Match day? On a Friday you say?
At any other time I’d kinda like it. I work in a London, takes me about 15 minutes on the train to get to Highbury & Islington, so I can get a few jars in with the lads. Great fun.
Except The Management booked us in for tickets to something else tonight – about six months ago – and so I’ll be missing the game this evening. Which is quite irksome, I can tell you, because an FA Cup game under the lights against a big club is a great way to spend a Friday evening.
But such is life and we all have to deal with its little challenges. For Unai that is how he overcomes the current United team who will be full of confidence after their series of wins under Solskjaer and will be a very different proposition to the one we would have faced against Mourinho.
It’s a team who have their vigour back and that has come through a consistent team, fewer injuries, as well as some fine goalkeeping from a guy who is essentially the best ‘keeper on the planet.
Which is why we can all feel like the game might even be a little more equal this evening, because De Gea hasn’t travelled and he has always been the difference when we’ve lost or drawn against them in recent years. It feels like the playing field is levelled up a bit and I hope that gives Arsenal that little bit of added confidence that we might need to succeed and progress to the next round in this competition.
And whilst United are full of confidence and we have been a little ‘indifferent’ of late, the fact that we got that big win on Saturday last weekend will hopefully have a positive impact on our players, I think.
At home against the big teams we’ve always done well and so my hope is that tonight under the lights once again, we get big performances from big players, which includes the likes of Aubameyang and Lacazette, but also Ramsey, who I think will start behind them tonight.
Whether or not Unai goes for three at the back remains to be seen though. I have a sneaky suspicion he might. He’s lost Bellerin on the right and Maitland-Niles will surely step in on the right hand side. I suspect that with United’s attack being so potent right now that means that Unai will start the game in a more pragmatic fashion and I also think that he’ll want to protect Maitland-Niles a little more. So I think we’ll see Cech in goal (cup ‘keeper), Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as the wing backs, with the back three of Sokratis, Koscielny and Mustafi. In front of them with be Xhaka and Torreira and I think Ramsey will play behind the front two. You could potentially play Özil in the team but right now I just think Emery will use every excuse not to play the German and the fact that Ramsey did well last week is a reasonable enough excuse in his mind, I suspect.
He could go for a 4-2-3-1 and leave out one of the defenders for Iwobi, but I’d be surprised if he leaves us that open defensively, plus he’s used the three at the back at home to the Tiny Totts so he has form in terms of playing with more bodies at home.
Whatever he opts for though, there needs to be more impetus on Arsenal to do the attacking at home. We need to be driving at United from the start and a replica of the first halves against United, Liverpool and the Totts would be welcome.
I suspect we’ll need three to win the game tonight. We will definitely score and in keeping with the fact that EVERY former player seems to bag goals against us, you just know Alexis is going to pop up with one tonight, it’s almost inevitable. Which means we need our front two to have their scoring boots on.
Last weekend we had an impressively solid defensive display in the second half against Chelski but that is very much an outlier when you compare what we’ve seen for most of this season. So I’m expecting to see us concede and it’s therefore down to what we do going forward.
We aren’t winning the League or the League Cup, the Europa League will be tough, so if we want a shiny silver trinket then a cup like this is one of the few that might be a big opportunity for us.
So let’s hope for a good performance from The Arsenal and a few goals, as well as safe passage to the next round, by the time Saturday comes.
Catch you guys tomorrow.