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Friday, 7 January 2011

FA Cup 3rd Round Preview

Changes galore for Arsenal tomorrow, I just hope those coming in will do better than they did at Wigan. According to Arsene Wenger we will not be seeing Samir Nasri or Robin Van Persie, while Carlos Vela, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey all return to the squad. Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny will be on the bench, at best, and Bacary Sagna will be replaced by Eboue. I also expect Fabianski to get a day off.
With a home game against a team from a lower division the changes shouldn't matter. Whether Arsenal win or not tomorrow will be dependant solely on their attitude. With that in mind I hope someone has placed a firework up Andrey Arshavin's arse by kick-off tomorrow. Leeds went to Manchester United this time last year to play a similarly depleted side, apparently with bigger fish to fry elsewhere. What happened was a poorly prepared Manc team went down 1-0 to a motivated Leeds.
Arsene Wenger is again talking about priorities and is ready to not take the FA Cup seriously. He blames the FA Cup semi-final defeat in 2004 for the failure of the players to beat Chelsea in the European Cup a few days later. Wenger uses his rather selective memory by stating that "all" the same players played in both games and left him thinking he should have sacrificed the FA Cup. The facts of those defeats are somewhat different - the in-form Henry and Reyes were left out of the FA Cup tie, coming on with ten minutes to go, only to return for the Chelsea game when much of our momentum had been lost - you will recall Henry and Pires dragging the rest of the team to a 4-2 home win over Liverpool the following Friday when the players looked set to throw it all away at half-time. After six years without a trophy Arsenal are not in a position to "sacrifice" anything. We still pay our money to watch the team all over the country in all competitions so Wenger's comments are an insult to the supporters. The FA Cup still forms part of your season ticket, so to hear the Manager saying these things is disrespectful to those who pay their money. I would hope that the Board are willing to kick his backside over such disdainful remarks. If the Manager wants to "sacrifice" a competition then I shouldn't be expected to pay money to watch the side playing in it.
As I've said, employing the right attitude will see Arsenal win comfortably, but when the players hear what the Manager has said they could be forgiven for thinking they need not bother trying - after all, they'd be doing the boss a favour by getting knocked out early. I think the side tomorrow will look a little like this, though it's not easy to predict:
Szczesny - Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs - Denilson, Eastmond, Rosicky - Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner. The doubtful player there is Eastmond - an in-form Song should continue to start in my opinion and, if we get out in front, he can be rested later in the game.

Elsewhere in the FA Cup Dover Athletic are travelling to Huddersfield Town with at least 1200 supporters. There are some big Arsenal connections in this tie with Dover being managed by Martin Hayes and including the Cup's leading goalscorer Adam Birchall (a former Arsenal trainee) and Nicky Nicolau (another Arsenal youth). Playing up front for Huddersfield is Benik Afobe, on loan from Arsenal and scoring goals in the Football League. I can't see Dover's defence being able to handle Afobe's pace and power, even though he is just 17 years old, especially if he comes off the bench late on.
Dover have been extremely unfortunate to not be rewarded with a big tie following their greatest ever FA Cup run. They've beaten two Football League sides in Gillingham and Aldershot, but I can't see them making it three. It's a disgrace that they haven't had a live TV game with the attendant income that brings to a small club, but if they could get a draw tomorrow afternoon, they must surely be shown live in a replay. Good luck to Dover, I think they're going to need it.

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