Top o’ the morning to you all this St Patrick’s Day as those of us with Irish heritage enhance the family myths, forget our Englishness, using them as a feeble excuse to drink the day away although if anyone puts a shamrock in my Guinness’ (or should the plural of that be Guinni?), I cannot be held responsible for my actions.
Hull arrive at The Emirates, seemingly a world away from their previous visit in the late summer of 2008. In the Premier League, it would be a pity if their sojourn were to be a brief season and I wish them well in their fight for survival. As far as the FA Cup goes, sorry chaps, the bonhomie does not extend. It’s a dog eat dog world in a knockout tournament and I want Arsenal to have the baddest bite in the kennel. In a nice, knocking the ball around, playing everyone off the park, fluffy kind of way but if it has to be ugly, so be it as long as the mini-big ears ends up in the Arsenal trophy room.
There will be changes from Saturday, some enforced, some the usual cup rota. Surprisingly though, Arsene will not be using Aaron Ramsey. Gibbs in for Clichy is not an unexpected change, the youngster looking the most developed of the ‘youth’ reserves at the moment, certainly further along the road to the first team than Gavin Hoyte. Gibbs’ performances in the first team vindicate Arsene’s policy of loaning the youngsters and it is good to know that were anything to happen to Clichy for any length of time, there is an apparent replacement waiting in the wings.
Almunia will be replaced by Fabianski as is normal but it would have happened in any case, the Spaniard apparently more affected by Diouf’s assault than originally appeared to be the case. Watching the incident again, my flabber was well and truly gasted that the Blackburn player stayed on the pitch. Even more so that he stayed on his feet when Almunia put his head into Diouf’s head at a corner.
Other than those two, I would be surprised if there were any other changes in defence. Sagna did not appear to be having any ill-effects following his exertions in Rome whilst Toure and Djourou looked as formidable a barrier in the centre as Arsenal have mustered all season. Indeed, the pairs performance on Saturday has been largely unpraised in the media focus on Walcott and Arshavin. They handled Rovers forward line – for what it was worth – pretty well on the day although had they seen the efforts of the Blackburn players on Soccer AM’s Crossbar Challenge, they would not have been at all worried. Maybe they did and realised they were in for a relatively easy afternoon.
Midfield will probably see changes. Nasri will possibly make way for Vela on the left, especially given the Mexican’s cup form this season. A pairing of Song and Diaby would be no surprise either. Denilson must be tired after the last two games and personally, I would rather see him have a night off and be raring to take the Barcodes apart on Saturday, especially since Diaby is a more than capable replacement.
Up front, someone, somewhere is going to suffer for Bendtner’s profligacy on Saturday and what better way than tonight? Arshavin’s prompting will be missed but I am sure van Persie will be able to provide the basis of a strong performance from the Dane. To Bendtner’s credit, he may have been hugely disappointed not to have scored but with every miss, he picked himself up, dusted himself down and put himself back into the positions to score every time. As long as he does not lose that aspect of his game, the goals will come once more.
I would expect the team to be:
Fabianski; Sagna, Toure, Djourou, Gibbs; Walcott, Diaby, Song, Vela; van Persie, Bendtner
A win would set up a record equalling semi-final appearance and the chance to inflict more damage upon Chelsea’s season. Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.