After a poor start to January it's back to FA Cup action for Arsenal tonight. They face a tricky replay at home to Swansea after drawing 2-2 in Wales last week. The FA Cup is Arsenal's only realistic chance of a trophy this season and hopefully they can progress to the next round.
The prize for the winner of tonight's game is another tricky game away to Championship side Brighton. It won't be an easy task for whoever wins, but at the same time the route to the fifth round and the last 16 is clearly mapped out.
Arsenal have never gone out in the third round of the FA Cup since Arsene Wenger first led them in this competition in 1997. It's a proud record and one which deserves respect and some protection too. It's vital for the fans to hold out some hope of silverware this season and the FA Cup needs to be treated seriously as a result.
Even the most optimistic Arsenal fan surely cannot see them winning the Premier League this season and the same has to be said about the Champions League. The prospect of home and away legs against Bayern Munich is a daunting one for the current Arsenal team and to win through would be an excellent result for them. They have a much better chance of success in the FA Cup though and Swansea currently stand in their way.
December started badly for Arsenal with defeats to Swansea and Olympiacos before they came back to finish with four wins and a draw. January has started badly too with a league draw at Southampton, followed by the cup draw at Swansea and then Sunday's defeat at home to City. There are some more very testing games ahead for the team and this is one they need to win.
Team selection could vary a little from the weekend and the injured Mikael Arteta certainly won't feature. There's a possibility of Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud playing from the start with Andre Santos and Carl Jenkinson pushing for a place too. With Laurent Koscielny suspended it means Per Mertesacker will start alongside Thomas Vermaelen.
In the drawn game last week Arsenal were their usual lackluster selves in the first half. They came out all guns blazing after the break though and created loads of scoring chances. As it turned out Swansea scored first before Arsenal got two quick goals and then let Swansea back into the game late on.
This Swansea team have developed the ability to defend in depth and hit their opponents on the break and Arsenal need to be wary of it. They did it in that drawn game and again a few days later when they won 2-0 at Chelsea. They have a very good defensive record away from home and they will make it very hard for Arsenal to break them down.
One place they are vulnerable though is in the air and Arsenal's delivery from set pieces needs to be better. Giroud, Mertesacker and Vermaelen can all hurt Swansea in the air if the delivery is right. It's not exactly pretty or the Arsenal way, but it can be very effective.
I've watched Swansea a few times recently and I think their left back can be got at. He's young and inexperienced and I think he could suffer if he's put under pressure. I would like to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain given the chance to play wide right and run at him with the ball.
Chamberlain should still have plenty of energy left as he was the player sacrificed after 10 minutes on Sunday when Koscielny was sent off. There is a possibility of players being tired after playing on Sunday and with a game coming up next Sunday too. Swansea should be just as tired as they have played one game more than Arsenal already this month and face a midweek game against Chelsea again next week.
Of course Arsenal play Chelsea on Sunday and it's a huge game for them in the league. They are already six points off the fight for fourth place with a game in hand and a defeat at Chelsea could see that gap open to nine points. They fought back from further adrift last season, but they had a world class striker to rescue them then.
I have no doubt that Arsenal have the ability to get the win tonight, but it's whether the players can play well enough to do so. The level of their performances at times this season has been awful and they need to impose themselves on Swansea tonight. Too often Arsenal have strolled through the first half before finding something at half time and playing far better after the break.
What a pleasant change it would be to see Arsenal chase and harass Swansea from the first minute to the last. If they're put under enough pressure hopefully Swansea will make mistakes and Arsenal can take advantage of them. It's there for Arsenal to win tonight if they really want to go out and do it.
If the game is level after 90 minutes it will go to extra time and then penalties if the teams still can't be separated. It's not a scenario I'd like to see after the debacle at Bradford. I would love to think the players who will possibly take the penalties are already decided but I sincerely doubt it.
I'm predicting a narrow victory for Arsenal as long as they can attack like they did in the second half of the drawn game. Swansea showed their vulnerable side in that second half and enough high tempo pressure can break them. It's sure to be nerve wracking game, but hopefully Arsenal can emerge with a victory.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.