Good morning and happy Friday to one and all.
It’s an FA Cup quarter-final weekend, with a chance to make the semi-finals for the third successive year. However, the planning for this one has to take into account what’s going to be a fairly testing week in terms of our schedule. It goes:
Sunday – Watford 13.30 FA Cup
Wednesday – Barcelona 19.45 Champions League
Saturday – Everton 12.45 Premier League
While we always talk about one game at a time, there’s also a need for some kind of planning and we might get a better idea of the manager’s thinking after he meets the press later today. For some the FA Cup is the obvious one to prioritise, simply because it provides our best chance of silverware this season, but there are other factors to take into account when looking ahead to the action midweek and next weekend.
As difficult as it is, and as unrealistic as it is to achieve a positive result in Spain, you can be sure the players will want to give it a go. Any kind of understrength team out there would probably get a right spanking, and the effect that might have on morale and confidence is surely something to consider. But he also has to take into account a late arrival back in England and basically no time to prepare before an early Saturday morning kick-off at Goodison Park.
Anyway, it is one game at a time stuff, and I suspect we’ll see an FA Cup team similar to previous rounds this weekend, but we’ll touch on that game tomorrow and on Sunday in the match preview. There was something of an update on the injury front, with relatively good news about Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, about whom Arsene Wenger said:
Mertesacker and Gabriel are very positive, there is nothing wrong there, they are both good.
Laurent Koscielny, meanwhile:
He is not far, he will have tests until Sunday, but it could come too soon. He has a little chance.
It seems more likely we’ll keep him ‘fresh’, if that’s the right word, until Barcelona and then Everton. However, it seems that the news regarding Aaron Ramsey is as bad as feared with a 6 week spell out on the cards, and possibly more than that. Yes, as we said yesterday, it forces the manager to try something different and he may well stumble upon something that works quite nicely.
At the same time though, I’d much rather we had a fit Aaron Ramsey for the games we’ve got left this season. Goals from midfield aren’t exactly an area of strength for us, and he can certainly provide those. Plus, without the ability to rotate even a little bit in that area, we leave ourselves susceptible to the effects of fatigue. If he does go with the Coqeneny Axis in midfield though, I suppose the upside is that both players should have relatively full tanks.
Elneny has had a little while to settle into life in England and hasn’t played a great deal in the last couple of months, while Coquelin had that spell out with injury, meaning he shouldn’t feel like someone who’s been run into the ground. I’d like to see Joel Campbell get a run on the right, his attitude and performances merit that, but whether can do it for 90 minutes game after game isn’t something we can be sure of yet. However, I think he deserves the chance.
All the same, at this point of the season, any further injuries are bad news. Whatever you think of a player, the deeper the squad we have, and the more options available to us, the better.
Alexis talks about how he feels when he doesn’t score:
The truth is that … when I don’t score goals I feel like I’ve failed the team and I feel guilty. I go home, can’t sleep and I just think I have to play better.
I’m hoping that a player who has tended to score in bursts will do that again, having gone through a relatively dry spell of late. If an equaliser against Sp*rs with 10 men doesn’t give you a confidence boost, then I don’t know what will.
Right then, time for this week’s Arsecast, and on the show I look at how Arsenal fans online behave in the face of intense provocation, before I chat with Ben from REDaction about the ticket opt-out/boycott they were part of ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Watford. Then, there’s some football chat with Julian H from Gingers4Limpar, a chance to win a t-shirt and a print from Art of Football, and all the usual waffle.
You can subscribe to the Arsecast on iTunes by clicking here. Or if you want to subscribe directly to the feed URL you can do so too (this is a much better way to do it as you don’t experience the delays from iTunes). To download the Arsecast directly, use the link below the player, and if you are a regular listener via iTunes, if you would be so kind as to leave a review/rating that would be greatly appreciated.
We’ll have all the press conference news and updates over on Arseblog News this morning. For some extra reading, Tim Stillman looks at the effects Elneny and Welbeck might have on the team in the closing months of the season.
The Gent will be here later, more from me tomorrow. Until then.