Today we embark upon another trip to Wembley and another cup final – our 4th in the past 5 years. Say what you wish about Arsenal’s indifferent form and failure to reach consistency in the league, but to reach that number of cup finals is impressive.
The League/Carabao Cup remains the one domestic trophy Arsene Wenger hasn’t won as manager. We’ve been involved in 2 finals and lost both. The first against Chelsea way back in 2007 in which we took the lead thanks to a young Theo Walcott’s first Arsenal goal, but eventually succumbed to bloody Didier Drogba. The 2nd in 2011 saw us slump to a shock defeat against Birmingham, a game that will always be remembered for a Szczesny/Koscielny blunder and Barry Ferguson being a massive c*nt. On both occasions we lost 2-1.
Today, it’s very much a case of hoping it will be 3rd time lucky, and we’ll have a huge test on our hands against Manchester City. Going into the game, we’re by far the underdogs. City sit comfortably atop the premiership and look very impressive – at times unplayable. We’ve huffed and puffed and faltered more often than not. For every promising display there’s been one that’s set new heights of sh*t-awful.
Being in a position in which no one expects us to win is an advantage. This Arsenal team only really seems capable of concentrating when they’re expected to lose. On our way to winning the FA Cup last season, we beat both Chelsea and Man City in the last rounds to lift the cup and the majority of pundits/experts gave us little chance of doing so. We didn’t win either game by fortune or chance, we won through defending as a team and focusing on the game.
That is absolutely what we must do today. If we play with any of the complacency or somnambulism so apparent in the Ostersunds game, we’ll be destroyed. Approaching a team with quality like De Bruyne and Aguero on the field with a mentality of anything other total concentration would be football suicide. If the jarringly terrible and shaky Arsenal turns up today, it could be all over inside 20 minutes.
Of course, we can ill afford to pay our opponents too much respect. They’re undoubtedly a great footballing side and, barring something catastrophic, they’ll win the league with plenty of games to spare. However, folks, they are beatable. We have threat in the attacking third and they’ll look at Aubameyang and Ozil as potential game winners. We should treat City with reasonable caution, but look to establish our own game on top of that.
The teams news looks good. Aaron Ramsey looks set to win his battle against injury. There are no fresh concerns ahead of kick-off and our only absentees through injury are Lacazette and Cazorla. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is ineligible having already featured for Man United earlier in the competition.
Aside from Ospina retaining his place in goal, Arsene should field the strongest team available. There has been discussions regarding whether we’ll opt for a 3-5-2 with an extra central defender to try and shore us up. Whilst that system served us well at the tail end of last season, my assumption is we’ll stick with 4-3-2-1 or a slight variation of the system. Something like this:
My choice of Elneny over Xhaka would simply be to avoid being overrun in midfield. Xhaka is good on the ball, but isn’t the most disciplined when it comes to defending. Elneny may not be the flashiest of performers, but he’s solid and dependable and we’ll need some of that. Arsene may opt to go with Welbeck instead of Iwobi for similar defensive reasons – Welbeck is more partial to tracking runners.
My prediction is very much heart over head. Our recent poor showings mean my head says it’s City all the way. My heart tells me that we’ve been written off in this position many times before and come though to win a trophy. There is no reason that can’t happen today. I’ll predict a 2-1 win after extra time with Iwobi to score the winner.
That’s all for today, folks. The comments await your views on the game. How would you line-up? What do you think the score will be? Let me know. I’ll be back tomorrow to review the game and hopefully it’ll be a fun one to write.
Until that time, and as always: thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.
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