By the time Arsenal kick off against Hull City on Monday evening, the Premier League title could already be in the hands of Chelsea. Still, while the championship dream is effectively over for another year, Arsene Wenger’s side have much to play for in their final five matches of the campaign. Locked in a tight three-team battle with Manchester United and Manchester City, Arsenal will surely be aiming for second place and their highest league finish in a decade. And there will be an urge, too, to avoid a fourth-place finish and the prospect of yet another nervy Champions League playoff.
Arsenal, then, will be targeting a victory at Hull, although they may have to do so without Mathieu Debuchy. The French right-back has seen his first season at the Emirates Stadium decimated by injury having missed three months of action on two separate occasions, after ankle surgery and then a dislocated shoulder. Having only made his first appearance since January in Arsenal’s FA Cup semifinal victory over Reading, he is now likely to have to sit out the trip to the KC Stadium.
“Everybody is in good shape, apart from Mathieu Debuchy, who has a little hamstring problem,” Wenger told Arsenal’s official website on Thursday. “We don’t know how bad it is. Monday could be too early for him. He got the injury in training.”
Wenger also commented that he expected everybody else to be fit for the Hull game, which would appear to suggest that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is back in contention after picking up a groin injury in the FA Cup quarterfinal win over Manchester United last month. Mikel Arteta, too, who has been back in training, could be in Wenger’s thoughts for a place in the squad for the first time since November. It would be a surprise, though, were the Spaniard to feature to any great degree before the end of the campaign, with Francis Coquelin having performed so impressively since coming into the side in front of the back four. Yet Wenger is eager to have as many options as possible as the season reaches its climax.
“We are at a period of the season where it’s going to be important to have everybody on board and to see everyone fit makes us stronger,” he said. “We are on a good run, we want to keep it going and the fact that we have plenty of [selection] opportunities is very interesting for me.”
After taking on Hull, Arsenal will host Swansea City the following Monday. Then comes a potentially key clash in the battle for second place as the Gunners visit Old Trafford to take on a Manchester United side that currently sit fourth, two points behind Arsenal having played a game more. The Premier League season then ends with Arsenal hosting West Brom and Sunderland in the final week, before taking on Aston Villa in the FA Cup final at Wembley.
Currently, it would be a surprise were Wenger to make significant changes to a side that has won nine and drawn one of their matches since the chastening 3-1 home defeat by Monaco two months ago. With a near fully healthy squad, Wenger has settled on a lineup, meaning that the likes of Jack Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain may have to wait until next season to make their case.
D: Chester, Dawson, McShane
M: Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone, Quinn, Brady
F: N’Doye Aluko
D: Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Cazorla, Coquelin
Ramsey, Özil, Sánchez
Arsenal’s remaining Premier League schedule:
Monday, May 4, @ Hull City (3 p.m. EDT)
Monday, May 11, vs. Swansea (3 p.m. EDT)
Sunday, May 17, @ Manchester United (11 a.m. EDT)
Wednesday, May 20, vs. Sunderland (2.45 p.m. EDT)
Sunday, May 24, vs. West Brom (10 a.m. EDT)