Saturday, 19 February 2011
Leyton Orient (a) preview
If the FA Cup matches at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford this Saturday have proved anything then it's that the competition is not dead yet. Everton and Crawley Town showed what is possible in the FA Cup as long as you believe. There is nothing more magical in football than the FA Cup and the drama it can produce. That is why Arsenal should approach the game at Leyton Orient tomorrow with plenty of trepidation.
Football has a habit of smacking you right in the teeth just as you think your team is hitting the heights. When we beat Chelsea on 27th December I thought this team was going to go from strength to strength. Just 48 hours later a much changed side threw away three points at ten-man Wigan. Tomorrow we will follow the heights of beating Barcelona by sending out a similarly altered line-up at Brisbane Road. I have no problem with a "weaker" team going on to the pitch tomorrow as we have two far bigger matches to play in the seven days that follow. As long as the right mindset is adopted by those in Arsenal yellow then it really shouldn't matter what players take to the pitch. The problem is that a number of the "second-string" have proved themselves to be lacking in certain areas throughout the past couple of years.
We know that Johan Djourou and Theo Walcott have been passed fit for tomorrow, but I will be annoyed if either of them is in the starting eleven - I'd far rather see them on the bench. The same applies to Cesc Fabregas, Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri. I expect to see one, or both, of Wilshere and Song among the subs too (Song may even be involved from the start). Bacary Sagna is back from suspension but I wouldn't dare risk him in this game as he is far too important to the side with Stoke and Birmingham ahead of us. Manuel Almunia will play in goal, I would imagine, and Nicklas Bendtner will be on the opposite flank to Arshavin.
Arsene Wenger has announced that Marouane Chamakh will play. I couldn't (and still don't) understand why Chamakh was left out of the 18 on Wednesday night. For a player who gave his all in the first half of the season to find himself dropped for the biggest of games (especially when the replacement is the ineffective Rosicky - more on him below) it must be very hard to take. Wenger seems to have "gone off" Chamakh for some reason. The boss was happy to tell everyone that he was feeling the pace a bit around Christmas, and understandably so given his workload to that point. The trouble now is that he is surely too well rested - he's hardly set foot on the pitch in the past two months. Bendtner has apparently moved ahead of him in the pecking order, despite Chamakh being (to my eyes at least) a far better footballer. I hope that the Moroccan takes his opportunity tomorrow to guarantee a place in the League Cup Final squad next week. One thing is for certain with him - give him good service from wide areas and Chamakh will score goals with his head.
This is how I think we could see Arsenal line up:
Almunia - Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Gibbs - Denilson, Song, Rosicky - Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner
Tomas Rosicky is 2-1 with the bookies to score a goal tomorrow. These odds are particularly short when you consider that his last goal came when Old Father Time was in short trousers. I would like to see the Czech get back on the scoresheet. He seems a shadow of his former self and I am convinced that he has never really recovered from his long lay-off. Rosicky seems reluctant to ever put his foot through the ball, probably because he fears his hamstring will go again, so we never see any of his trademark long-distance pile drivers. If he did get a goal it might do him the world of good. It can't be denied that Arshavin's goal against Everton a couple of weeks ago has certainly done him some good, maybe it can be the same with Tomas.
Thanks to ESPN and their ridiculous kick-off time I will only get to see the first-half before heading off to work. I'll have to use the Sky+ for the rest and watch it back when I get home. I hope that when I write the match review on Monday we are celebrating a place in the quarter-final of my favourite Cup competition.