It's back to FA Cup action for Arsenal tonight after the disappointment of Sunday's Carling Cup final defeat. There's been plenty of talk about how the Arsenal players will react to the defeat by Birmingham, but I'm hoping for a positive reaction. Funnily enough I think the manner of the defeat might not be too bad for Arsenal. If they had played really badly and been well beaten I think it may have had a much worse effect on the team, but they didn't. Of course they could have played a whole lot better, but at least they didn't bottle it on the big occasion.As I said in my match review, I think Arsenal would have gone on to win in extra time if that last minute blunder hadn't cost them so dearly.
As it stands I think the FA Cup is at the bottom of Arsenal's priorities, and that makes a lot of sense. However, despite that fact Arsenal have to beat Leyton Orient tonight to rebuild their confidence and self belief. The thought of losing at home to a club two leagues below them is just not one that Arsenal can even consider if they are to get back on track. Orient may have done well in the drawn game, but in my opinion they were never really in the game until their late equaliser. If Arsenal approach tonight's game in the right manner they should have too much for a their opponents even if it is very much a second choice Arsenal team on show.
The team tonight more or less picks itself as I'm sure Arsene Wenger will want to rest some players for the Premier League game against Sunderland on Saturday afternoon. Since Sunday the injury news hasn't been good as Robin Van Persie, Laurent Kiscielny and Alex Song all picked up injuries. It would seem Koscielny will miss tonight's game only, but Song could well miss Saturday's game as well. The news on RVP is far worse, as he will miss at least three weeks. It means he will not be available for the trip to Barcelona, and he's a player that will be sorely missed that night.
The next game after Barcelona will be a trip to Old Trafford to face "Manure" in the FA Cup if Arsenal win tonight. After that it's a Premier League game away to struggling West Brom, and then there's a dreaded international break. Normally I would fear an international break at this stage in the season, but if Arsenal can somehow make it through to that break without losing touch I think it could be a good thing. By the time the players come back from playing for their countries I hope that RVP will be ready to return, and possibly Thomas Vermaelen will too. Cesc should be ready well before that, and possibly even for that all important Barcelona game.
Back to tonight's team selection, and the boss said yesterday that Manuel Almunia will start in goal as he needs to play some games. I would imagine the defence will consist of Kieran Gibbs, Emmanuel Eboue, Sebastien Squillaci and Ignasi Miquel, as the boss looks to rest Sunday's back four. Abu Diaby should play in midfield along with Denilson, and both Nicklas Bendtner and Marousne Chamakh will probably start up front.
That leaves two other positions to be filled, and I would imagine they will be filled by whatever players are physically up to the task after all the recent exertions. I can't imagine Andrei Arshavin will play, as he looked absolutely knackered by the time he was substituted on Sunday. Tomas Rosicky played the whole game on Sunday, and it could mean he's a little short for tonight as well. That would probably mean both Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere seem to be the most likely starters in my opinion. I would have been delighted to have seen Aaron Ramsey in the team after he returned from his loan spell at Cardiff City, but he's ineligible as he wasn't available to play in the drawn game. Hopefully he will get to play a part in proceedings before the season ends.
With RVP injured there is always a possibility that the boss will decide to rest Bendtner, as he looks like he will be leading the line against Sunderland, Barcelona and "Manure" too if Arsenal win tonight. There are a few Arsenal players out on loan at the moment who could probably have played in tonight's game if they had stayed at the club. Not least of them is Carlos Vela who has scored late equalisers for West Brom in their last two games. He was only used as a late substitute in those games, and he certainly seems to know where the back of the net is at the moment.
Besides Vela Arsenal also have Henri Lansbury on loan at Norwich City, Jay Emmanuel Thomas at Cardiff, and Kyle Bartley at Rangers. I would imagine that all of them would have had a fair chance of playing tonight if they were not on loan. At this stage in the season the Arsenal squad is looking a little thin, as they have so many games to play. Surely those players could have had a clause in their loan agreements allowing them to return to Arsenal if the need arose. The way I see it that need has arisen for tonight's game.
Orient find themselves in 12th place in their league with a few games in hand due to their cup run. They have had a great run of late, and their confidence will be pretty high. That confidence will have been helped by the draw they managed to get against Arsenal a week or so ago, and they cannot be underestimated again. For me it's all about how Arsenal play, as Orient will really struggle if Arsenal are on their game. They need to find the pace that was evident at times during the second half on Sunday, and use every inch of a very big Emirates pitch. There will be no excuses about the state of the playing surface, as they simply don't come any better than Arsenal's.
My gut tells me that Orient blew their chance at home, and Arsenal will finish the job they started that day. I think Arsenal will win 2-0, and I really hope Chamakh can get his name on the scoresheet again. I also really hope Arsenal can get all of their players through the game without picking up any more injuries. The depth of the squad is really being tested at the moment with Arsenal missing their best defender, midfielder and striker. That's the backbone of the team, and other players need to stand up and be counted in their absence.
Arsenal's chances of winning the Premier League are now firmly back in their own hands after last night's defeat for league leaders "Manure". They blew a half time lead to lose 2-1 to Chelsea, and they now travel to Liverpool on Sunday with Nemanja Vidic suspended. Arsenal need to beat Sunderland on Saturday to put real pressure on them in that game, and then hope Liverpool can do them a favour. Even if Liverpool can't take any points from that game Arsenal will be champions if they win all of their remaining 11 league games. It's not an easy task, but it has been done before. I don't think Arsenal will manage it, but I do think there will be plenty of twists and turns before the season ends.
Yesterday the FA decided Wayne Rooney had no case to answer for his clearly deliberate elbow to the head of Wigan's James McCarthy on Saturday. I was not surprised by their decision, but I was highly amused to hear how unhappy their management were when Chelsea's David Luiz wasn't sent off for fouling Rooney last night. They are so used to having referees decisions going in their favour that they found it difficult to believe Luiz got away with it when the referee clearly saw the incident. It was only made worse for them at the very end when Vidic was sent off, and hopefully his absence will cost them on Sunday against Liverpool.
That's it for today.
Here's the highlights from a happier Cup final for Arsenal.
See You Tomorrow.