Good morning to you, it’s Saturday, there’s football, and it’s the FA Cup 4th round against Burnley. It’s a chance for the manager to play some players who don’t normally play, but not too many of them, because this is not a Burnley side to be taken lightly.
They’re currently third in the Championship, unbeaten in their last 6 games, and their manager looks like he could bite the head off a person without so much as a how-do-you-do. So, for the players brought in today, it’s not only a chance, but it’s a test.
Arsene Wenger confirmed that David Ospina would play in goal, while Kieran Gibbs and Gabriel will come into the back four, and I think we might see also Calum Chambers at right-back. We have to give flying Hector a break at some stage, and with Mathieu Debuchy still on the verge of leaving to go somewhere (even Arsene doesn’t know where), Chambers seems the only available option, if the young Spaniard is given a rest.
Midfield will be interesting with a debut for Mohamed Elneny a ‘possibility’, according to the boss. With the news that Jack Wilshere is going to spend another 6 weeks sidelined, I’d say giving the new boy his first game is practically a requirement now. Quite who partners in him there is another thing, Tuesday’s game against Southampton looms large, and if Mikel Arteta is available we could see him today.
Further forward, Alexis getting the nod on the left would seem sensible. He needs playing time after 8 weeks out, and he’s also really, really good, bringing something to our attacking game that has been missing for a while. I’d say it’ll Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right, and one of Walcott or Giroud up front. Some youth on the bench, perhaps, but this doesn’t feel like a game for them to be starting.
The manager is certainly taking the threat of today’s opposition seriously:
They have good players. We know that we have learnt in the Premier League that the teams who have come up from the Championship, it is not like 10 years ago – they compete at the right level. We have learnt something this season, we went to Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup and got quite a severe defeat. We have to show we have learnt from that.
It’s all set up for one of those old-fashioned cup ties. They’ve got nothing to lose, we have a bit to prove after our last few games, and from our point of view there’s a need to get ourselves going again as things begin to heat up in the Premier League. Let’s hope we come out the right end of it.
Going back to the Wilshere news, that’s a blow for him, certainly, especially with the European Championships this summer, and more and more you have to wonder about his future. I still maintain it’s too early to write him off, the talent he has means you have to give him every chance to get fit. The worry, of course, is that he can’t. I don’t doubt he’s having the best medical care, experts, physios, surgeons, rehab, the whole lot. Nor do I doubt his commitment to getting fit, in terms of how hard he works to achieve that.
Which is why when you hear stories about his comeback being delayed yet again, you fear that despite all those things, he is a prisoner to his own body in a way. The injury in August wasn’t even that serious as leg breaks go, a hairline fracture apparently, so it is a worry. A bit like Tomas Rosicky, he’s heading towards bonus player territory, because you really can’t bank on him being fit and available.
Hopefully, he can come through this and reach a level of sustained fitness. It would be fantastic because I think he could bring a lot to this team, but he’s got a lot to overcome to do that. The physical, of course, but also the psychological effects which must be tough to deal with. He’s close to missing yet another season in thus-far short career, and that can’t be easy.
Good luck to him.
The transfer window might be closing, and bar Debuchy going out and perhaps a loan for a couple of young players, it doesn’t look as if we’ll be doing any more business. However, we’re very close to signing two Nigerian youth internationals (when Wenger admits this it’s probably because the deals are done), Kelechi Nwakali and Samuel Chukwueze.
Arseblog News youth expert Jeorge Bird looks at where they’ll fit in. Their signings are interesting though, a broadening of our horizons at that level, after Andries Jonker said in September 2014:
The scouting must be restructured all over again. It needs to be brought to a level so that we can bring in the absolute best talents from abroad and from England at an age that Wenger can immediately work with them.
I can’t remember any previous youth signings from Africa, usually because there are complications regarding work permits etc, but those seem to have been overcome with this pair. For more on them, Nigerian journalist Colin Udoh provides from insight and context here.
Right, that’s just about that. Remember to listen to this week’s round-table Arsecast if you haven’t already. You can get it here, via iTunes or Acast, and you can find it in all your favourite podcasting apps. Subscribe now, and thanks as ever for listening.
Live blog later, catch you then for the match.