An early kick-off today as we face Hull in the 5th round of the FA Cup.
With Barcelona on the horizon there are sure to be changes to the team that beat Leicester, with some of those on the fringes getting a chance, and perhaps the manager might be inclined to dip into the youth as well.
Given that Hull manager Steve Bruce said of his own team selection, “Tinkering…..whatever you want to call it – there will be sweeping changes. It’s not something that I want to harp on about but we’ve been dealt a difficult one with television requirements and ten games in 33 days is a ridiculous schedule for any club”, that might make Arsene Wenger even more inclined to shuffle his pack.
We could see something like: Ospina, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Chambers, Gibbs, Flamini, Elneny, Iwobi, Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott/Welbeck.
A little bit of quality and experience on the bench, a soupçon of The Jeff, and perhaps another youngster to make up the squad. It’s certainly a chance for him to rest some legs before that game on Tuesday night, but at the same time pick a team that should be capable of winning the game.
I know to some the FA Cup is something of a distraction, and yes, there is a bigger prize in our sights this season, but I don’t think you can underestimate the importance of maintaining momentum at this point of the season. If the players we bring in can get a result today, then it’s a positive thing in a number of ways. Of course we’ll be through to the next round of a competition that has been very enjoyable for us over the last couple of seasons, but it’ll also mean that these guys will keep those ‘first XI’ guys on their toes a bit.
It’s something Arsene Wenger touches on, saying:
You want to take care of the momentum because you’re quickly in a loss of confidence if you are not careful. The best thing you can do as a manger is to prepare with the needed resolute attitude that keeps this momentum alive.
And of course there’s a very recent history with Hull in this competition that adds something to today’s game. That final in 2014 was a seismic moment in the history of this football club. I know some will disagree, but I don’t believe Arsene Wenger would have stayed on as manager had we lost that day. Speaking about it yesterday, he said:
If you go to a final against Manchester United, people think you can win or lose. If you go to a final against Hull, everybody expects you absolutely to win and the disappointment would have been bigger. If we had lost it, I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. It would have been a problem had we not won, because it would have been a massive disappointment for everybody. But we won.
And I should qualify that by saying I think he would have wanted to stay on, but the reaction to not winning that final would probably have made his position untenable. When you look back at that season, and at moments which had a massive impact, you think of that Mertesacker header against Wigan in the semi-final, where it looked like we were going out.
Kieran Gibbs heading off the line at 2-0 down as we began that 2014 final like a team weighed down with nerves and pressure. And then the cup gave us two amazing days, coming back to defeat Hull 3-2, and then spanking Aston Villa 4-0 in last season’s final. We know football is funny and how quickly things can change, but the line between success and abject failure is a thin one, as illustrated by what we’ve done in this competition over the last couple of years.
Let’s hope we can continue that run today. As ever, if you can’t see the game, you can follow it with us on the Arseblog live blog. Check back later for a post with all the info you need, or bookmark our default live blog page and updates will begin automatically.
A reminder that yesterday’s Arsecast features some FA Cup chat, as well as reliving Danny Welbeck’s goal with commentary from all over the world. People seem to like the Irish one, I must see if I can track that guy down.
Right, time for some breakfast, a dog walk, then football. Catch you in a while for the game.