Arsenal travel to Brighton to face a team to whom they have never lost in a knockout tournament. There have not been frequent meetings between the two sides though, this the first since 1988’s fourth round tie at The Goldstone Ground where Arsenal emerged victorious by the odd goal in three. At least this time, those travelling by train are not going to see their tickets fly out of an open window, are they Neil?
The Arsenal scorers that day were Perry Groves and Kevin Richardson, the latter the type of midfielder that Jack Wilshere seems destined to develop into, albeit with more obvious flair. Having been keen to play down the hype surrounding his mercurial charge, Arsène succumbed to temptation yesterday and spoke of Wilshere‘s potential in an understated way,
The potential is there of course. But I’m not national-team coach – you should ask that question to Roy Hodgson, who will be happy to talk about it. In the national team you have a massive pressure straight away. It’s important that the player gets to the stage where he develops first completely into an accomplished football player and then takes responsibility to take care of other people.
He is naturally a guy who is not scared of anything on the football pitch and that is usually the sign of a leader. If you are asking me if I will take the captaincy away from Vermaelen, no. It is not a question that holds me at the moment. But do I think Jack will be captain of this club one day – yes, of course.
The Arsenal captaincy has become a poisoned chalice, the equivalent of handing in a transfer request. If that is the case, keep it away from Wilshere please. That he is being spoken of as a potential England captain is the media jumping the gun once more, their previous starlets have failed to deliver so it is time to put the weight of fifty years of expectation on another’s shoulders. Given he has yet to complete a full season since returning from injury, such thoughts are surely not in his mind with the first step following re-establishment into the Arsenal side being inclusion in the England squad. Not that there is much competition in the midfield.
For his club, it seems that he is favourite to be captain today, a theory springing from Wednesday. Will that happen? Were Bacary Sagna in better form, I suspect not but his own form must be occupying his mind and the captaincy would surely distract. Others who might be considered include Mertesacker and, well, we are running out of candidates if you are looking for inspirational players. It seems likely that Wilshere will become Arsenal’s youngest captain today.
There won’t be many changes from Wednesday; we don’t have the personnel. Mixed signals came with Emmanuel Frimpong’s loan to Fulham; is he just getting match practice or being prepared for sale? Moving out to make space for incoming players, Diame is still the man insists today’s papers, along with David Villa. Frimpong might be joined by Carl Jenkinson in going on loan with apparently Stoke interested. Yea Gods although he might return and be the only Arsenal defender capable of dealing with a corner. I can’t see that happening, the loan I mean, with too much pressure being put on the defence in the instant that injury strikes.
Thomas Vermaelen is out with Arteta and Coquelin not fit for return although Abou Diaby is. As harsh as it seems, Aaron Ramsey is the likeliest of the midfield trio that dominated West Ham to make way for the Frenchman. Whilst there might be a temptation for the manager to cast half an eye on the visit of Liverpool in midweek, his words suggested that Arteta is likely to make that match. It offers the chance of rotation, potentially with Oxlade-Chamberlain coming in on the right. There is still no depth on the bench in attack so maybe Theo Walcott dropping down to rest ahead of the upcoming Premier League games. I cannot see much advantage though in changing a winning team too much, especially in what is a tricky cup-tie.
The line-up I would expect to see is:
Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Diaby, Cazorla, Wilshere; Walcott, Giroud, Podolski
Brighton have come on a long and turbulent journey since the last meeting between the two sides, Liam Brady linking the two clubs currently and today’s tie resonates with history. For the Hove club, they hope history will repeat itself. Their third round victory over Newcastle will lead to a return to Wembley as it did thirty years ago whilst Arsenal want to emulate the feat of Terry Neill’s side who beat Brighton 2 – 0 at Highbury on this day in an FA Cup fourth round tie en route to meeting West Ham in the 1980 final. They definitely want to avoid their defeat at York City twenty nine years ago today.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.