Something is very clear in my mind. If we play with the same team that destroyed West Ham on Saturday, then we’ll progress through to the next round. We will, no doubt, rotate some players, but the starting eleven must be strong for us to progress.
The question is, will the boss give Bendtner, Denilson, and Arshavin the chance to make good on their poor performances against Leeds and Ipswich? I suspect he might. Gibbs for Clichy is another possibility, and on the other wing the defence will most likely be strengthened by the return of Sagna from suspension.
Nasri had a rest prior to the game against West Ham, and I expect him to start, perhaps as he did against the Hammers as one of the front 3 rather than in midfield. We must remember Jack Wilshere’s tender years, and Denilson is a likely replacement for him. Fabianski is still injured so his younger compatriot will start in goal. Up front, we may well see a return for Chamakh. I’d like to see Theo keep his place and inflict his pace on Leed’s back four.
So I expect something like:
Szczesny; Gibbs – Koscielny – Djourou – Sagna; Song – Denilson – Fabregas; Nasri – Chamakh – Walcott.
I could well be utterly wrong and we’ll see Arsh, v Persie and Bendtner up front, but anyway, the key is the midfield. If Denilson is to start in place of Wilshere he really must get a handle on the game, and make sure his passes find their targets. The captain was hardly blameless against Ipswich, and I expect him to put in a good shift and prove he has the desire to win even in the FA Cup.
In terms of the odds, as a point of interest, the bookies have us as hot favourites, even away at Elland Road, with a home win 5-1 and us to win at only 8/13. Being Arsenally sensible, I’ve plumped for 2-1 (to the Arsenal, of course!) at 15/2 with Blue Square. The same firm have 3-2 at 28/1 which might get a few of my pennies. Not wanting to bet against us, but Sanchez Watt to score first is 16/1 with Blue Square again, which is my long shot. An alternative bet I placed a couple of penniew on had me considering a congested penalty area, and our striker Alex Song getting a goal at some point at 6/1 with Paddy Power.
This week could potentially see us get knocked out of 2 cups. To be knocked out against Leeds at Elland Road would be a nightmare to those of us who remember Leeds pre-collapse to League 1. The thought of a youthful Alan Smith is giving me shivers. AW has never been knocked out in the 3rd round before. Let’s keep that record alive.
COME ON YOU GOONERS!