Sunday, 7 January 2018

Arsenal’s Trip To Nottingham Forest Previewed

It’s FA Cup third round action for Arsenal this afternoon when they travel to Nottingham to face managerless Forest. Arsenal are the cup holders and have won it three times in the last four seasons as well as winning it more times than any other team. Add to that Arsene Wenger’s record as the manager with the most FA Cups to his name and it’s obviously a competition which means an awful lot to us.

We face into the game in the middle of a very busy two month schedule which sees us playing almost twice a week from the start of December to the end of January. Our squad is fairly stretched as it is and we have the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi final at Chelsea coming up on Wednesday night too. Chelsea’s schedule is just as busy as our’s and I’m should they could have done without drawing their third round game at Norwich yesterday and adding a replay to that schedule.

With the league already beyond us the cup yet again takes on added significance although we still have the Europa League and the chase for a top four spot to contend with. Of them all I see the Carabao Cup as being the least important, but we cannot take a two legged semi final against Chelsea too lightly with a Cup Final so near and also because of what defeat could do to our already brittle confidence.

I think we could see a fair deal of squad rotation today and I wouldn’t be surprised to see up to eight changes from the team which drew 2-2 at home to Chelsea in the league on Wednesday night. David Ospina will surely start while I would expect Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Debuchy come into the defence too. In midfield there could be starts for Francis Coquelin and Mohamed Elneny with Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi all likely to play too. That would probably mean Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Rob Holding and Calum Chambers staying in the team unless the manager switches to a back four instead of the usual three central defenders.

Playing that team would certainly risk our continuation in the competition, but it’s a risk we probably need to take. Forest are sitting in mid-table in the Championship after a fairly unimpressive season so far, but I have no doubt they will relish a home game against on the “big teams” and FA Cup holders. It’s a chance for some of their players to shine and maybe make an impression on whoever their new manager might be.

Despite the Carabao Cup being of secondary importance up to now I think it will take more prominence at this stage of the competition and that’s another reason why so many players will possibly be rested today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a strong bench though just in case we need to add some firepower late on to get back in the game or go on to win it. It’s certainly a chance for those who start to make an impression, but Maitland-Niles is the only one who has really grabbed that chance when it has presented itself so far this season.

I would love to see AMN in his natural position in the centre of the midfield today and it could happen if we play a back four. The problem would be finding a left back, but I would suggest Debuchy is capable of playing there while Chambers can certainly play at right back if required. With so many changes in the team already I don’t think we will see a back four with those full backs though and there central defenders is the most likely formation.

No matter what personnel have been in our defence this season we haven’t defended well against the bigger and better teams in particular. Forest may not fit into those categories, but one of the reasons we are doing even worse than last season is our comparative lack of goals. We scored so many goals last season that it quite often got our defence out of trouble, but we’re just not scoring as many this season. I just hope we can find our shooting boots from here on in because I cannot see our defending improving judging by what we have seen this season and for far too many seasons to want to remember. I think the chances are we will progress in a tight game today, but we might have to empty some quality from the bench to do so.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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