It is no exaggeration to say that Arsenal’s entire season could swing on the result of the game at home to Reading on Saturday.
On paper is it not just a should win – but a must win too. For if Arsenal can win well – and keep some of the momentum they have from their impressive win against Bayern Munich – then they can set themselves up for the first part of a run in that should see them comfortably in the top four by the end of the month.
Drop points and it will take an enormous job to get the team to believe that they can outpace Spurs, let along Chelsea.
Reading should be an easy three pointer for the side. They have already beaten the Berkshire side twice this season once in the league (a comfortable 5-2) and then again in a very memorable Carling Cup game. However Reading are in a bitter relegation battle and with new manager Nigel Adkins to spur them on the game looks trickier than it did a few weeks back.
Arsenal are without some key players. Wilshere is two weeks from a return, while it has come too quickly for his England team mate Theo Walcott. Diaby is still injured and Kieran Gibbs is out with an illness.
Arsenal should still be able to field a strong team bolstered by the return from injury of both Podolski and Sagna.
Their problem could be scoring . Olivier Giroud hasn’t scored a Premiership goal since January, so there is added pressure on him and also Podolski, to help maintain Arsenal’s upward momentum.
On the positive side Santi Cazorla has been in fine form recently and with Podolski back and Wilshere sidelined he is likely to start in the centre of the midfield – arguably his most influential position.
Win on Saturday and Arsenal then face four other games which they should be able to gain plenty of points. The trickiest is the first – away at West Brom – but that really ought to a game in which Arsenal start as favourites. Then The Gunners entertain Norwich and Everton at the Emirates before traveling to Craven Cottage to meet Fulham.
Twelve points out of fifteen would probably see the Gunners back in the top four. Fifteen points is a very real possibility and if Arsenal can put a winning run together you would have to fancy them to hang on to a Champions League place.
At the end of the month the visitors to The Emirates are Manchester United, who in theory could be Champions by then. It is of course a game given extra spice by the return of one Robin Van Persie.
So how many points do you think Arsenal win take from the next five games?