Preston Preview: The danger of weakened teams

It’s an ‘FA Cup third round and we’re in it’ post today. Arsenal face Preston in what is now a trickier tie than it seemed when the draw was made. Many consider this to be a genuine chance of an upset which is somewhat surprising.

Arsène has made no secret that we are travelling to the north-west with a depleted squad. It’s no different to the last time we visited Deepdale in the FA Cup in 1999 when we fielded a genuinely much-weakened XI:

Manninger; Dixon, Keown, Bould, Vivas; Parlour, Vieira, Petit, Mendez; Boa Morte, Overmars

with subs used, Caballero and Garde. Those were the days when we didn’t have much depth to the squad once you got past the first XI.

That we won 4 – 2 at Deepdale is in the record books. That we were losing 2 – 0 until a minute before half-time and pulled level after the home side was reduced to ten men, is often forgotten.

As with then, the XI left behind in north London is considerably stronger than the one which will take the field but not by much. Any side will miss Alexis, Laurent Koscielny and (probably) Mesut Özil. Even so, we have enough quality now to deal with those absences in this match. A Premier League team in the top half of the table would probably contain us and the top six would beat us. Lower than that, I quite fancy our chances so a mid-table Championship side? We can win this.

I’ve been around the FA Cup block to know saying “we will win this” is a step too far but that doesn’t mean I’m any less confident of winning.

Of course, injuries always give us the benefit of hindsight when it comes to decisions made five months ago.

Arsène observed that Jack Wilshere’s loan move to Bournemouth has a downside for today:

“Yes, I could use Wilshere now.

“What looks unfair at some moment in the season is that you know at some stage you could need the player.

“But even at the start you need to have the right balance between competition and numbers and chances for the player to play.

“And still today I think it was the right decision for him to go.”

Whether he’ll feel the same at 7.30pm tonight is another matter.

Yes, we could do with Jack tonight but how many opportunities would he have been given, even with Santi’s injuries? And let’s face it, if he’d stayed at Arsenal, there’s no doubt he’d be injured himself by now.

Advantage Preston?

Many of the changes were expected but as Arsène said, Preston can expect to face a strong XI. Ospina for Cech, in current form, is probably a seamless switch.

The back four is the real question mark in the team. Wenger has options and I suspect the fitness of two key players will decide the issue. Kieran Gibbs injury means Nacho plays while I expect Rob Holding to come in for Koscielny. Which leaves the question of Mustafi and Bellerin. If Mustafi is fit – and after a hamstring problem, that can be hit and miss – Bellerin maybe rested with Gabriel shifting to full back.

If the German is deemed too much of a risk, Bellerin plays with Maitland-Niles coming on as a late substitute. I just can’t see Wenger fielding a side with two inexperienced defenders, even with Preston’s own hit-and-miss home form.

The rest of the team picks itself. Ramsey and Xhaka get the chance to prove their critics wrong while hopefully, Arsène will play the right-footed Ox on the right and the left-footed Lucas Perez on the left. Alex Iwobi as Number 10 gives him the chance to prove his CAF Young Player of the Year award was no fluke.

Preston face Oli’s wrath

Despite his wondrous goal against Palace and the equaliser against Bournemouth, Olivier Giroud is still dividing opinions. It’s often a good thing with the Frenchman; when his back is against the wall, he can produce some of his best football. Preston won’t fancy containing an in-form Giroud which is why I favour putting Perez and Ox on their natural flanks, giving genuine width.

We’re good enough to win this cup tie, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the club’s last chance of silverware this season so the player’s motivation cannot be open to question, surely? Nor the manager’s. Arsenal are favourites to win and rightly so. Come the final whistle, if we aren’t in the draw for the fourth round, there’s something seriously wrong at the club.

Dad’s Jukebox

Times of our Lives has reached 1987. The third round trip to Reading was a memorable day for many reasons, none of which are repeatable on a family orientated blog. We won 3 – 1 so it’s an omen I suppose…

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

232 thoughts on “Preston Preview: The danger of weakened teams

  1. Orson Kaert says:

    I do think it’s a bit of a shame that we can’t (me included) see past the dreadful performance and rejoice in the fact that we will be in the fourth round draw tomorrow.

    Can we not please agree to disagree, when we can’t agree, without the abuse?

    We all in our own way support the club, and will continue to do so through thick and thin, personally I’m glad there is a measure of disagreement among ACLFers, wouldn’t it be boring without it?

    Anyway, it’s getting late so goodnight dear friends, goodnight.

  2. YW says:

    Am I allowed to criticise the Texans and be happy with the lead? Or does that make me a Cowboy? I’m very confused now.

  3. Arsetralian says:

    Speaking of Arsenal Arsenal

    Podcast not too bad and Adrian Clarke seems pretty articulate and lacking in bullshit.

    He nailed Preston game succinctly in preview that if you don’t match the ‘up and at’em’ quickly it could be a much tougher game than expected.

    But did I miss something? Ex-player?
    Don’t remember him at all!!

  4. Arsetralian says:

    Adrian Clarke Likes Football at Arsenal

  5. Jonnygunner says:

    But I did live 300 yards from Tower Bridge for a year (with my first wife)…..and we were members of ….wait for it…..The Kensington Roof Gardens club(in 1991)…..(as Jonny would say…’chortle’).
    Does that make me hip’n’happnin ?….thought not…..I loved that view of Wapping from where I lived……

  6. Wavey says:


    Unfortunately the pattern has been never-ending for some time now. We see the same “rinse and repeat” formula playing out every season. It seems there can be only one way to break this cycle, but many appear scared of the unknown and would therefore prefer to stick with what we have in the believe that at least being in the competitions should be enough.
    The next phase for Arsenal football club will involve another manager and it seems unlikely that much will change in our performances and achievements one way or the other until someone else is in charge. Last season was the golden opportunity to take advantage of slip ups from others, but even with our spending we managed to slip on the same banana skin. This season we knew the big guns would be fighting back, but we had brought in our star players and appeared to fill the remaining gaps. Yet again the team has inexplicably underachieved in games where we shouldn’t, or turned up looking ill-prepared or surprised at the intensity of our opponents.

  7. Jonny says:

    Thing is, Wenger’s legacy is a divided fanbase which will remain for years after he is gone.

    The ‘Wengerites’ who remain as Arsenal supporters – we’ll see a lot more churn of supporters in the shake-up after he leaves – will hold it against those who wanted him out. As such, they will continue the arguments even though they hold little relevance. There are quite a few I won’t be sorry to see the back of, I have to say.

    Genuine healing will only come when a new generation of supporters who didn’t know Wenger, comes through.

    100% that.

    I have imagined exactly the same ructions – quite looking forward to the great upheaval; I must admit.

  8. Orson Kaert says:

    Yogi, I don’t know if you are still operative, but I appear to have an entirely innocuous comment in moderation or lost in the ether.

    Could you release it please?

  9. YW says:


    Clarke never made the grade at Arsenal. Played a few first team games, one at Man City in the League Cup I seem to recall – did we win 3 – 0 – can’t remember. Went on to play for Southend.

    He trained as a journalist and worked for local papers, I think, before the Arsenal gig. Generally positive toward the club but always explains his view IMO, rather than expecting you to blindly follow his view.

    I think the only time I’ve seen him be a complete twat was after the Bournemouth game when he ridiculed supporters who questioned why Giroud celebrated rather than turning up the pressure on the home side. Seemed unable to grasp that notion which was surprising for a former pro.

  10. YW says:


    Got nothing in moderation or spam? What did it say?

  11. Orson Kaert says:

    Yogi, apologies, that comment was just over the page, please ignore my last. Thanks.

  12. Jonny says:

    Shiraz? Wood burner?

    Bloody yuppies…

    But yeah, I’m pretentious.
    Unbelievable scenes. 😉 😀

  13. YW says:

    No worries.

    That’s for OK not the wine sipping classes! Still growing the chillies, Jonny?

  14. Jonnygunner says:


    It said….’I’m going to bed’…….Orse…ya slacker ?

  15. Jonnygunner says:


    Soz Jonny-you got me bang to rights ?
    But….truthfully…..I do love a good ole Shiraz ….and the wood burner is ticking over as I type ?

  16. Wavey says:

    Why does a team like Bournemouth make wholesale changes to their side for the FA Cup? They are highly unlikely to finish far enough up in the Prem to get into Europe, so surely the FA Cup is an opportunity? Bournemouth have proved they can be a threat to anyone in a one-off game, so why not go for a cup run?

  17. Jonny says:

    Hell yeah. I have one plant ready for harvest with c50 really fiery, little, red bastards on it.
    I’m torn between preserving in vinegar or oil at the moment.

    I also now have three avocado trees germinating.

  18. Arsetralian says:

    Orson Kaert,

    Quite right

    It has been getting a bit unfriendly lately which is a shame as all supporters with different views which should create interesting debate. Usually the case I would say and backed up by sensible moderation with a blog which prompts that debate.

    The difffence on this site is people don’t generally just put ‘I love AW’ or ‘we are great’ or ‘aren’t I winner because I support the team that won’. Pointless

  19. Jonny says:


    More money to be made trying to finish higher in the Prem and don’t have the kind of squad to deal with the demands of both.

    Club their size, sitting where they are, I imagine they have aspirations for Europa?

  20. FinnishHit says:


    Steve Palmer1,
    In the past often when I have protested at the constant negativity, I have invariably been at the receiving end of abuse.

    How can anyone possibly suggest that AW told the players not the bother,but we have someone suggesting that today.

    So why do I keep coming here?

    The main blog is excellent. Thanks again Mr. JW for a wonderful year of blogs. I do not always agree with you, but I respect your right to express it and appreciate the effort you put it.

    Unfortunately, the banter is not always so healthy, especially the abuse addressed to AW, the players and anyone who says something the others do not like.

    I still look every day, but when the exchanges start to deteriorate, I move on.

    Exactly my thoughts. ACLF blogs are written so well, albeit too pessimistically for some years. But it’s the commentary section that’s been [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] the [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] that are [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] of sharing Arsenal views. This blog has too many [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN].

    And their [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] and their [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN] is boring – until you get the hilarity of that droll and it makes you want to come back, [YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN].

  21. YW says:

    If you want to put insults and coarse, pointless language into a post:

    (a) Don’t moan when someone calls you a cunt
    (b) Don’t moan when I edit your post to the point of making it unreadable
    (c) Learn the lesson

  22. Jonny says:

    “ACLF blogs are written so well, albeit too pessimistically for some years”.

    No agenda there at all, eh?

    Honestly all three of you want the writer, owner and architect of the blog to meet your narrow demands of what you think the blog should be.

    Maybe you should write your own blog instead?

    So we’re “anti-fans” that must make you the real fans, the real supporters eh?

    How lovely for you – truly we are not worthy. 😀

  23. Jonny says:

    Lol YW. Only just saw your response.

  24. FinnishHit says:


    You kinda missed my point because of some YAWN-editing (and thanks yw for making it clear anyway). It’s not the blogger, but the BTL (below-the-line) slush piling up. All this negativity is

    a) boring
    b) kind of interesting
    c) so this is what we have learned

    d) and it will never stop

  25. Damon says:

    Evening chaps. Didn’t see the game and made it to MOTD in blissful ignorance. Couldn’t resist coming in to see an inevitably full and fiery comments section as soon as our game finished

    Best comment today is quoted here…

    Here’s a conclusion from one perspective.

    I couldn’t watch the game – just read reports from major papers to this blog – and I am happy I missed it.

    The reason I made no effort to watch was because I felt sure it would be some variant of Arsenal mediocrity.Duly provided, and see no point in watching a recording.

    There’s yet again some contention in the posts above (which is dubious as there is no doubt all here are true fans) but objectively, at what point does it not strike Arsenal fans of all stripes that something at the core of the Arsenal is really off key?

    Over the last few months we have faced a number of key opponents (many of which were understrength and off form) in key games and underperformed, sometimes appalling so. There is no debate on the matter, no alternative perspective.

    Yet, I clearly have no idea what metric some use to measure the team.

    As this inconsistency has unquestionably dogged us for years, the level of denial in some quarters is epic, and I am sad to say so ingrained its not worth the debate.

  26. Damon says:

    Can I change my entry for best post of the day? There have been a couple of late entries! 🙂

  27. Wavey says:


    A shame really because a team like Bournemouth has the potential to go deep into the FA Cup. You wouldn’t fancy getting drawn against Bournemouth at the quarter final stage away from home when the next match is a trip to Wembley.

  28. Jonny says:

    AW agrees too – “Yes, I was angry. We are top-level Premier League & we were dominated in the first half”

  29. Jonny says:


    Agreed – it’s a pity. In part a casualty of the way the system is geared towards the top clubs.

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