Sunday, 5 January 2014

Arsenal Brush Spurs Aside And Face Coventry Next

Arsenal have won the FA Cup 10 times in their history and a win this season would equal the record amount of wins for any club which is held by Manchester United. They faced a tricky home game against local rivals Spurs yesterday, but emerged as 2-0 winners to enter into the hat for the fourth round draw. The draw was made this afternoon and Arsenal will play at home to League One side Coventry City three weeks from now.

It's a game Arsenal will be very strong favourites to win and should do just that as long as they don't underestimate their opposition. The prize for a victory over Coventry would be a place in the fifth round when the competition is reduced to just 16 clubs. It's a draw Arsenal have to be more than happy with and one which can get the team dreaming just a little of a trip to Wembley.

When the teams were announced for the game against Spurs yesterday I was a little worried as Arsene Wenger decided to rest a few players and it could have been a big risk. The Arsenal bench looked very strong though with Per Mertesacker, Mesut Ozil, Mathieu Flamini and Lukas Podolski all available if they were to be called upon. Spurs had a few injuries of their own and it promised to be a very close game.

As usual in the FA Cup Arsenal put their second choice goalkeeper in the team and Lukasz Fabianski got a rare chance to show what he can do. His contract is up at the end of the season and the chances are he will be on his way elsewhere, but he's still a good goalkeeper. As it turned out Arsenal could almost have put a ball boy in goals such was the lack of goal threat from Spurs.

The other changes in the team saw Serge Gnabry get a rare start on the right side of the attacking trio with Thomas Vermaelen coming into the defence and Tomas Rosicky playing in midfield. The players to miss out were Mertesacker, Flamini and Podolski, but all three were held in reserve just in case they were needed. It meant Theo Walcott got a rare chance to play in his favoured position as the focal point for the Arsenal attack.

The game didn't look like it would be so one sided early on when a lucky deflection put Christian Eriksen through with only Fabianski to beat, but the keeper saved well in what was his toughest task of the day. Arsenal gradually got on top of the game and their midfield started creating chances for lone striker Walcott. It's a role Walcott favours but has rarely got a chance to play in and he showed he can be a threat and he was a constant thorn in Spurs' sides. 

Arsenal came close a few times before they made the breakthrough just after the half hour mark. A quick break saw Gnabry run at the Spurs defence and he timed a perfect pass for Santi Cazorla who was coming in from the left. Cazorla hit a perfect left footed shot which left Hugo Lloris with no chance in the Spurs goal. I expected Spurs to rally after the goal and throw players forward in search of an equaliser, but they continued to be toothless in the face of a strong Arsenal defensive unit.

In the second half the best chances were again going Arsenal's way and it took just over 15 minutes for them to convert one. Spurs defender Danny Rose was the last man back and tried to turn Tomas Rosicky on the halfway line, but was dispossessed by the little Czech dynamo. He raced towards goal with Kyle Walker quickly making up ground on him, but to no avail as Rosicky clipped the ball over the advancing Lloris to make it 2-0 to Arsenal.

The only surprise for the rest of the game was that Arsenal failed to add to their tally and Fabianski still remained relatively inactive in the Arsenal goal. Spurs tried to push further forward and Arsenal were happy to defend in depth with the threat of hitting them on the break. That threat subsided a little with 10 minutes left when Walcott was stretchered off and Arsenal had to finish the game with 10 men as they had already used all of their substitutes. Spurs still failed to offer any real threat though and it was Arsenal who came closest to scoring in those last 10 minutes plus the five minutes of added time. 

There were so many positives on the day for Arsenal with the performance of Gnabry in particular being a real bonus. He showed again that he has something to offer the team right now and he could well get a chance depending on the prognosis on the Walcott injury. He looks like he's the real deal and he impressed with his shooting, dribbling and awareness of his team mates. 

The players now have an eight day break before they travel to Villa on Monday week for their next league game. Olivier Giroud should be back to lead the line for that game, but Nicklas Bendtner won't be available after the news he will be out for at least four weeks with the ankle injury he picked up scoring the all important breakthrough goal against Cardiff. His absence and the injury to Walcott may well tempt the boss into dipping into the transfer market for a striker if he can find the right player to sign in a hurry. I'm still not convinced he will sign a striker though, but only time will tell.

All in all it was a very good weekend for Arsenal with a routine win over Spurs and a home draw in the next round against lower league opposition. Added to that City only drew with Blackburn in the cup and must face a replay as well as a two legged Capital One Cup semi final this month. That means they will have to play three extra games this month and hopefully that schedule will have an effect on their league results.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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