Happy FA Cup Sunday boys and girls. Hope you are having a good one and preparing yourself mentally for the test that is Nottingham Forest this afternoon at 4pm. For those of us in England not going to the game we have the added stress of having to deal with the hopeless commentary that is BT Sport, so we’ll be treated to plenty of cliches, of commentary that makes you raise your eyebrows and maybe, painfully, Michael Owen.
That is what we do know. What we don’t know is who is going to be in the Arsenal team today because with a semi final in midweek to come before we return to the Premier League, i’m not quite sure which Arsenal team Arsene picks today. Especially as there was a game against Chelski on Wednesday last week. If I was to hazard a guess I’d go for a bit of rotation but not full rotation this afternoon. So for me that would be Ospina, Mertesacker, possibly Debuchy, Welbeck and depending on how close to the exit door he is, Theo Walcott too. It isn’t outside of the realms of possibility that he goes for a full strength side today because they’ll have a week to rest before Bournemouth next Sunday, but I don’t think he’ll not play a stronger side in the semi final, at least I hope he doesn’t when you’re that close to a final in its own right.
So for me I think we’ll see a line up that includes: Ospina, Debuchy, Chambers, Holding, Mertesacker, Kolasinac (if fit), Ainsley in the centre (I just have a feeling this might be the type of game to give him a test in the middle) with possibly Elneny alongside him. In the front three I think we’ll see Welbeck and Walcott, so it will just be Arsene’s decision on who starts with them from the first choice front three. I’d be tempted to go with Ozil because I think he can craft more space for Welbeck and Walcott and also given the fact they are pace and explosive players who will want to run in behind. Playing Alexis with those two doesn’t complement them, nor does Lacazette, so for me it would definitely be Ozil ahead of the other two with both perhaps on the bench if we need it.
I listened to the Arseblog on Friday and by the sounds of it Forest are a team who are in a little bit of trouble at the moment. Not in danger of going down, but they’ll have a caretaker manager today and whilst their players will no doubt want to give the home fans a lift, without a main man at the helm you’d hope that Arsenal should have enough to overcome the Championship side. Under Warburton Forest were a side that focused on short passing, building from the back and I believe at one stage earlier in the season topped the passing stats in the league. So they’re a slide that likes to play with the ball. That means that if we can turnover the ball when they are building out from the back we can hit them quickly and hopefully counter them from higher up the pitch.
There might even be a reunion today with the man mountain that is Armand Traore. The crazy left back who was part of Arsenal’s 8-2 Old Trafford debacle should line up at left back for Forest and so my hope is that whoever is on that side just looks to run in behind him, because he is a liability and we should be able to capitalise on that. Come on Armand – let’s have one more from you, please.
We have to control the football today. Given Forest’s style if we do that, they will succumb to our players, but we all know this is Arsenal. We’ve been pretty hopeless away from home for most of the season so I’m not expecting us to dish out any kind of spanking. Team’s just know how to beat us or at least stifle us, so my expectation is for this game to be just as tight and frustrating as every other game has been this season.
If it is to be his last game, or one of his last, it would be nice to see Theo sign off with a goal or two because as much as he has come too symbolise modern day Arsene Wenger Arsenal, he’s still put his time in at the club and when he goes I’ll still be sad to see him leave, even if I want it to happen soon.
Up the Arsenal, here’s hoping to safe passage in to the fourth round.