As you read this, I’m in the skies travelling from Bristol to Amsterdam for a nice weekend away in a beautiful city. I hate flying. I’m not talking an aversion, more of a full-blown phobia that puts me on edge hours before. So if you think I’m boasting about swanning off for a nice break, you’ll take some comfort knowing I’m a sweaty, nervous disgrace right about now.
Today we’re all about the majesty of the FA Cup. Whilst the old girl might have lost some of her romance over the years in the mass scramble for commercial gain, she’s still a classy lady and one that should be treated as such. She also represents our best chance of silverware this season – that sounds totally clichéd, but it’s also true. The Premiership is most likely beyond us, the Champions League has thrown up another bastard of a draw again Bayern Munich and we saw ourselves unceremoniously dumped from the Capital One League Milk EFL Challenge Cup by Southampton. Realistically, if we want to raise something shiny in the merry month of May, England’s most famous competition is our best bet.
So, there’s a strong chance we won’t field much of a weakened team today. One player certain to miss out is Alexis who’ll be getting himself a much needed rest. The Boss explained:
“Alexis wants always to play, and on one side when I don’t play him, people say ‘why don’t you play him?’ and on the other hand I am criticised for using him too much.
But I always planned in my head, no matter what happens, that in January he will need a breather.
What we forget is that when they go away for international games they travel to Chile. Then they play sometimes 2,000 miles away, they travel back and then they come here and play the next day again.”
Those also certain to be absent today are Mertesacker, Coquelin and Cazorla. Elneny is away with Egypt and Walcott and Gibbs may not make the required level of fitness. I’d expect Koscielny and Mustafi to both be rested with Gabriel and Holding playing centrally. Carl Jenkinson could also get a start at right-back and Petr Cech will make way for Ospina.
Further up the pitch is a little tricker to predict. Limited options mean Xhaka and Ramsey could both start centrally with the remaining 4 attacking positions up for grabs. Mesut Ozil could feature, although if he’s not 100% I doubt he’ll be risked. I’m going to be bold and say those positions will be taken by Oxlade-Chamberlain, Akpom, Iwobi and we’ll see the return of Danny Welbeck after such a long time out.
Our opponents I don’t know too much about so I did a little research. Simon Grayson’s side currently sit 11th in the Championship. They opt to utilise a more direct approach when it comes to attacking so it’s fair to say they’ll be sent out to pressure our back 4 as much as possible with crosses into the box and high pressing.
It has all the potential of an upset today. Arsenal aren’t flying high in the league and there’s pressure all around the Club. If we don’t assert ourselves onto the game quickly, we risk buoying the home support and tempting the fate of the FA Cup. There are bound to be a few acts of giant killing in the 3rd round. For the sake of our season and my sanity, I hope Arsenal take into account we’re facing dangerous opponents and we can’t afford to wait until we’re 3-0 down to start playing football.
That’s all for today, folks. The comments await your thoughts on the team and how the match will pan out. Do you have a score prediction? Let everyone know. Before I sign off for the day, I’d like to point you all towards The Highbury Library – an Arsenal blog aggregation site that cuts out all of the click-bait bulls*t you find in other, unnamed places. It’s really a great place as it houses all the best Arsenal blogs in one handy avenue, and mine too. Be sure to check it out.
I’ll be back soon. as always; thanks for reading, you beautiful bastards.