I haven’t been able to blog for the last few weeks, but if I did, I would have been showering the team with compliments. Impressive back to back victories and clean sheets against Watford and Napoli invigorated my belief in the squad. I was supremely confident we would continue our strong home form and roll over Crystal Palace to put us in pole position for third place. However, we cracked under the weight of expectation and looked a shadow of the team we are used to seeing at the Emirates. With four games to go this loss puts us in a precarious position, but I’m still hopeful we can secure top four as luckily, there is not much between us, Chelsea and Manchester United. In true 18/19 fashion, every game is like a cup final.
Two set piece goals from Benteke on 17’ and McArthur on 69’ and a goal from Zaha on 61’ were enough to secure Palace a deserved three points. Ozil had leveled on 47’ with a sublime finish and Aubameyang pulled one back late on 77’, but it wasn’t enough. A catastrophic mistake from Mustafi for the Zaha goal was the pivotal moment of the game and left us with too much to do against a motivated Palace side. We struggled with Zaha’s athleticism, intelligence and ball control throughout the game and I couldn’t help but dream of how he would improve our side.
I’m mature enough to handle a loss, but the flaccid way we in which we lost was extremely demoralising. Palace fully deserved their three points and we made it too easy for them. All season we have been excellent defending set pieces, but this time we concede two! This team has heart and clearly tries hard, but they are crippled by pressure. Pressure can turn certain players into diamonds and kill others and unfortunately we have too many players in the latter category. Mustafi is a World Cup winner and clearly a capable player on his day, but his moments of madness have cost us too often. I’m not sure how many Premier League teams would take him and I’m not sure this league is right for his temperament. We need to be ruthless in the summer and move him on.
Tonight’s game against Wolves won’t be easy, but they will give us chances and with Sokratis returning, the defensive resilience of recent times should return. I’m still confident we will secure top four, but it will take three wins from four games. We’ll have a better chance of getting three points here than at Leicester.
Top four prediction
3. Spurs 79 points
4. Arsenal 75
5. Chelsea 74
6. Manchester United 71
Come on Arsenal!