The FA cup has turned from one of my favourite competitions to one of my least favourite. This is mainly due to two press-induced factors.
Firstly, I can’t stand the clichés that get aired every time FA cup ties come around. “The romance of the cup”, “giant-killing” are just a couple of the turgid excuses for commentary that we will hear. Expect the likes of Andy Gray to trot out as many as he can in his allotted 90 minutes. You half expect a white horse to prance onto the pitch at any moment.
The second thing I hate about the FA cup, no actually, I detest, is the constant, unrelenting, recurrent, incessant, and persistent replaying of THAT goal. You know the one I mean.
Anyway, Leeds. A word of caution. In the third round last season, they beat ManUre. They will be up for this game, their support is excellent, and they have a good young English manager in Simon Grayson. The latter clearly believes the travelling support will play an important part:
It’s a great draw for the fans as well. They will travel in their 1000s and I hope they have a good day out. Last season was different for them as well because of the rivalry and I think that win will have meant more than anything we could achieve on Saturday. We know we’ll have a fantastic support, we always do, and it’s a support that is the envy of every other club in the country. They’ll certainly ensure there is a great atmosphere on Saturday and they are incentive enough to make sure we do our best.
Any assumptions in the Arsenal dressing room that this will be easy must be dismissed, and a serious approach to the game is essential if we want to progress to the next round without any drama. A draw and not only will we have to add another game to our already congested fixture list, but it would be at Elland Road.
In their last game against Cardiff (which they lost), Leeds fielded this side:
Schmeichel; Connolly – Collins – O’Brien – Parker; Gradel – Howson – Johnson; Snodgrass – Paynter – McCormack.
Our own Sanchez Watt (or Herschel Oulio Sanchez Watt, what a name!) has been generously released to play against us and may start if he recovers from a head injury, The team that played against Cardiff looks like a 4-3-3 so we can expect that to become 4-5-1, or we may see at least one fewer forward and at least one more midfielder.
As for our line-up, AW said on the official site:
We will rotate. There are going to be changes, many changes. It will be good to have Kieran back and Eboue will play as Sagna is suspended. I cannot give you the team yet. I have somewhere in my mind that I will make changes but I don’t know who will play. From last night, we have no serious injuries. I believe that Nasri and Van Persie could be short for Saturday.
According to the Guardian, Aaron Ramsey may be back in contention. I think we may well see him on the bench. It’d be great to see him take the field in an Arsenal shirt again. I imagine the captain and Song will get a break (but hopefully warm the bench just in case); I think we’ll see Wilshere and Denilson with Rosicky in the centre of the park. If we do see those three in midfield, they must ensure they’re not bullied or crowded out. I’d be happier with the more physical Song instead of Denilson.
At the back, I expect Szczesny between the sticks, and Squillaci to start alongside Koscielny. I have to say I’d prefer to see Djourou and Koscielny together again. Defensive partnerships need time to gel, and I think of all the Squillaci – Djourou – Koscielny combinations, the Swiss and Frolish together has worked the best. Gibbs is back, and Eboue will be in to replace the suspended Sagna.
We may well see the Great Dane and Theo up front with Chamakh, while (the first choice front three?) Nasri, v Persie, and Arshavin have a breather. Despite what AW has said, I hope to see at least two of those three on the bench, to be used if the plucky northerners are tough to break down.
So for us I expect something like:
Szczesny; Eboue – Koscielny – Squillaci – Gibbs; Denilson – Rosicky – Wilshere; Walcott – Chamakh – Bendtner.
As for the odds, I like the look of 5-1 at 33/1 with William Hill. You can get 66/1 with the same firm for us to score 6 of the best without reply. Very tempting, and I think that will be my long shot. If we play as fluently as we can, we could score that many. I like Theo for first goalscorer, at 17/2 with Victor Chandler. A red card for either side is at fives with Paddy Power.
As much as the FA cup winds me up a bit, I do love the mis-matches, the excitement of the lower league teams when they draw a top side, the fact that it’s on proper TV, the times less good teams get an away draw and and celebrate the home replay, jumpers for goalposts… oh bugger it, I love it really.