Arsenal get a welcome break from the Premier League this weekend, as it's time for the FA Cup third round. After four Premier League games in 10 days I'm sure that the players will be delighted to great a break, as the boss gives some of the less regular members of the squad a chance to show what they can do.
The FA Cup is a trophy that Arsenal have won four times under Arsene Wenger, and it was the last trophy that he won back in 2005. For a few years now Arsenal have been accused of not taking the FA Cup seriously enough, as they have fielded weakened teams with the pursuit of other trophies being the priority.
Since they last won the FA Cup in 2005 they have only played in one semi final, and that ended in a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea in 2009. On that day the boss chose to omit Andrey Arshavin who was clearly Arsenal's best player at the time. After taking an early lead Arsenal were pegged back, and Arshavin only came on when it was too late. Hopefully the team that is chosen against Leeds will be strong enough to ensure qualification for the fourth round.
The latest squad news is that Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere, Samir Nasri and Robin Van Persie will all be rested, and Bakary Sagna is of course serving the first game of his three game ban. The players added to the squad are Kieran Gibbs, Aaron Ramsey and Carlos Vela, and they will all hope to play all or some of the game. The return of Ramsey will be a welcome sight, and I'm sure he will get a fantastic reception from the fans. His loan spell at Nottingham Forest went very well, and it's been almost a year since he played for Arsenal after Ryan Shawcross decided to snap his leg in two.
I would be fairly sure that Wojceich Szczesny will take over in goals from Lukasz Fabianski for the FA Cup, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he performs. He looks like he is an outstanding prospect for the future, and I fully expect him to make the goalkeeper's shirt his own when he gets the chance to do so. I'm not saying that Fabianski hasn't done well since he has been in the team, but I just think that Szczesny is the future for Arsenal.
I think that Gibbs will probably play at left back, as Gael Clichy has had a back problem for quite a while now, and the rest will do him a lot of good. Emmanuel Eboue is sure to play at right back as Sagna is suspended, and Sebastien Squillaci should be one of the centre backs. I think that Alex Song will probably play alongside him in the centre of defence, as I doubt Johan Djourou will be risked. The boss has said that he doesn't like to play him twice in a week, as he still hasn't fully recovered from the injury that kept him out for a year, and he played against both Birmingham and Man City already in the last week.
In midfield Denilson and Tomas Rosicky should both start, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see Cesc Fabregas in front of them, as long as he is up to the task. Arsenal will need somebody to create the chances for them, and who better than Cesc to fill that role. It's a game I would like to have seen Henri Lansbury play in, but I think he's still out on loan at Norwich City.
The biggest problem for the boss will probably be which three players get the nod in the attacking positions. I think Andrey Arshavin is sure to play, and I think that Nicklas Bendtner will probably play too. That leaves one place between Marouane Chamakh and Carlos Vela, and I have a feeling that Vela will be chosen on the left hand side. That will probably mean that Chamakh will start on Wednesday night against Ipswich Town in the Carling Cup semi final first leg.
That's a team that is more than capable of beating a team in fifth place in the Championship with only 11 wins in 26 league games. Leeds like to score goals, but they have also conceded quite a few goals this season, and their defence will have it's work cut out in this game. I think that there will be quite a few goals in this game, and I think Arsenal will get most of them. I'm predicting a 4-2 win for Arsenal, and I wonder what odds I would get on a result like that.
Arsenal have never lost to lower league opposition in the FA Cup under Arsene Wenger, and I don't think that statistic will change in this game. Leeds' fall from grace was very quick, and it was a lesson in what can happen to teams that spend more than they can afford. It took them a while to get out of League One, but they have a decent chance of getting promoted to the Premier League this season. It has to be remembered that they managed a great win away to "Manure" at this stage in the FA Cup last season, and Arsenal have to be aware of the threat they pose.
Arsenal need to approach this game with the same attitude that they did against Chelsea, Birmingham and Man City, and not the one that a lot of the players on view today showed against Wigan. With a Carling Cup semi final to come on Wednesday some of these players will be hoping to play in that match as well. The best way to ensure a place in the team against Ipswich is for those players to put on a performance against Leeds that will make the boss pick them again. Let's hope that plenty of Arsenal players put in those performances, and prove the boss's faith in his squad to be right.
The boss said that Bacary Sagna has apologised for his sending off against Man City. He added that Sagna has not received the protection he deserves from referees in recent games, and when Zabaleta insulted him he overreacted. Thankfully two of the three games he will be suspended for are cup games, and Eboue should be able to cover for him in those games, and the Premier League game against West Ham as well.
The boss also said that he expects Samir Nasri to extend his contract in the summer. He has met Nasri's agent already, and he said that the job should be finished in the summer. Nasri will only have one year left on his contract in the summer, and that can be a dangerous thing, but I hope that the boss is right and Nasri stays. He has been arguably Arsenal's best player this season, and I think there is a lot more to come from him.
The boss said that Eden Hazard will not be joining Arsenal in the current transfer window. He said that Arsenal have enough options in the offensive department, and that Carlos Vela and Jay Emmanuel Thomas will both probably go out on loan. He also added that Arsenal will have a look at the situation at the end of the season.
That's it for today.
Here's Thierry Henry showing us how to score against Leeds.
That's it for today.
See You Tomorrow.