I don’t want to put too much pressure on the boys but if you look at the draw for the next two rounds, you’d certainly have to favor Arsenal to get into the semi-finals of the FA Cup. If they get past Cardiff today (11:45am PST) they get to face Burnley and play for the right to play one of Hull or Sheffield United, which if they win would put Arsenal in the semi-finals for the first time since 2005. Which just so happens to be the last time Arsenal won a trophy. Coincidence? Most likely…
However, look at the teams ahead of us. Burnley knocked Arsenal out of the League Cup, Hull got a famous win over Arsenal at Emirates and their manager got to do the Pardew shuffle in front of 60,000 Goonahs, and I’ll never forget the night that Arsenal lost 1-0 to Sheffield United on a pitch that looked like a cow pasture, with Phil Jagielka deputized as keeper for 1/2 an hour, in the match that was supposed to see Arsenal secure 4th but instead had all the pundits claiming that Arsenal would finish the season in 5th place — which they would have if not for the grace of some foul lasagna. So, getting a win over those clubs would feel extra good to me.
But before I celebrate those wins, the boys have to get past Cardiff, which they completely failed to do just a few weeks ago, and (worse) they are going to have to do it with a much deeper injured reserve than last time. This time Arsenal are without Adebayor, Eboue, Arshavin, Diaby, Silvestre (thank the Gods we signed him!), Theo, Cesc and (of course) Tomas Rosicky — that’s the kind of injury list that would make any manager cringe.
Worse than the injuries is that the reserves aren’t performing very well either with Arsenal having only scored one goal since Jan 17th. Throw in the fact that Cardiff haven’t conceded a goal in that same period and Arsenal have a bit of a mountain to climb here today. How Wenger plans on climbing that mountain is, as always, a bit of a mystery.
The one thing we can say for sure is that fan whipping boy Eboue is not going to start on the right, which gives Wenger a selection headache right from the start. Up till now, every single time Eboue’s been out this season, Wenger has played Denilson in that spot — to little effect. I’d be surprised if Wenger changes course now, he likes having a “defensive” minded player on the wings, but I really wish he would change course. If for no other reason than the fact that Arsenal cannot progress without a goal and the whole world knows that Cardiff are going to be happy to sit back and wait for the chance to nick a goal.
To get the Arsenal goal, I would start Vela left, Nasri right, Denilson and Song in the middle, van Persie and Bendtner up front, and the back four picks itself. If that’s not working, then Dudu comes on in the 60th minute for Denilson or Song, Wilshere comes on for Vela (moving Nasri left), and in desperation in the final minutes of the match, I put on Almunia in Bendtner’s place because he’s been shite all match.
But that’s probably not what’s going to happen. I suspect the boss wants to give Rambo a chance to redeem himself after the whoopin’ in Wales and so he’ll start centrally with Song and from there, Wenger’s team picks itself: Denilson “wide” right, Nasri on the left, Bendtner and van Persie up front and a leaky sieve at the back. Which from here on out shall be referred to as “Vintage Arsenal 2008/2009.” From there, Wenger will start throwing on “strikers” in a desperate attempt to get a goal. That’s all a big IF. IF Wenger sticks to his recent plan of attack.
Anyway, regardless of the lineup to start the match, I would be shocked if we don’t get a little Dudu today, which would mark his first appearance on the team since Martin Taylor tried to end his career. This should give all Goonahs (hell, all football fans) a cause to celebrate.
Let’s just hope it’s not the only thing we have to celebrate.
For you locals, a few of us are going to be at Doyle’s for the kickoff (11:45) so come on down, raise a pint, and cheer on the Arsenal. See you there.