Arsenal face a tough test this week, with a Premier League encounter against Watford at Vicarage Road that they can’t afford to lose.
It’s a similar story on Thursday, when the North London club face their version of ‘the Italian job’ in the San Paolo Stadium, in the second leg of the Europa league.
The big concern is that Arsenal travel about as well as as a three wheeled Nissan Passat carrying a box of priceless bone china teacups.
Failure to win at Watford or protect their 2-0 lead against Napoli would mean both routes to the champions league would disappear simultaneously in less than a week.
Mathematically, they wouldn’t be out of the race for top four but Arsenal have a number of stiff away challenges ahead and they’ve probably had the only slip up they could afford against Everton.
The pressure is on and it will be shifting game by game until the final whistle on the last day but only if Arsenal beat the likes of Watford.
The infamous chuck away line from the neckless Troy Deeney regarding cojones, was never more appropriate for the North London team this week.
Arsenal have to show they can fight and win against the odds. They have to grind out games and learn how to win ugly.
They need get the ball in the net off any part of the human anatomy, rather than engage in beautiful choreography that ends in an exquisite goal but also heartbreaking loss.
The big plus for me is the return of ‘the little lion’ Lucas Torreira, he may be crucial in this game.
Striker Deeney said of Arsenal ‘Whenever I play them, I think: ‘Let me whack the first one and see who wants it.’ ”
Torreira, Ramsey, Kolasinac and Kosceilny will ‘want it’
Xhaka, if fit, might take the bait.
Lacazette will employ his French passion, given the importance of the game and had he not been suspended in the chaos at Everton, Sokratis would have been the ideal man to take Deeney to church.
I suspect Emery may look to those I’ve already mentioned to counter the physical nature of the game ahead but they will have to be careful in doing so.
Arsenal will hand the advantage and the game to Watford if they see red. If the tackles go in, as expected, they will have to be on the refs blindside or be given the benefit of the doubt.
Watford are currently flying and reputations are worthless.
They are reminiscent of the old Wimbledon side of the 80’s but don’t underestimate how potent that type of camaraderie can be, it is extremely capable of delivering a win.
Watford have the talent, Doucouré, Pereyra, Capoue, Deeney, Deulofeu and Gray could combine to make it a miserable Monday but if Arsenal have learnt the lessons of Goodison Park and start with a quick tempo, Watford could become hypnotised by their intensity and slick, accurate passing.
Arsenal will need to defend but also perform well in attack. Lacazette and Aubameyang will need to sharpen up their act and make the chances count but the supply needs to be much better.
Both strikers have missed at crucial times and Arsenal can’t afford to have either fall asleep or become anonymous.
A back four would be my preferred formation and one that doesn’t have Mustafi in it. Failing that, a back three with four in the middle and three in attack might do the trick.
I’m going to stick my neck out and call an Arsenal win with a score line of 3-1.
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