Morning folks and welcome to matchday. It is one of my most favourite match days of the year actually; FA Cup third round day. A chance to travel to a ground that you don’t often go to and for me I haven’t been to the City Ground, so a new one to tick off the list. I’m excited because it’s an old school ground, an old school big named club, up against The Arsenal and we’ll be taking a fair few thousand away fans to roar us on and see if we can overcome Forest.

We have to be hopeful of success today I would have thought. We played them in the League Cup at home and smashed them 5-0 in 2019, but the last time we rocked up at the City Ground it was a terrible day with some terrible performances from Arsenal players. I think it was one of Big Per’s last games for the club and you could tell because he looked out of it and Forest beat us 4-2. They got two penalties that day and only a Danny Welbeck late goal stopped it from being an even bigger embarrassment if I recall rightly.

But today is a different game, different team completely, different coaching staff and there is definitely a different optimism about The Arsenal. We may have lost to City, but Arsenal fans over the globe will be looking at today’s game and seeing it as an opportunity to extract a little bit of revenge on that game almost exactly four years ago.

Team news is a bit of a weird one because I can’t find too much online about who is available and who isn’t. When Arteta did his press conference on Friday he just said we have a load of issues and also some COVID cases to deal with, so we have no idea who is available and who isn’t. But on the assumption that most are available, I suspect we’ll see a little rotation, but not a lot, today. Personally I’d rotate the lot and give key players a mini winter break by not even featuring them this weekend, so my team would be:

  • Leno
  • Cedric
  • Holding
  • Mari
  • Tavares
  • Lokonga
  • Xhaka
  • Smith Rowe
  • Odegaard
  • Patino
  • Nketiah

Charlie Patino in there looks a little left of field, but I wouldn’t be starting Martinelli today, because I want those legs – and that of Saka’s – fully rested and ready for the challenge of Liverpool away and The Scum away next week. Let’s have Lacazette also sat down too. He is playing more 90 minute matches lately but in a game like this we might as well give Eddie another shop window opportunity and given the opposition you would have thought this is a perfect opportunity to give some of them time. You could have them on the bench and if things look to be going sour then we can bring them on for minutes in the second half.

If Arteta names a side similar to that then it should be good enough to beat a Forest who have also had a bit of time off and haven’t played this year yet. That means they will be fit, ready and able to press us and give us as much intensity as possible. Because of their lack of playing time I suspect we’ll see a full strength side and I can’t pretend to know a lot about Forest, but their team includes Steve Cook – a guy who likes a strong challenge – as well as Lewis Grabban who at 33 is their main man and has 10 goals in 23 games for Forest.

Having looked at a few Forest fan sites it seems as though they think they’ll go with a 3-4-3 formation with wing backs in Spence and Colback. Colback is more of a central midfielder – or was so when he played for Newcastle – so that is an area which will be our right hand attacking side, that I’d hope we could exploit. But what we will need to do is to match Forest’s intensity in the opening skirmishes. These FA Cup games always start a little raucous and I am expecting those Forest players to try to come straight out of the blocks and try to rattle us, old-school FA Cup third round style. But providing Arteta has enough technical competence in the team – which I think we have – then after those first 15 minutes we need to start imposing our style and approach on the game.

It all has to be decided today and in front of terrestrial TV cameras in the UK, so I am hoping for a great game in which we can secure safe passage to the next round. Arteta can rest a few key players and even after today we have four days until our next match so there is time for recovery. But we need to see a continuation of the form that has seen us get to fourth in the league and having so many of us excited that this could be a good season. We only realistically have two competitions we can win this season and this is one along with the League Cup, so what I want to be writing about tomorrow is how The Arsenal – in their beautiful all-white kits, faced up to a lively and partisan Forest crowd and players and came out on top to secure passage to the next round.

Let’s hope we’re happy Gooners come 7pm this evening.

Have a good one peeps. Catch you all tomorrow.