news, as Jack Wilshere found himself in the middle of a fracas at a club last weekend. I'm sure you've heard about it by now, but the tabloids suggest that the midfielder was involved at a confrontation at Café de Paris, which is of course Spanish for "coffee from Paris." It's just the kind of thing you've begrudgingly begun to accept from Wilshere, to have been caught out in an incident while he's still rehabbing from injury. Then again, as Arsene Wenger has pointed out, the team was off the next day.

He and Tomas Rosicky are both expected to feature for the under-21s in a game against Newcastle United tonight which, if you read my preview last week, you will recall I thought was happening then.

Elsewhere, Mathieu Flamini (hamstring) and Aaron Ramsey (thigh) have been moved into the doubts column, leaving Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as the only injury absentees.

I would expect Petr Cech to come back in goal after he sat on the bench last week. The outfield is likely to remain unchanged, with Wenger saying "I'm reluctant to change what works." Damn straight. That would, of course, imply a continued stay on the bench for formerly established regulars such as Per Mertesacker, Olivier Giroud, and Theo Walcott.

Predicted XI: Cech, Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.

West Ham Squad News

Out: Byram (muscular,) Collins (hamstring)

Carl Jenkinson, who was spending his second season at West Ham on loan from Arsenal, would not have been allowed to play in this match anyway due to the loan terms. Of course, Jenkinson's season ended on January 23 with an ACL tear. Technically, that ended his loan and I believe he's been rehabbing at Arsenal, so for all intents and purposes, he should be included in Arsenal's injury list now...

West Ham will be without Sam Byram and James Collins with muscle injuries. Meanwhile, Cheikhou Kouyate, who has scored in his last two matches against Arsenal, was sent off against Crystal Palace last weekend; his red card, however, was overturned, meaning he is available to score again tomorrow.

Arsenal will have their hands full defending Dimitri Payet. The in-form winger has scored six goals in his last eight matches for West Ham, including a ridiculous free kick against Crystal Palace last week. That doesn't include the ridiculous goal he scored for France against Russia during the last international break, either.

Predicted XI: Adrian, Antonio, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini, Payet, Valencia, Sakho.

Current Form

Arsenal have won two straight. Two! It's the first time since February 7 and 14 (against Bournemouth and Leicester) that Arsenal have won consecutive games. Their only win in between the late winner against Leicester and the 2-0 win at Everton before the international break was an FA Cup replay against a Championship side. Astonishing stuff. But, that's all in the past now, and if they can keep extending this winning streak, who knows what will happen. Their longest winning streak of the season in the league, for your information, is five.

After beating Arsenal on opening day, West Ham came home and lost two straight at Upton Park, against Leicester and Bournemouth. They have not lost at home since, which has propelled them to sixth in the table and an FA Cup quarterfinal replay against Manchester United (also at home) this coming midweek. The Hammers' only losses during the second half of this season have come against Newcastle (?!) on January 16 and Southampton on February 6.

Match Facts

On the opening day of the season, West Ham flew out of the gates with an emphatic 2-0 win at the Emirates. Cheikhou Kouyate scored from a set piece just before halftime, which had been misjudged by Petr Cech, to give the Hammers the lead and Mauro Zarate added a second from a defensive error on 57 minutes. Arsenal had 62% of the possession and took 22 shots, but failed to hit the net, which I guess proved to be a pretty accurate prediction for a lot of this season.

The win was West Ham's first against Arsenal in nine tries in the league. The winning streak for Arsenal against West Ham had been 10 straight across all competitions, dating back to a 2-2 draw at Upton Park in October of 2009. They had been unbeaten in 15 as well, dating back to a 1-0 loss in April of 2007, in which West Ham became the first road club to win at the Emirates.

In this fixture last year, halfway between Boxing Day and New Year's Day, Arsenal won 2-1. Ex-Arsenal midfielder Alex Song seemed to have an early opening goal, but it was ruled offside. He refused to celebrate the goal, and looked silly in the process, especially because he went ballistic when he realized it didn't count. Arsenal struck twice before halftime to take a 2-0 lead through a Santi Cazorla penalty and a Danny Welbeck goal, but Cheikhou Kouyate's 51st minute goal set up a grandstand finish.

The Referee

The referee is South Yorkshire-based Craig Pawson. Arsenal's record with Pawson has been mixed; this year, Pawson has been in the middle for Arsenal's 5-2 win at Leicester, their 0-0 draw at Stoke City, and their 3-2 loss at Manchester United. Last year, Arsenal's record was split as well, as they defeated Burnley at home before losing to Southampton. So, I don't know, flip a coin?

As for West Ham, they have only seen Pawson once this season, for their 2-2 draw with Manchester City a little over two months ago. City came from behind twice in that match to take a point from Upton Park, including scoring once from the penalty spot.

Around the League
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Bournemouth; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. Norwich City; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Newcastle United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Swansea City v. Chelsea; Liberty Stadium, Swansea
  • Saturday: Watford v. Everton; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday (late): Manchester City v. West Bromwich Albion; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Leicester City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday (late): Liverpool v. Stoke City; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Manchester United; White Hart Lane, London
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is an Irish poet... if you consider these previews poetry... and that I'm American of Irish descent... You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for more "poetry".

Arsenal 4-0 Watford: Worthy of Rocky

It doesn't go all the way towards making me forget about the insipid loss to this same opposition in the quarterfinal of the FA Cup (especially since Crystal Palace in the semifinal is largely a written invitation to the final), but it was nice to see the team see off this lot with a thorough demolition - the likes of which we haven't seen much off this campaign.

The vagaries of the MTA system, combined with my now-longer commute, meant that I was 20 minutes late in getting to the pub. By that point, Alexis Sanchez had already opened the scoring, knocking how own rebounds past that bigmouth Gomes in the Watford net.

Alex Iwobi assisted on that first one, and unsurprisingly he scored himself soon after. This time, the Chilean turned provider, his run down the right taking defenders with him. He spotted the Nigerian's late run into the area, and Iwobi made no mistake in sweeping the ball imperiously past the keeper.

I have to tell you, I know he's only 19 and all, but I think we have a real player on our hands here. Sometimes kids like this can plateau after a certain point, but if he puts his head down and keeps working hard, he could be our best academy product since...Tony Adams, perhaps? All of that is admittedly premature, but he was fantastic on the day. Tireless running, incisive passing, effective movement - he was the total package.

Such was Arsenal's domination that Watford manager Quique Sanchez Flores subbed off Etienne Capoue in the first half, and removed Odion Ighalo at halftime. None of it worked, however. The home side rampaged over their counterparts right up until the last goal went in. Hector Bellerin ended up scoring off of a deflection, and Theo Walcott came on as a sub to score the last one.

Maybe this will come off as a bit ungrateful, but this wasn't one you'll remember on your deathbed. The domination was so total that for large stretches, many of us were concentrating more on our pints than anything else. What I do remember was that besides Iwobi and Sanchez, we looked especially strong in the center of the park. Nothing got by Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny, the latter especially was one that had a storming afternoon. Besides his positioning and defending, he was the focal point in turning defense to attack. He's another one to watch in the next few years, I think.

Anyway, with the report being this late, I figured I'd gloss over the match itself (you've all seen highlights and analysis all over the place by now), and talk more about what's upcoming. The rest of our fixtures are as follows:

West Ham (A)
Crystal Palace (H)
West Bromwich Albion (H)
Sunderland (A)
Norwich City (H)
Manchester City (A)
Aston Villa (H)

There are some tricky games in there - West Ham and Man City especially - but it's not exactly a murderer's row. The probable best-case scenario, 5 wins and 2 draws, would give us 17 more points for a season total of 75. Oddly enough, that would be exactly our number from last season, which saw us finish 12 behind the champions. A doomier scenario of W3 L2 D2 would reduce that by 6 to 71, which might not do more than assure of the typical 4th-Place Trophy.

Leicester City, at the time of writing the clear favorites with 69 points, need only 2 more wins to match the point total of my assumed best-case scenario above. The title chase for us is over, kids. But, the main question is can the Foxes prevent the nightmare scenario of the nearest and dearest winning the title? Their fixtures are:

Sunderland (A)
West Ham (H)
Swansea (H)
Manchester United (A)
Everton (H)
Chelsea (A)

I don't even know what to make of it, myself. On one hand, it *should* be three absolute bankers, a home match against a decent but beatable Hammers side, and away trips against store-brand versions of United and Chelsea. On the other, Sunderland and Swansea are fighting for their lives, you never know what United version you're going to get, and Chelsea have shown some recent signs of life. Still, I'd probably put this down (barring injury to Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy or Kasper Schmeichel) as something like W3 L2 D1. That is 13 points, or 82 in total. That would have been 5 behind Chelsea's pace from last season.

The Scum, on the other hand, have this left to play out:

Manchester United (H)
Stoke (A)
West Bromwich Albion (H)
Chelsea (A)
Southampton (H)
Newcastle (A)

Here, there's a lot of the same uncertainty that Leicester has. Which United will show up? Will losing to the Red Devils set this lot off on their customary tailspin? Will Southampton be mentally on the beach by this time? Will Newcastle still technically be alive by then?

Personally, I think they do lose to United, draw with Stoke and Chelsea, and win the others. That would give them 11 more points, or 73 points in total. In this scenario, Leicester have a bit more room for error than you'd normally think, and it's only 2 points beyond what I called my "doomier" scenario above.

Most importantly, it means St. Totteringham's Day is still very much on the table. If we can't win the title, and since we're out of all the cups, it's really all we have left, isn't it?

Man of the Match: Alex Iwobi really needs his own song.

Sean Swift is a staff writer at The Modern Gooner, a board member of Arsenal NYC, and keeps forgetting to do this bit at the end so that you know who writes this drivel.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Watford

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, April 2
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Anthony Taylor
    • Assistants: Harry Lennard and Peter Kirkup
    • 4th Official: Andre Marriner
  • Reverse Fixture: Watford 0 - 3 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Time: Arsenal 3 - 0 Watford (October 14, 2006)
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 12 Arsenal wins, 10 Watford wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-L-L-D-W
  • Watford's League Form: L-W-D-L-L-L
Welcome back! I have to say, it was nice not to have to stress out about Arsenal over the past two weeks, which has meant returning to write this preview has felt like a major chore.

Arsenal finally got back in the win column in their last league match, though wins for Spurs and Leicester mean that the Gunners have made up no ground in their quickly fading title chase. Leicester's odds of winning the league are now at 75.9%, Spurs are at 22%, and Arsenal are down to 1.9%. You'll notice that that adds up to 99.8%, meaning the long 0.2% odds of someone else winning the league are split between a number of clubs.

Manchester City's 1-0 derby loss to United certainly helped solidify Arsenal's Champions League aspirations; they're now at 90.9% to finish in the top four; City are at a little under 50% while United and West Ham split the remaining odds for the last Champions League place.

Even if Arsenal win all of their remaining matches, their odds of winning the league are just 60.6% because they need Leicester to drop so many points. It doesn't look good, but with the Gunners out of every other competition, there's not much else to pin hopes on.

Arsenal return from the international break with an eye on revenge as they take on a Watford team that recently booted them from the FA Cup. Win this match and then we'll get to focus on rooting for a Liverpool win over Spurs in Saturday's late game and maybe a nice win for Southampton at the King Power on Sunday. Wouldn't that be nice?

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Flamini (hamstring,) Ramsey (thigh,) Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee,) Cazorla (knee,) Rosicky (match fitness,) Wilshere (match fitness)
Doubts: Cech (calf)

Petr Cech moves to the "doubts" category, as I'm currently unsure whether the number one goalkeeper will slip straight back into the starting lineup as he returns from injury. All signs had pointed to Cech being available again after the break, but without any confirmation; yesterday, Arsene Wenger called it "too early to say." David Ospina has taken about a million knocks, starting with that collision with Romelu Lukaku two weeks back, but he played all 180 minutes for Colombia in their World Cup qualifiers and would be expected to start if Cech cannot.

In amazing news, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere are both back in full training, but obviously will not be ready in time for this one. Wilshere, who has been out since just before the season started, is expected to get a run-out for the Under-21s tonight against Newcastle.

It's as you were with the rest of the injuries, so, with the exception of the question in between the sticks, I would expect Wenger to name the same lineup as the one who beat Everton. Perhaps there'll be a decision between Gabriel and Per Mertesacker at center back as well; I had forgotten that Per was on the bench against the Toffees.

Predicted XI: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Elneny, Alexis, Iwobi, Ozil, Welbeck.

Watford Squad News

Out: Ekstrand (match fitness,) Hoban (hip)

Watford have fewer injury concerns now than they did when they played at the Emirates three weeks ago. At the time, there was some confusion as to what injury defender Joel Ekstrand had, but in doing a little more research, I've come to figure out why: Ekstrand seriously injured his knee last year and did ligament damage, which required surgery. In his comeback attempt, while playing for the reserves, the Swedish defender strained his hamstring. So he's currently out with the hamstring problem while he attempts to regain match fitness after knee surgery. That's it. Sounds like an Arsenal-esque injury saga.

Elsewhere, Tommie Hoban, an Arsenal academy product, remains out long-term after hip surgery.

I would expect Watford to come into this game with the same mentality and formation they used to beat Arsenal in the FA Cup. On that occasion, the back four sat deep, protected by a midfield quartet that clogged the middle, attempting to deny Arsenal's ability to create space in the final third. It worked, as I particularly recall Olivier Giroud being useless; in fact, the Frenchman did not complete a single pass within 30 yards of Watford's goal.

Predicted XI: Gomes, Nyom, Cathcart, Britos, Ake, Behrami, Watson, Capoue, Guedioura, Ighalo, Deeney.

Current Form

You could say Arsenal got back on the right track with their 2-0 win over Everton just before the international break, but the overall run of form is still worrying. Since beating Leicester, Arsenal have won two of their last nine matches across all competitions and they haven't won a home game since that late Danny Welbeck winner went in, either. In fact, the Gunners have outright lost three straight at the Emirates; losing to Barcelona is one thing, but losing to Swansea and Watford in that run at home is quite another.

That's because, aside from that FA Cup tie victory, Watford have lost three straight in the league and are now 14th in the Premier League table. They're 11 points clear of 18th place Sunderland, so relegation isn't a huge concern for the Hornets right now. After a brilliant run of games in December, Watford have just two league wins in their last 13 and they've fallen seven places in the table. With the club almost certainly safe from relegation (their odds of dropping are something close to 0.04%), it would appear that all of their eggs should be in the FA Cup basket now.

Match Facts

You will recall that this is a match-up Arsenal recently lost; just three weeks ago, Watford came to the Emirates and came out with a 2-1 victory and a ticket to Wembley for the FA Cup semi-finals, where they will face Crystal Palace. Arsenal had 71% of the possession and 20 total shots, but they only managed to get four of those on target. Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura scored in the 50th and 63rd minutes, respectively, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Danny Welbeck came off the bench to pull a goal back in the 88th, but agonizingly missed the net on a sitter just minutes later when the chance to dramatically force a replay fell to his feet.

Arsenal did win at Vicarage Road back in October, meaning they can still complete the league double over the Hornets this season. Arsenal came out 3-0 winners in that match, but it wasn't easy. It took Arsenal over an hour to find a breakthrough, but Alexis Sanchez fired a loose ball into the net on 62 minutes after Mesut Ozil was fouled in the area and the floodgates opened. Olivier Giroud doubled Arsenal's lead six minutes later and Aaron Ramsey made it three just six minutes after that. Watford were left frustrated by a match in which they had played so well for over an hour, but ultimately managed just one shot on target, a Troy Deeney shot in the 11th minute.

Prior to the FA Cup victory, Watford's previous most recent win against Arsenal came at Highbury on April 15, 1988, by a 1-0 scoreline.

The Referee

The referee is Cheshire-based Anthony Taylor, who has not been a tremendous nightmare for Arsenal recently as he has been in the past. Arsenal have seen Taylor three times this season and they have won all three: 1-0 over Chelsea in the Community Shield, 3-0 over Manchester United in October, and 1-0 over Newcastle in early January, back when it looked like Arsenal were in the driver's seat for winning the league. Overall, Arsenal are unbeaten in their last six with Taylor as the referee; it's seven if you count the time he came in after Chris Foy was injured in Arsenal's 3-0 win over West Ham last March. Arsenal were already leading 1-0 at the time Taylor came in, however.

Watford have also seen Taylor three times this year, but they have not won any of them. They suffered a 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at home back in September, lost 2-1 to Tottenham in late December (in which he sent off Nathan Ake for a terrible tackle around the hour mark,) and drew 0-0 with Bournemouth a month ago.

Overall, Watford are winless in their last six with Taylor in the middle. You have to go back to February 17, 2009 to find the Hornets' last win with Taylor; that came 2-0 against Swansea City in what was, at the time, an upper-mid-table Championship clash.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Aston Villa v. Chelsea; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Bournemouth v. Manchester City; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Newcastle United; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. Swansea City; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday: Sunderland v. West Bromwich Albion; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Crystal Palace; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Liverpool v. Tottenham Hotspur; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Sunday (early): Leicester City v. Southampton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Sunday (late): Manchester United v. Everton; Old Trafford, Manchester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is exhausted. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to wake him up.