Good morning from a rather chilly Dublin. And by chilly I mean it’s colder than Roberto Mancini welcoming Samir Nasti to How To Stand In A Wall training.
We’ve got football tonight, of course. A trip to Bradford for a Capital One Cup quarter-final and due to the fact that our next league game is (annoyingly) not until next Monday, the manager is going to bring a fairly strong squad to Valley Parade. The extra couple of days to recover means that he can use some players he might not have considered using otherwise, although I suspect a measure of rotation.
Vito Mannone is back in the squad, but Olivier Giroud is out, having picked up a back knack against West Brom, while Theo Walcott, Laurent Koscielny and Andre Santos remain sidelined. I think we might see a team like: Szczesny – Jenkinson – Mertesacker* – Vermaelen – Meade – Coquelin – Ramsey – Rosicky – Oxlade-Chamberlain – Gervinho – Chamakh
And with a smattering of youth on the bench, there’s probably room there too for some experienced heads should we need them. The simple fact is that we can’t really rotate too much anyway. We don’t have any other centre-halves, bar old Squidward*, with Johan Djourou so far off the radar he’s like a Swiss stealth bomber (its stealth comes from the fact it doesn’t fly), while Ignasi Miquel, who would normally have hoped to play on a night like this, is injured.
And while it’s a tournament in which we’ve played youth as much as possible, with the exception of Meade (and perhaps the two young Germans – and I’d like to see a bit of the Eis man this evening) there doesn’t seem to be anyone bubbling under, close to the first team. Not to mention the fact that the cups provide our best chance of silverware this season and as such we have to take them more seriously.
Tonight we’ll face a Bradford side who are complete underdogs, and who have absolutely nothing to lose. They’ll have looked at us in the last round, and in recent weeks, and they’ll know we’re not exactly consistent. Without any real pressure on them they might as well have a go and there’s the whole ‘Anything can happen’ bit of cup football. Which is what makes it so enjoyable, until anything happens to us, and we’ve been down that road before.
Fingers crossed that’s not the case tonight. The last time the two sides met was in January 2001 when an Igors Stepanovs led Arsenal triumphed at Highbury with goals from Ray Parlour and Lauren. The last game at their place was a 1-1 draw, Ashley Cole, of all people, salvaging a point for us. At least tonight there won’t be any Peter Beagrie to deal with.
Overall, you have to think this is game in which we’ll have too much for the opposition. Despite the cold, despite the backing they’ll have from the home fans, we should be winning this, and looking forward to a semi-final in the new year. It’s rarely that simple with Arsenal, but fingers crossed it’s not as dramatic as the last round.
In other news, well, there’s January transfer targets and blah blah rargh blurp meeeep, is about all I have to say about that. Which isn’t to say I don’t think there should be some, and I do want us to bolster the squad, but que sera, sera. I haven’t heard anything that isn’t already in the papers and how much truth there is to the stories, I just don’t know.
Meanwhile, Liam Brady has some interesting things to say about the new generations and the difficulties Arsenal, and other clubs, face when trying to unearth new talent. Speaking to Four Four Two, he said:
We’re battling against all the modern things that are around for teenagers, and we can suffer because they are less hungry as a result. Growing up in Dublin I played for a young boys’ club. We trained maybe once or twice a week and played on the weekend.
When I wasn’t with the football club I would practise on my own because I didn’t have anything to keep me at home – we weren’t staying at home with a video game or on Facebook.
That has been a negative for the pool of players that once existed in the British Isles and you can see why we have to broaden our scouting system to cope with that.
Of course they have Facebook and video games everywhere in the world these days, so it’s not a problem unique to Britain or Ireland, but as someone who has been working in youth football for a long time, you have to think he knows what he’s talking about. It might be just a small drop-off, but enough to be very noticeable when you’re trying to develop footballers for the top level of the game.
A game of FIFA is great and all but it’s not going to improve your technique as much as kicking the ball off the back wall with your wrong foot. Maybe it will just ensure that those who have the dedication and the application find it easier to make a breakthrough, as the Facebook generation become far too easily distracted by -
And here’s some stuff from me about Arsenal, Arseblog and social media in football and on match days. Speaking of which, Tom will be here tonight for the live blog, and considering his last live blog was the game against Reading we could be in for a stormer (because it was certainly his presence at the helm that made that game turn out the way it did). Check back later for another post with all the information and team news, or simply bookmark the default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
We’ll also be sending important updates, goals, red cards, half-time etc, directly to Twitter from inside the live blog.
And remember, if you fancy betting on the game, Paddy Power will give you a £20 free bet if you sign up and bet £10. Simply click here to register.
Right, that’s that. Fingers crossed for a good win later.