The defence of the FA Cup begins on the banks of the River Trent. Forest are in disarray, managerless and in dreadful form; perfect giant-killing material if we’re honest.
Not that many people have marked this one down as such and based on our experience of the past few years in cup matches, it will be a surprise. Which I guess is the essence of a giant-killing; no-one expects it.
Down to team news first, it will be a bit of a pick ‘n’ mix line-up. “Some of those who played against Chelsea will play again, but also some fresh players will come in,” Arsène said. He went on to talk about next week’s semi-final in tones which suggest a strong line-up will take the field at Stamford Bridge. Quite right too; it’s the business end of a competition and it’s hardly going to damage our Premier League campaign, is it?
I’d expect wholesale changes up front and in midfield. Out go Jack, Xhaka, in come Coquelin and Elneny; no Maitland-Niles in the centre, alas with Kolasinac and Monreal both absent through injury. Up front, Walcott, Welbeck and Iwobi will try to stop firing blanks and add to their combined nine goals in 49 appearances.
Forest are struggling, with 8 defeats in 13 games. It cost Mark Warburton his job with the club’s new owners struggling to show any patience. Reaching the Premier League is the name of the game and failing to tap into the playoff places is unacceptable.
They did get a creditable point at Leeds but at home haven’t scored in three of the last four. Even with my big club supporter hat on, the one which imbues footballing arrogance into every fibre of my being, I can’t see us losing to them.
At the back, Ospina will come in with Wenger declaring the Colombian is “not happy” but “not unhappy” with his situation; in other words, he’s like the majority of Britain’s workforce, just considerably better paid. He’ll get over it. I’d expect Mertesacker to re-appear to rest Mustafi with Debuchy on the right. Experience is not in short supply.
It leaves the team as:
Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Holding; Debuchy, Coquelin, Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck
The chance for Theo to show Southampton that he’s worth a punt? They’ve got money to burn, after all.
January sales mean activity to replace players. We don’t have a natural replacement for Walcott in the squad although Wenger could solve his Ramsey/Wilshere conundrum by shifting the Welshman to the right. That’ll please him, I’m sure.
There’s a lot of talk around of Sanchez and Özil both leaving this winter which frankly isn’t going to happen. One maybe, but not both unless we get a sudden influx of cash which lets us replace both. Given Liverpool are about to be ripped off something chronic, it’s probably best to let them buy either of Lemar or Mahrez and then go for the other.
Which sort of brings us around to the point of this little delve into the transfer window. Many are underwhelmed by another story or ten linking us with Jonny Evans but it’s where we are at. A no-nonsense defender with experience of leading club and country is desperately needed to organise our defence.
We could also do with some proper defensive coaching; however, that isn’t coming, so experience is the next best thing. Especially someone who has been Pulised; he’d know no-nonsense defending, surely?
It vaguely ties into Wenger’s comments about working with Sven Mislintat. A new era is new for everyone which is more a problem for them than Arsène he said. The whole conversation smacked of a more erudite ‘stable genius’ moment, an ‘I’m not changing, they have to’.
There was a jibe about knowing all the players in Europe before he came unless it was knowledge of small German clubs Sven was bringing to the table. Well, I know all the players in Europe now I’ve got Football Manager 2018, Arsène, but there’s a world of difference between knowing their names and knowing them. Sven falls into the latter category, by all accounts.
Overall, I don’t see the comments as negatively as others, just Arsène’s nose pushed out of joint by someone who is reputedly abrasive. This week’s Mavropanos signing won’t have happened without Wenger’s say so which means business as usual. We’re used to the club taking punts on young players and not seeing them again; this may be no different, maybe he’ll make the grade. That’s something for the future to decide.
If there is friction, I’d guess it will emerge when Raul Sanellhi officially joins in February; as if he isn’t working for the club now.
The real relationship test is between Mislintat and Sanellhi; if that thrives then our recruiting will improve ten-fold because it’s not been brilliant for the last decade or so, has it? That’s more because of a lack of planning, the absence of coordination in what the squad needs and how the manager perceives its’ weaknesses.
Interesting times ahead for all, I think.
Enjoy the game wherever you are watching it.