Saturday, 24 January 2015

Arsenal's FA Cup Trip To Brighton Previewed

After a relatively comfortable passage through the third round Arsenal defend their trophy away to Brighton in the fourth round on Sunday afternoon. With 11 FA Cup wins under their belt Arsenal have won the trophy more often than any other club with the exception of United who have won it 11 times also. With the league a virtual impossibility this season it looks like the cup is the team's best chance of a trophy yet again.

Arsene Wenger has led the team to five of those cup victories and another one would see him make it six and reach half of Arsenal's total victories in the competition too. It's never easy in the FA Cup as Chelsea, City and Spurs can testify after Saturday's results, but their exits make Arsenal's overall task that bit easier. Before we can think of that there's Brighton to overcome first and yesterday's results show the game cannot be taken lightly.

Brighton have had a poor season so far by their recent standards and find themselves battling at the wrong end of the table for a change. Their midweek win over one of the pace setters (Ipswich) has given them a six point cushion from the relegation zone and they will hope to climb the table from here in. Since Chris Hughton took the reins a few weeks ago they have won their of their four games and look particularly potent in attack.

Hughton will set his team up to try to get a result on the day and he has managed to do just that in the past against Arsenal. As an ex Spurs player I'm sure he would like nothing more than to best Arsenal, but he will also know his team will have to be at their very best to have any chance. They have only managed three wins in their 14 home league games this season and Arsenal have to fancy their chances with Brighton not faring so well at home.

As for Arsenal they had a fantastic win away to the Premier League champions last week and should be going into the game on a real high. Despite a season where the squad has again been ravaged by injuries they have a strong squad available and I expect to see quite a few changes for this game. The boss can easily bring in up to seven or eight players and still put out a team more than capable of winning through to the next round.

With David Ospina claiming the goalkeeper's shirt as his own in recent weeks I expect to see Wojciech Szczesny named as the FA Cup goalkeeper. I felt a little sorry for Szczesny last season when Lukasz Fabianski kept his cup role for the final and became a cup winner even though he was exiting the club at the end of the season. Szczesny will have a chance to show he has put his recent troubles behind him and that he is eager to get back into the team if Ospina struggles at all. If Szczesny doesn't play it will only fuel the rumours of a rift, but I would be very surprised if he isn't in the team.

In defence I would be very surprised if Laurent Koscielny plays as he could do with a rest considering the injury problems he has had this season. He is the team's best defender and has suffered from being overplayed earlier in the season and it cannot be allowed to happen again. Hopefully a new central defender will be signed very shortly (and the signs are promising) to rotate the ones we have and who knows Per Mertesscker might even get a chance for a rest at some stage.

Kieran Gibbs didn't play last week as Nacho Monreal kept his place at left back, but I would expect Gibbs to be in from the start. Calum Chambers should make a comeback in central defence alongside Mertesacker while I think Hector Bellerin will continue his impressive form at right back once he's passed fit to play. It's not Arsenal's strongest defence, but it's one which I think makes sense and which should be good enough to do the job.

In midfield Francis Coquelin has been so impressive since his recall from his loan spell at Charlton that I expect him to sit this one out and give the returning Mathieu Flamini a chance to play. I think Tomas Rosicky could be the player to play alongside Flamini and the real big one for me will be who plays in front of them.

Both Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil have only had a few minutes each since returning from their respective injuries and I think this game gives them an ideal chance to play from the start. I hope Ozil is chosen in his favoured position somewhere between the striker and the midfield and given a chance to show exactly how good he is. His season has been affected by his injury, but he was struggling before that after returning from the World Cup and missing out on a proper pre season.

I would be very surprised if Walcott doesn't play, but I think it will be in a wide right role rather than as the central striker. On the other side I think Joel Campbell might jus get the nod again after impressing in all but one part of his game in the third round victory over Hull. Unfortunately for him that missing element from his game was his scoring touch as he could easily have scored twice, but otherwise I thought he did well enough to play against Brighton. 

If Walcott isn't played as the central striker I think the role should go to Olivier Giroud despite being the only fit out and out first team striker available. He can't be suffering from fatigue after missing most oft the festive programme through suspension after his stupid red card in the victory over QPR. There is always a chance Chuba Akpom will be chosen, but I very much doubt if he will get the nod from the start.

For me the most interesting thing will be how Ozil and Walcott perform as they could have very important roles to play for the rest of the season. Walcott has looked sharp in his movement since his comeback, but he has looked very rusty in front of goal which is not surprising for a player who has missed a whole year through injury. If he can get on the end of a few Ozil passes he might just get his first goal since his comeback and that would be very welcome.

If things aren't going to plan there should still be Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the bench and those three players can turn any game. I would hope they won't be needed and the team can do what is required without having to call on them. Alexis looks like he could play every minute of every game, but surely even he would be happy to get a chance to take it easy for once.

The team I've named should be more than good enough to win away to a team in the lower reaches of the Championship, but they surely won't be complacent after seeing the results so far in this round. The FA Cup always throws up surprises and there have been so many already, but Arsenal cannot allow themselves to go the same way. They need to play their own game and control it from start to finish so they can minimise the threat of Brighton.

Whatever threat Brighton may offer an Arsenal team with the right attitude and commitment will offer a much sterner test for them. I expect them to go out there and do just that and go through to the fifth round and a step closer to another trip to Wembley. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. There is a 'Typo'......Brighton won "their of their" four games.