Sunday, 13 March 2016

Arsenal v Watford: FA Cup Quarter Final Preview

The games just keep coming for Arsenal at the moment and the latest one is today's FA Cup quarter final at home to Watford. Arsenal only booked their place in the last eight with a 4-0 win away to Hull on Tuesday night and they face a trip to Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday night next. With that in mind Arsene Wenger might well be tempted to go with many of the players who played on Tuesday night and continue to leave some of the more established players on the bench.

So far in the cup this season the frontline players have been rested and those who have come in have done the business more or less. The replay against Hull was a huge boost for two players struggling to find form with both Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud bagging a brace of goals. That can only be good for the team as we enter a stage of the season where nothing short of a win is needed in every single game.

I imagine we'll see a fairly similar team today despite three players going off injured in that game. Both Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista have been declared fit to play and I think we'll see them in central defence up against the threat of Odion Ighalo and Troy Deeney. There might be a temptation to play Calum Chanbers in the centre of defence, but he's the only real option at right back unless Hector Bellerin plays and I doubt if he will.

The real choices will be in front of the defence where the boss has to be tempted to bring in Francis Coquelin, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck. I suppose it comes down to how strong a line up he intends playing away to Barca on Wednesday night with the tie virtually a lost cause. It would almost take a miracle for Arsenal to overturn the 2-0 home defeat in the first leg and they have to play Everton away in the early kick off next Saturday.

That game against Everton is an absolute must win game to keep the slim title hopes alive and I think it's the game which has to be prioritised of the three in the next week. The amount of work the players will have to put in away to Barca will be huge and it won't be easy for those same players to put all they have into a game so soon afterwards.

With that in mind the temptation could be to play those frontline players today and try to book a place in a Wenbley FA Cup semi final. I think we might see a mix of Tuesday's team and the players who were rested for that game and hopefully that will be enough to see off a Watford team who have struggled for goals for the last two months. There's a chance for Arsenal and the manager to make history and I don't think you can pass a chance like that up too easily.

With Chelsea going out to Everton yesterday the cup is there got the taking for Arsenal yet again for the third year in a row. No team has done that in 130 years and no manager has ever won the cup seven times, but the boss is only two games away from having a shot at that record too. The cup is still a poor substitute for the Premier League, but it is by far Arsenal's best chance of a trophy this season.

A win today with an impressive attacking performance is just what the team and the fans need. Both Spurs and Leicester play in the league today and tomorrow and we could find ourselves 11 points off the summit going to Everton on Saturday. It would at least be good to be going there knowing a semi final spot has been booked regardless of what might happen on Wednesday night.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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