TGIF is normally associated with two days ago but in blogging terms, it’s Thank God It’s Football that is being talked about today. The FA Cup is rapidly losing it’s lustre, especially when those hopeless inadequates from up the road are talking about putting out their Under-12’s to face Manchester United.
Anyway, the trip to Cardiff presents an opportunity to progress, likewise the same chance to slide into the Hall of Shame that is reputedly the source of the competitions romance, accompanying the Class of ’92 when Arsenal last visited the home of a Welsh club in the competition.
It strikes me that this tie is comparable to the visit to Burnley in the Carling Cup; one where Arsenal should dominate but must take their chances whilst being wary of the threat posed by a decent Championship side. Changes will be afoot, perhaps more than Arsene would normally choose with the visit to Everton coming on Wednesday. Gael Clichy is suspended so it seems likely that young Gibbs will get the opportunity at left back.
With Fabianski replacing Almunia, the scope for change in the back five is still limited, too many will rock the boat. Despite William Gallas‘ return to fitness, I suspect he is going to be held back until Everton, perhaps then only getting a place on the bench as Arsene seeks to ease him back in to what is a busy period of time as far as fixtures are concerned.
Arsene has preferred to use a stronger line-up in midfield for the FA Cup so perhaps little change there. Nasri might be the most obvious candidate for a rest, Vela dropping into that slot or maybe even Ramsey, despite it being the ‘wrong side’ of the quartet and Arsene’s reluctance to pick a player on sentimental grounds. Alex Song is available and will probably get a game ahead of Diaby, saving the latter for midweek.
Up front, Bendtner’s multi-coloured boots have found the back of the net in the last couple of games so that should fill him with more confidence in front of goal than he showed on the visit to Turf Moor. It might have been temptin for Wenger to recall Eduardo, especially as the player is chomping at the bit to get back into first team action and an appearance this weekend should not be ruled out, especially since Arsene changed his mind in the space of two sentences:
I believe he needs three to four games, at least three. But what he did on Wednesday was encouraging. Gradually he gets more free in his decision-making. He showed he was physically ready and, of course, intelligent, but he needs one or two more games.
So, 1,2,3, or 4 then Boss? Arsene was obviously having a Feist-y moment by the looks of things. I suspect the team will be not much different from:
Fabianski; Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs; Eboue, Denilson, Song, Vela; van Persie, Bendtner
Cardiff should not be taken lightly. They have only lost to Birmingham, Plymouth and Wolves at home in all competitions this season which should be respected. That said, it indicates that when they are faced with ‘quality’ opposition, they are there for the taking.
Arsene commented that the fixture list favoured the defending Champions:
You can say that Manchester United have been extremely advantaged, unexplainably advantaged. But that is what we have to cope with. It is difficult to explain why one team plays on Tuesday and the others are all on Wednesday. It is unfair competition. Next week the fixtures are advantaged for Manchester United, who before had a point against Liverpool – I supported them when they had a case. But this week, I think Benitez has a case.
Pretty obvious that a replay would be a bad result from that viewpoint. More than anything else though, you get the feeling that Wenger is missing his old adversary, Darth Ferguson. Having been a bit too pally with him in recent times, perhaps the Frenchman is just looking to wind him up a bit, a sort of “coo-ee, I’m still here“. No doubt Ol’ Red Nose will have something to say, perhaps leading to a spat questioning who has the prettiest wife? I miss the old days…
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.