I haven't written anything about Arsenal in a few days as I decided to take a bit of a break between the Ipswich Town game and tomorrow's game against Huddersfield. Sometimes it can be very difficult to come up with something that you feel is worth writing about, and it can really ruin your night's sleep. I have spent many night's up until the small hours doing my best to finish off what I had started, and ended up going to work after four or five hours sleep. However, the few days rest have done me the world of good, and I'm raring to go.
To be honest there wasn't an awful lot to report during those few days, but there is a match for Arsenal tomorrow. It's back to FA Cup action as Huddersfield come calling to the Emirates for a fourth round clash. In the last round Arsenal had a home game against Championship promotional hopefuls Leeds United, but they made hard work of it, and ended up going through after a replay. That was an extra game that Arsenal could have done without, and there can be no room for any such slip in this game.
Huddersfield are in third place in League One, and they're only outside the automatic promotion places on goal difference. Their priority this season is obviously their attempt to gain promotion to the Championship, and the FA Cup is nothing more than a good chance to earn a little bit of extra money for their club, and possibly show up one of the big boys. They can approach the game with no fear, as there are no expectations for them to succeed, and that's the one thing that they have in their favour.
Arsenal are overwhelming favourites to win of course, and quite rightly so, as they are in second place in the Premier League, and through to the last 16 of the Champions League, as well as the Carling Cup final. Huddersfield can only dream of achievements like that, but if they could manage any sort of result tomorrow it would be their taste of the big time.
There was a time when Huddersfield were the best team in England, after the won the league title three years in a row from 1924 to 1926 under the management of Herbert Chapman for most of that time. When he left Huddersfield in 1925 he moved to Arsenal, and it was under his guidance that Arsenal became the major force in English football in the 1930s. During that decade Arsenal won five league titles, as well as two FA Cups, and they managed three of those league titles in a row. Sadly Chapman didn't live to see all of those trophies in the Arsenal cabinet, as he died in 1934, but there is no doubt that he laid the groundwork for Arsenal becoming one of England's major football clubs.
There is a current connection between the clubs, as Arsenal youth player Benik Afobe is on loan at Huddersfield until the end of the season, but due to FA regulations he won't be available to play for them against Arsenal. He's one of a host of Arsenal players out on loan at the moment, and the latest player to join that group is Carlos Vela. He has joined West Brom on loan until May, and hopefully he will get a good deal of first team action, as he seems to have slipped very far down the pecking order at Arsenal.
There are a few players returning to the Arsenal squad after injury for this game, and the chances are that some of them will play. Manuel Almunia, Sebastien Squillaci, Abu Diaby and Tomas Rosicky are all available again after various spells out through injury or illness, and I would imagine that at least two of them will play. I can't see Almunia starting, after four months out of the team, and Diaby is a player who gets injured very often, so I think he will be eased back into the team. That will probably mean that both Squillaci and Rosicky will play, along with a lot of other players who wouldn't be considered first choice at the moment.
Arsene Wenger said yesterday that Wojciech Szczesny is Arsenal's first choice keeper, and he has done nothing to be taken out of the team. With Lukasz Fabianski injured, and Almunia just back from injury I think that Szczesny looks set to keep the keeper's shirt for the rest of the season. He looks like he has the makings of a really top class goalkeeper, and hopefully he will be one of the best goalkeepers in the world for years to come. The real tests for him will come when Arsenal play Barcelona, "Manure" and some of the other top teams, but I think he is up to the task, and he will prove it. Of course he's bound to have the odd setback, but the fundamentals of his game are first class, and he has the confidence that goalkeepers need.
For a change I'm not going to go too deeply into what I think the starting 11 will be for Arsenal, but with a Premier League game against Everton on Tuesday night there are bound to be plenty of fringe players on show. I think Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue, Laurent Koscielny, Denilson, Samir Nasri, Marouane Chamakh, Nicklas Bendtner and Andrei Arshavin will all play as well the three others players I mentioned. The reason I think Nasri will play is because Arsenal need a player to pull the strings in midfield, and he sat out the midweek victory over Ipswich.
Arsenal's biggest enemy is complacency, but hopefully they have put that problem behind them, after the poor shows in the first games against both Leeds and Ipswich. Despite the fact that it's a second string Arsenal team there will be enough talent on show to cause Huddersfield more trouble than they can cope with. The players need to use every inch of the pitch, and move the ball at a tempo that the top Premier League clubs find it difficult to cope with. It's usually very easy to tell from an early stage whether Arsenal have turned up or not, as the tempo for the match is usually set in the first 10 minutes by them.
Earlier in the season Chamakh was Arsenal's only fit striker, and he played very well as they stayed in contention at the top of the league. Since the return of Robin Van Persie he has slipped from the first team to the substitutes bench, and when he has played he hasn't looked particularly good. He was originally bought to act as cover for RVP, but the injury that RVP picked up against Blackburn early in the season meant that he had to play in every game. As Bendtner was injured too, it meant that there was no rest at all for him, and I think that the pace of the game in the Premier League took it's toll on him. I hope that he has managed to revive himself enough to come back stronger for the remainder of the season, as I think he still has an important part to play for Arsenal.
Ideally he will get the chance against Huddersfield to score a goal or two, and it's amazing what a goal can do for a striker's confidence. His heading ability is next to none, and he has very good feet too. He can bring other players into the game, and he leads the line excellently. It would seem that the only thing missing from his game is pace, but from what I have seen that has hampered his game quite a bit at times. When he is played through on the keeper he quite often tries to cut back, or looks to play a pass, rather than going for goal. If he could just find that killer instinct in that position, I think he would find himself getting a lot more opportunities.
I'm on a pretty good run of predictions at the moment, as I have got the scoreline right in Arsenal's last three games. Runs like that don't tend to last too long, and the only sure way to get is wrong is for me to place a bet on the result. I won't be doing that though, but I will predict another victory for Arsenal, as I think that they will run out 3-0 victors on the day. I hope that Chamakh plays, as I said above, and if he does I think he will get himself a goal.
This is Arsenal's last game in a very busy month, when they had to play nine games, but they won't be quite so busy in February when they will only play six or seven games. Hopefully they will get a win today, as a draw would mean a replay on the Saturday of the fifth round, and they would possibly be playing catch up on the other teams after that. With a Champions League game at home to Barcelona, and a Carling Cup final against Birmingham Arsenal are going to have some very big games in February, and an FA Cup replay is something that is not needed. The drawn game with Leeds made January that much harder, and hopefully the manager can impress upon the players the importance of winning at the first attempt against Huddersfield.
Arsenal's appearance in that Carling Cup final against Birmingham means that their Premier League game away to the Spuds has been postponed, and as yet it has not been rescheduled. It means that the game will be played later in the season, and that could be very late depending on how far Arsenal go in the Champions League and the FA Cup. It would of course be nice to win the league at their ground, or even to celebrate St. Totteringham's Day, and doing the two of them at the one time would be ideal.
Tomorrow's game starts at mid-day, and even if I wanted to I couldn't watch it in the supporters club, as the pubs in Ireland don't open until 12.30pm on a Sunday. I can only imagine what sort of time Arsenal fans in the USA have to get up at to watch the game, and I don't envy them at all. I'll hopefully be back tomorrow afternoon with a review of the game against Huddersfield, and then on Monday I'll preview the upcoming midweek Premier League fixtures. That's the lot for today.
Here's a look at how good Chamakh was earlier in the season.
See You Tomorrow.