Ruled out for two weeks due to a calf tear, the loss of Laurent Koscielny is going to be critical as Arsenal try and stay in fourth place ahead of Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. The Frenchman is not due to return until the cup semi-final against Wigan. This could be of significant importance, without Koscielny for the games against Manchester City and Everton the chance of Arsenal finishing fourth is slipping away. Cup success could be the only guaranteed way that the Gunners will be playing European football next season.
As embarrassing as the 6-0 defeat to Chelsea was, it was the 2-2 draw with Swansea that really twisted in the knife for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. They are now six points ahead of Everton in fifth, but they have two difficult games coming up.
Arsenal welcome Manchester City to the Emirates on Saturday evening. With Everton due to face Fulham on Sunday lunch-time, anything but a win for Arsenal will give Roberto Martinez side the chance to reduce the gap to at least four points. If things go Everton’s way, they would then get the chance to go level with the North-London club when they take on the Gunners at Goodison Park, seven days later.
The form of both sides would put Everton as slight favourites for three points that day, and it would pile the misery and pressure on Arsenal as they slide down the Premier League table. Nothing would be decided, but without Koscielny to partner Per Mertesacker, you worry about Arsenal’s ability to deal with the attacking potential of both City and Everton.
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Arsenal take on Wigan on the 13th of April. Victory against the Championship side would set-up a FA Cup final against either League One’s Sheffield United, or Premier League side Hull City. Arsenal would be favourites for the final, and with it, qualification to the Europa League. It’s not the tournament that Arsenal fans would be hoping to qualify for, but with form going against them, and Everton the Tottenham breathing down their necks, it would give them some semblance of hope and Wenger’s first piece of silverware in over 500 games would be a welcome relief.
It is impossible to rule out Arsenal for finishing fourth, they hold the position at the moment, and they are a squad that knows how to succeed at this level, but it would be easy for their focus to turn to the cup if the next two weeks were to go against them.
Koscielny will be a huge loss in the next fortnight, but his timely return could be crucial in their pursuit for cup success.