Dover Athletic - biggest win for over 30 years
I'll keep this a little more brief than usual as time is cracking on. The boys go back in to Premier League action against Newcastle tomorrow and you can be sure it will be a totally different game to the Carling Cup demolition of ten days ago. Newcastle will have all their main players back for this one (and so will Arsenal in fairness). The inclusion of Carroll and Barton in the Newcastle starting line-up will be a totally different test for Arsenal. If Ameobi also starts then the back four will face a real physical battle, and they'll need Song and Wilshere to be at their very best in helping them out. Newcastle will be oozing confidence following their derby-day demolition of Sunderland last week, but that might just work in Arsenal's favour. If Newcastle come out tomorrow with the intention to attack Arsenal, rather than try to contain through organised defence, it should give the boys the space and freedom to get at their penalty area. There is a chance, perhaps, of Sol Campbell playing tomorrow. The big man is, of course, getting no younger but we know how good he can still be. If he does play then this will be a major test for Marouane Chamakh.
Arsenal should have some players back tomorrow, including Song, Arshavin and Fabregas. We have to hope that a midweek "rest" for Arshavin will see him buck up his ideas and start to play how we know he can. As we approach the Winter we are going to need his quality to come to the surface. Arsenal can't rely on Fabregas and Nasri to create all the time, and Alex Song will not keep on scoring important goals. If Arshavin can step up to the plate over the next six months he has the quality to propel us towards a real Title challenge. If he doesn't then he should be discarded with Walcott coming in to replace him.
We must hope that what happened in midweek is the final kick up the arse this squad requires. If they put in the necessary effort they should win the game tomorrow. If they don't then they can forget about getting close to the big silverware this season.
This is how I think we might line up tomorrow:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.
I have to congratulate my local team, Dover Athletic, for their tremendous achievement today. I don't watch them, even when Arsenal are not playing, as I refuse to pay £12 to stand (it's costing me a tenner for the Carling Cup quarter-final!) Since they re-formed in the early 1980's Dover's FA Cup record is littered with disappointments. Back in the mid 1970's they had a fine Cup run, or two, but since then only one appearance in the main competition, up until today. In the Summer their Manager, Andy Hessenthaler, returned to Gillingham (who had sacked him a few years ago) and took some back-room staff, and (and, subsequently, his replacement) with him. To say this caused bad feeling would be an understatement. Fate dictated that they should be drawn together in the FA Cup today. Dover, who have some good Arsenal links now with Martin Hayes in charge of the side, played the Gills off the pitch today by all accounts. Another former Arsenal man, Adam Birchall, scored for the tenth game in a row (20 goals already this season for him) and the Conference South boys won 2-0. There is no doubt that this was Dover's biggest win, in their biggest game, since those Cup ties in the 1970's. I saw an interview with Martin Hayes on Sky today where he said he would love to make the third round, and get a trip to Arsenal. Now, wouldn't that be something? In the FA Cup it is absolutely a possibility.
Thankfully we are the early Sunday kick-off tomorrow, so I'll post a match review when I get back home from the game.