Having come through the festive Premier League period very well indeed, and still nicely perched on top of the table, we turn our attention to the FA Cup. It’s nice, sometimes, to get a draw against a small club and the fixture fairies obliged this time around with a match against Sp*rs.
In fairness, it certainly adds a level of excitement to proceedings that a game against Chesterfield or somebody wouldn’t, and they’ll come to our place buoyed by the decent results they’ve had with their new manager – that bloke who used to play for Blackburn.
There’s some talk this morning that our team could be a bit on the makeshift side, with rumours of a start for Gedion Zelalem. He’s an exciting prospect, no doubt about it, but as much as I love to see a youngster make the breakthrough, I’m not convinced that a North London derby is necessarily the best way to give the lad his debut. It might be a case that there are injury concerns which are forcing the manager’s hand, but my general thought on this game is that we should put out our strongest team possible.
We don’t play for 9 days after this one, so there’s lots of time for rest and recuperation, and the fact that we’re in good shape in the league isn’t an excuse for making this game any less of a priority in our season. Before this campaign began I think many of us would have suggested our best chance at a trophy was in one of the cups, and that may still be the case.
Anyway, it’s not as if the two can’t be juggled successfully, it’s not an either/or situation. In the year we went through the league unbeaten, we had come through the festive period well and faced Leeds in the FA Cup, away from home. The team that day was:
Lehmann, Lauren, Keown, Campbell, Cole, F Ljungberg (Toure, 81), Vieira, Gilberto, Edu (Parlour, 80), N Kanu (Pires, 81), Henry
Bear in mind we had to play Everton in the league (away from home) just three days later, and that’s pretty much as strong as it got for our team, bar Bergkamp who was injured at the time. I know the schedule has been heavy and the manager does have to bear that in mind, but unless we’re stricken with injuries then I think this is a game for senior players first and foremost.
That 9 day gap should be enough to recharge the batteries before we get going in the league again, and regardless of the opposition (who add another layer of importance to the whole thing), this is a game we have to take seriously. The manager will have a press conference this morning so we should get injury updates on the likes of Giroud and Ozil, who have an outside chance of making the game, while the prognosis for Bendtner will be interesting – simply because it will, I think, have an impact on any potential business this month.
I liked Theo Walcott’s response when he was obviously asked if was a bad time to play Sp*rs, what with them winning at Old Trafford and doing well under their new manager, that bloke who used to play for Blackburn. He said:
I think it is going to be a bad time to play us as well.
It’s almost as if they forget which team it is that’s top of the table when they ask these questions. Good answer from Walcott that. He’s not crowing about how difficult it’s going to be for Arsenal, he’s not going on about a negative spiral, he’s not waffling about how we’re better than they are, he’s just responded to a daft question in the perfect way. Let them do the talking, as they always do.
For more on the North London derby, and what it means, check out Tim Stillman’s latest column right here. And we’ll have a proper preview of the game in tomorrow’s blog.
Now though, time for this week’s Arsecast which features a good chat with Andrew Allen and Tim Clark about the festive period, injuries, player contracts, the manager’s contract, the transfer window and the cup game tomorrow.
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Right, that’s about that for this morning. We’ll have all the latest news throughout the day on Arseblog News, back here tomorrow with the Sp*rs preview.
Until then, have a good Friday.