Home sweet home
Arsenal 3 Southampton 2
Finally it seems we are beginning to find some form, and who knows it may yet be just in time to lift the last remaining trophy we have to go for this year - and get us back in the Champions League.
Arsene Wenger left Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsay, Alexandre Lacazette and Jack Wilshere out of the side for today’s visit of lowly Southampton - presumably with Thursday’s Europa League quarter-final second leg in mind.
But the 11 he did select were just about good enough to get the three points against a team deep in relegation trouble.
Two more goals from Danny Welbeck were welcome. Dan put in a good, solid performance today and it’s good to know he’s back on the goal trail should we need Europe with Aubameyang cup tied.
The defence is still a worry though, Shkodran Mustafi and Calum Chambers just don’t look up to it at the top level, although Rob Holding did well for the last 20 minutes after replacing Bellerin, a player whose Arsenal career started so promisingly but has gone backwards this season.
Granit Xakha, too, is a big disappointment. His sloppy passing Is unforgivable and gets the team into far too many tricky situations. He must give the ball away at least half a dozen times a game.
But at the other end we were sharp, Aubameyang and Welbeck at the centre of most good things today - and the victory pushes Mark Hughes close to the Championship - and that can only be a good thing.
West Ham’s point at Stamford Bridge means we are now just three behind Chelsea and there’s still a slight chance we could pip the Blues to fifth.
But there’s no getting away from it - this season now is all about one competition.
Avoiding a three-goal defeat on Thursday night will mean we move into the semi-finals of Europe’s secondary competition and will then be just three games away from a return to the Champions League. There’s much work still to do, Atletico are clearly the team to avoid in the semis should we manage to complete the job on Thursday, but Lazio looked good on Thursday too.
There was also good news on the injury front, with Arsene reporting today that Henrietta Mkhitaryan could be back for the semis, should we make them, and considering the glaring absence of creative players in the side today, we really could do with him pulling the strings in midfield.
Finally a note on Ray Wilkins. The minute’s applause at the Emirates for the former Chelsea, QPR and Manchester United man showed just how well-loved he was in the game. A top player and a class man as well, according to those who knew him.
Roll on Thursday and the chance to complete the job in Moscow.