There’s something comforting about a good, old-fashioned, 3pm FA Cup tie, isn’t there? It’s quintessentially English, I find, with bad weather normally thrown in to the mix too. We’ve certainly ticked all of today’s boxes, as well as a a game against a lower league opposition in Burnley, who will probably be a Premier League opposition next season.
I love it. There’ll be a bit of rain, a bit of wind and a bit of rotation from Le Boss today, which makes sense given the fact we’ve got some tricky league games coming up on Wednesday and then Sunday. It’s Burnley we’ll host and like Blackburn three seasons ago, they pose a potential banana-skin-shaped threat unless we give them enough respect in the team selection. There’s also the traditional pantomime villains that we might see, in the shape of Joey Barton and Paul Robinson, the former Spud ‘keeper. If he plays we’ll get to resurrect an old favourite that I thought had long since disappeared from the Emirates, because apparently “event Tottenham think you’re sh*t”. Barton will be booed because, well, he’s Joey Barton. It all adds to the ‘magic’ of the FA Cup, you know.
To be fair to Arsene, I think he will give our opponents respect today, because I think we’ll see a mixture of squad and first team players. This would be a game in which you’d expect Ospina to play, something Arsene confirmed in his pre-match press conference, but I think he’ll also rotate in Chambers and Gibbs too. Gabriel comes in for Mertesacker and because Debuchy is on his way out, you’d expect to see Koscienly in defence with Calum in at right back.
Midfield will most likely have Elneny get a start, which seems even more the case with Arsene talking up his style of play, so the next question is who will probably play in front of him. Personally I’d be tempted to give someone like Iwobi the nod in the number 10 role, whilst the idea of Rosicky starting really appeals. He has played some reserve football and perhaps is not fit enough, which might then see Ramsey retain his place, but the Little Mozart must surely be given some game time at some stage. He’s right on cue for his late season impact and games like these are always ones in which he is useful. Coquelin too will probably see some minutes I would have thought.
The front three will have Walcott up top and Alexis out wide, I’m sure of it. Giroud didn’t get much game time after being subbed off on Sunday after 20 minutes, so he will be fresh, but we need him for both Southampton at home and Bournemouth away, so i’d ask Theo to try and prove he can at least have a go at wrestling that starting position off of the Frenchman, by having a good game this afternoon.
On the right Arsene has a plethora off options. If Giroud does start he could play one of Walcott, The Ox, Iwobi (if he’s not in at number ten) or Campbell, but I think Campbell will play on Wednesday so he might be given some time off. Or at least a place on the bench. He’s an all-action running winger and we don’t want him running out of puff by the time the Bournemouth game comes around.
Burnley’s gravelmaster Sean Dyche has already said he’ll rotate with the Championship games in mind, so whilst that might give us a perceived advantage, I’d always be wary of Clarets bearing gifts. They will press us quite hard and try to remain compact, but if there’s an early Arsenal goal, then I’d expect us to be able to put this game to bed with time to spare. If Burnley score first, it will be about breaking down a stubborn defence, so we need to make sure we’re not caught out cold. The excellent tactics column by Michael Cox on the official site gives an insight in to the way they’ll play, which does make you wonder whether Chambers will be risked at full back or whether Hector will play, with Calum moving alongside Gabriel to give Koscielny a rest. If Burnley are going to look to spread the ball wide, then that’s going to be a consideration Arsene will need to ponder on.
There’s no doubt we have the players to win this game, regardless of how much rotation there is, but the winning mindset needs to be re-established after a somewhat poor January. We are getting to the crunch time in the season and whilst the priority is obviously the league, the FA Cup is a competition that has seen us taste the sweet success of trophy victory, so we want to win it again.
If you’re going, you know what to do, if you’re not,then scream as loudly as possibly at your computer or TV. Up the Arsenal!