Thursday, November 30, 2023

FA Cup: Leeds preview + news round-up

Right so, FA Cup action this early afternoon against Leeds.

I needn’t go into the details of why I dislike Leeds so much again, suffice to say I really, really, really want us to win this. We know there are going to be a raft of changes to the Arsenal team. The manager has been cautious with Djourou so he’s unlikely to play and he said he’d rest Koscielny who had played a lot recently, so there’s a question over who might partner Squillaci at the centre of the defence.

Alex Song could move back or perhaps we might see someone from the reserves make the step up. There’s the young Spaniard, Ignasi Miquel, and beyond that I don’t know who. Up front Arshavin, Bendtner and Chamakh should form the trident while in midfield Denilson and Rosicky will play, Wilshere is rested, Nasri is out, so Eastmond could get a chance. Carlos Vela is in the squad, more on him later, as is Aaron Ramsey which is great news. I think it might be a bit much to expect him to start but you never know. Seeing him back in the squad is fantastic all the same.

Whatever team he puts out they’ve got a chance to show they want more than to be on the fringes of the first team. For the big games they’re on the bench and it’s matches like today, and Tuesday’s Carling Cup game, which provides them an opportunity to make a point to the manager. It also keeps them match fit and that’s important. We’ve got a lot of football to play between now and the end of the season and we’re going to have make full use of the whole squad. Their continued involvement is crucial and hopefully we’ll see players out to make a point today.

As for Leeds I really don’t have any clue how they play or how they’ll approach the game. They’re a Championship side doing pretty well this season and they come into this game as underdogs with absolutely nothing to lose. Teams like that often play with a fair amount of freedom and I imagine it’s going to be a much more open game than the one we saw against City on Wednesday night.

The magic of the cup might well have diminished down the years but we’ve had some epic battles with Leeds in the past. There’s real history to this tie and as I’ve said before the FA Cup is a competition that holds fond memories for me. It’s not as important as it once was, that’s for sure, but it’s still a trophy and one we should do our best to get hold of. We’ve won it four times under Arsene Wenger. Five is a much nicer number.

In other news there are ten clubs after Carlos Vela, according to Arsene Wenger, who says:

I would prefer him to stay in England because for us it is easier to watch him and come to conclusions. It is much easier to compare in the Premier League than if he goes to another country. But we need him to feel comfortable to go where he would like to go.

While I understand that to a point I think a little bit of tough love could be required. Ultimately, if we have plans to keep Vela and want this loan to be one that will benefit Arsenal, then we ought to send him to the club which is best for us. Ask Vela if he wants to go to Bolton or Valencia and I think Owen Coyle would be disappointed. It should be down to us. If we want Vela to come back and play Premier League football for Arsenal then he should go to a Premier League on loan. I suspect if we let him go to Spain, or somewhere abroad, we don’t have that as our primary motivation for this loan move and it’s more a case of putting him in the shop window ahead of a summer sale.

The boss also confirmed that Jay Emmanuel-Thomas would be going out on loan as well. There’s no hint at where just yet but you’ve got to think the next few months are very important for him in terms of his Arsenal future. He’s definitely outgrown reserve team football and the doubts about his attitude and application could be put to bed with a successful few months of first team action.

The boss also spoke about Aaron Ramsey, saying he’s not scared of physical contact, how Bacary Sagna hasn’t been protected, pointing to the Ferdinand challege which went unpunished, and said Samir Nasri’s contract would be sorted in the summer. I didn’t realise he was out of contract next summer and while I’m confident he’ll stay I do wonder why we’ve managed to tie down fringe players like Eboue and Vela on long-term deals, even Eduardo not long before he was sold, yet allowed Nasri to get to a point where he could play out his deal and move for nothing. Of course we’re talking about something that’s 18 months away so perhaps it’s best not to get too concerned just yet.

Interestingly, the boss was quite open about our interest in Lille’s Eden Hazard. The player said he dreams of a move to Arsenal. Arsene said:

Let us try to make his dream come true. We are following him. Personally I think he has real talent and the level needed to play at Arsenal. But in the offensive department we have many players. At the end of the season we’ll have a look at the situation.

It’s unusual for him to be so up front regarding a player we have interest in. Maybe the journalists caught him on a very truthy day, maybe he’s trying to send a message to some of the players currently at the club, who knows? Hazard is a very interesting player and when you consider the words of Zinedine Zidane he’s clearly very highly thought of. Which again makes it all the more curious that Arsene has shown his hand. Maybe there’s something already in place which is why he’s confident he can talk about it without the threat of it being hijacked. We shall see.

And that’s about that. Here’s to a good win today and the first step on the way to Wembley. Till tomorrow.

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