It’s Cup Morning again, and it’s bright here, though the air is a bit cold. A trip to the south, then for Arsenal, as they travel all the way to Brighton, in a bid to progress to the next round of the FA Cup.
It’s easier said than done, this thing of giving respect to a lower league opposition, in cup games. The Capitol One Cup exit, at the hands of Bradford, who now rightfully take their place in the final against Swansea, is just one prime example.
Arsenal went to Bradford, thinking the game was won, but were clearly taken aback by a bright start from the home side. After going a goal down, it was always going to be tough against a side, ready to put their body on the line on every occasion that demanded it, a limited pitch, icy conditions and an unrelenting defensive and goalkeeping display.
Similarly, against Reading, who are by no means a lower league opposition, but a side that Arsenal were expected to beat quite comfortably, we went 4-0 down, within 37 minutes. A real sign of complacency. Yes, we bounced back and escaped prison, winning 7-5 spectacularly in the end, but yet the initial display reeked of a poor mentality from the squad.
Brighton do offer a different challenge, and surely not another cupset please. They can play some good stuff on their day, they have a good stadium, a decent squad, a good support, and a bright young manager in Gus Poyet, who probably has an eye on the top job at Arsenal, despite his questionable past, where he has represented, who else but Chelsea and Sp*rs.
Gus Poyet has managed put together a squad that can play some decent football, bringing in some continental talent, in players like Spaniards Bruno, Andrea Orlandi and David Lopez, who join existing Spaniards Inigo Calderon and Vicente, once a highly rated Valencia winger. Also joining up, will be new signing Leandro Ulloa, who joined recently from Almeria.
Apart from that, Brighton have players with plenty of Premier League experience, in former Manchester United goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak and former Southampton, Chelsea, Fulham, Manchester City, West Ham and Sunderland left-back Wayne Bridge. Does bring back memories of his late heartbreaking goal for Chelsea at Highbury, way back in 2004, to knock the Gunners out of the Champions League at the quarter final stage.
Other players to watch out are defensive midfielder, Liam Bridcutt; as well as striker Craig Mackail-Smith, a consistent goalscorer in the Football League.
Enough about Brighton then. Arsenal come into this game, surely buoyed by their exploits in the recent Premier League clash with West Ham, where they struck 5 goals, 4 of which came in a scintillating 12 minute cameo, at the start of the second half.
Olivier Giroud took his tally to 11 for the season, including 8 goals in the league. He also has 9 assists to his name, and has made the ‘over the defence chip assist’, his trademark move.
It is good thing to reach this number,but I want to keep going and score more goals. I know my team-mates very well, so I feel really good in games. I have scored 11 goals and I have nine assists but I know I can do more.It was important to win because Tottenham are on a good run. We have to concentrate on the Champions League places – it is our objective and we really want to get there. If we play like tonight from the kick-off, it will be much better for us.
The manager also likened Giroud’s traits to that of former Arsenal striker, Alan Smith, of Anfield and Copenhagen fame. Smith, who had a slim frame, was effective for his hold up play, and was strong in the air. He scored 115 goals for the Gunners, during an 8 year spell.
Our fans like Olivier Giroud, because he is a guy who is developing very well.First of all he fights for the team, he has great qualities and charisma. I am convinced there is a lot more to come from Olivier and that he can convince our fans he is the striker they look for.[He is] maybe like Alan Smith, a little bit – he can develop into this kind of player.It always takes time, but he has scored 11 goals and has many assists. He is strong in the air, defensively and offensively, and overall he has important qualities for the team.
Arsenal’s main man on Wednesday night was Lukas Podolski, who scored a screamer, and chipped in with 3 delicious assists, and he is still unsure why he is substituted in almost every game he plays.
Ask the boss why [it happens] — I don’t know,When you are a footballer, you will not always play 90 minutes.Sometimes you are not happy but this is not important for me,” he continued, his eyes welling up.I do it well — I fight for Arsenal, for the club and team and this for me is important. [It is not a fitness issue], no.We have a lot of great players. The coaches don’t change the full-back or centre-back — you change always the positions in the front who create something. You have great players and it is not a problem when I am substituted.
The transfer front has been quiet for Arsenal so far, with only few players moving out on loan, most notably Johan Djourou to Hannover, Marrouane Chamakh to West Ham, and now Emmanuel Frimpong to Fulham. Rumours are afloat that Francis Coquelin could be loaned out to Spanish side, Real Betis, which would of course leave us terribly short of options in midfield, unless the boss has other plans to bring in someone.
Yes, I just said that. The manager again frustratingly denied that the club is on the lookout for someone in the transfer window, and revealed his desire that the number of transfers in January be reduced to two. In a way of saying, we aren’t bringing anyone in, and even the others shouldn’t.
We have two players in every position and that should be basically enough plus the young players we have in behind,We have been linked with Villa, but there’s nothing concrete there. We’re not on the case. It’s a wrong market. The only clubs who sell are in financial trouble and players who move are unhappy. It’s unfair.But if we find top class players we will never refuse to strengthen our squad.
Worry not, though. Arsenal are expected to field new signing Tomas Rosicky for today’s game. The boss is increasingly hopeful of a positive impact from the Czech, akin to last season, when he was reborn after the famous North London derby.
He had a great impact last year in our comeback from February until May,Hopefully he’ll do that again this season.Unfortunately we lost him during the European Championships. He’s just back to full fitness now I believe.Hopefully he’ll help us because we have many games coming up and I’m convinced he will be a big help, because he has technical quality and his mobility is important in the way we want to play.
Team news, then. Mikel Arteta is definitely ruled out, while Thomas Vermaelen is out as well, after suffering a knock against West Ham, thanks to Aaron Ramsey. Francis Coquelin is out as well, with a hamstring injury. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky return to the squad.
So, with Vermaelen and Arteta out, we could be seeing Jack Wilshere being named as captain. If that happens, he will be the youngest captain since some bloke named Tony Adams. Arsene Wenger revealed that Thomas Vermaelen gave Wilshere the armband, whilst being substituted.
Honestly, Vermaelen made that choice and I let him make it,It is always interesting to see when Vermaelen is out who he feels spontaneously should be the captain. I did not want to stop him.[Wilshere] is naturally a guy who is not scared of anything on the football pitch and that is usually the sign of a leader. He wants to win and shows you that.Of course he will be one of the leaders of this club – in fact he already is. A leader is somebody who does everything on the pitch to help his team to win. And he does that.If you are asking me if I will take the captaincy away from Vermaelen [then my answer is] no. But I think Jack will be captain of this club one day.First of all, because of the quality of the player. Second, his commitment and desire to win. And his understanding of the game. He understands football very well and senses on the pitch what you have to do.
Here is how I expect the teams to lineup.
I have preferred Carl Jenkinson over Bacary Sagna, because it is quite evident the Frenchman needs a breather. Elsewhere, I would also like to see Santi Cazorla being rested and Abou Diaby been given a start along side Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.
Laurent Koscielny is the straightforward choice in defence, while the front 3 picks themselves up automatically. I won’t be surprised if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starts in place of one of the three.
It is a game which surely can’t be taken lightly. In what remains our only real hope for silverware this season, tonight’s game will become a must win!
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
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