After a couple of weeks of hell, tonight we head to Hull, looking to keep alive our hopes of winning the FA Cup for the third year in a row.
Victory would confirm a quarter final tie at home against Watford next weekend, so with all due respect to the Hornets, if we can tame the Tigers we’ll have Wembley firmly in our sights yet again.
For all our troubles in Europe and the Premier League recently, the Cup again provides us with a genuine opportunity to secure some silverware this season and even if fans are feeling a little ‘been there done that’ about the oldest cup competition in the world having tasted success twice in two seasons, completing a hat-trick of triumphs would still be a superb achievement and one no other club has managed for over 100 years.
And Arsene Wenger discussed the possibility of such a rare feat when he spoke at his pre-match press conference yesterday, saying:
If we were able to do it again, it would be absolutely fantastic. There’s no country where the national cup is bigger. In Spain and France, nobody neglects it: not Barcelona, not Madrid. Everybody plays for it 100 per cent, with a top team always. I personally rate highly the FA Cup. I think it’s a fantastic, prestigious competition. I believe it is treated like that because when I listen to people, should we lose a game in the FA Cup, it would be a disaster. You cannot say on one side it’s undervalued, and on the other side if we lose, it’s a disaster. We won the FA Cup twice in the last two years. We will try to do our best again in this competition.
It’s no crown-topped Premier League trophy and it certainly doesn’t match up to it’s big-eared European cousin, but the FA Cup is still a competition to be celebrated as far as I’m concerned and I’d love us to win it again. Chelsea in the Final with Petr Cech heading home a last-minute winner to complete the third Double of Arsene’s tenure would be perfect, but given our league standing at the moment, I’d settle for just the first half of that sentence.
In terms of how we’ll line up, based on the teams we’ve selected so far in the competition this season, my guess is Mesut Ozil will be rested but may make the bench unlike in previous rounds, and Alex Iwobi, an FA Cup ever-present this term, will start in the German’s place.
David Ospina will no doubt be in goal and given Laurent Koscielny is still injured, I guess who we play at the back depends a little on whether the boss feels Hector Bellerin needs a rest. If he does, then we play Calum Chambers at right-back with Gabriel and Per Mertesacker in the middle, but if not, then one the latter two can get a breather and Chambers can play centrally. Left-back also has a question mark hanging over it because usually Kieran Gibbs would deputise for Nacho Monreal but the Spaniard was rested in our last game so who knows.
I think Aaron Ramsey will also be left out, along with Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck, and considering we’re pretty short of options at the base of midfield, I think we’ll line-up something like this:
Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Flamini, Elneny, Iwobi; Campbell, Giroud, Walcott.
As for our opposition, they’re flying high and sit in third place in the Championship but similar to the first game in this tie, are expected to rotate heavilly themselves.
It’ll be a tough game regardless, but it’s one we really ought win on paper and given how close we’d be to winning the competition again were we to triumph tonight, the players should need no extra motivation to make it happen. Let’s see.
COME ON ARSENAL!