Friday, 25 January 2013

Arsenal's FA Cup Trip To Brighton Previewed

Arsenal play away to Brighton today in the fourth round of the FA Cup. It's a trophy they have won four times under Arsene Wenger and it's probably their best chance of a trophy this season too. It won't be an easy task though with three more rounds after this one before the final.

Brighton might currently ply their trade in the Championship but they will be no pushover. They deservedly beat Newcastle 2-0 in the last round and they are a threat to any team on their own ground in particular. They have only been beaten three times at home in 14 league games this season.

Of course Arsenal have the players to beat Brighton, but those same players went out away to League Two side Bradford in the Capital One Cup. Their performance on that night was below what is acceptable and they need to play a lot better against Brighton. Arsenal's biggest problem could be not taking their opposition seriously enough.

In recent games there has been a marked difference between how Arsenal have played in the first half and the second half. That was never more obvious than on Wednesday when they played well enough before the break, but they absolutely blew West Ham away straight from the kick off in the second half. Their display was reminiscent of how Arsenal had played for so many years under Wenger.

In team news both Abou Duaby and Tomas Rosicky are available for selection and I would expect to see at least one of them play from the start. Thomas Vermaelen will miss out after picking up an ankle knock against West Ham, but Laurent Koscielny is a ready made replacement. His absence means Sebastien Squillaci should be on the bench and I can only hope both Koscielny and Mertesacker don't pick up an injury.

In the last round Arsenal made hard work of dispatching Swansea and only won through after a replay. With the last 16 of the Champions League coming up next month the last thing Arsenal need is to add more games to their schedule. A replay is not what is required and they need to get their business done today.

I would hope to see the team continue where they left off against West Ham and play some really good football. Unfortunately it's not always so easy to predict what this Arsenal team will do and there is no certainty to how they will play. If they really did turn a corner against West Ham then it could be exactly what their season needs.

With a home league game against Liverpool on Wednesday night there could be a temptation for the boss to rest a few of his players today. As long as he doesn't rest too many of them the team should be able to keep their momentum going. I would expect to see Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain make a start too and maybe one of the full backs will be changed.

The big question is who to leave out and personally I think Bacary Sagna could do with a break, but then again Kieran Gibbs has always been injury prone and a rest would do him no harm either. Given a choice I would prefer to see Carl Jenkinson in the team than Andre Santos. In midfield it's probably a straight choice between leaving out either Santi Cazorla or Jack Wilshere and both players probably need and deserve a break.

If either of them are left out I would imagine that player will be on the bench in case of emergency. I would be very surprised if Aaron Ramsey didn't play after having a very good game against West Ham and hopefully he can continue in the same vein today. There's no telling how much his career was set back by his horrific leg break, but maybe he can still become the player Arsenal fans hoped he would be.

Despite so many upcoming games for Arsenal it's hard to see which of the front three should miss out today. They played so well together against West Ham that I would be tempted to play the three of them start together again. The two wide players got in behind the West Ham defence very well and cut balls back into the area that caused absolute havoc.

Olivier Giroud may have had a little trouble settling into the role of a central striker, but he showed a predatory instinct that needs to be exploited more often. When the wide payers get to the end line and cut the ball back he has a real knack of getting in at the near post to score. He will never be the high profile world beater that Arsenal sold last summer, but he looks lie he might be a pretty poacher with the right service.

The FA Cup has always been considered the great leveller in English football and Arsenal have to make sure they aren't the ones making the headlines for the wrong reasons this evening. As long as they approach the game in the right manner I think they will be strong enough to progress to the last 16. It won't be easy against a Brighton team that like to play football the right way, but Arsenal will get the chance to play at least.

It can be dangerous to let Arsenal play too much and I expect Brighton to try to get as tight as possible on them. That can be a very tiring tactic for any team and it could take time for Arsenal to find the space they need to take control of the game. I do think they will find that space though and get the win they need to keep their hopes alive in the FA Cup this season.

I'm predicting a 3-1 win for Arsenal and hoping for no new injuries ahead of two home games in the league in the next week. Three wins in those games would certainly get the train right back on the tracks with a last 16 spot in the cup and three league wins in a row.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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