Arsenal Get Another Chance at Revenge as Hull Return to the Emirates
In the last round of the FA Cup, Arsenal were able to gain a measure of revenge against Burnley for knocking them out of the League Cup earlier in the season. Tomorrow, Arsenal will have the chance to avenge their early season defeat to Hull at the Emirates. We were able to gain all three points against Hull in our most recent league meeting and they are certainly not playing with the confidence that saw them flying high at the season’s start. If they saw the highlights from the Blackburn game on Saturday, they will not be relishing the task that faces them tomorrow.
Our ability to progress to Wembley, and a date with Chelsea in the semi-finals, is really down to concentration. We are at a very busy point in the season. With the proper focus and attitude tomorrow’s game should be another enjoyable victory for the Gunners. But the FA Cup is really all that Hull have left to play for this season. The absurd fact that the semis are played at Wembley may offer greater incentive for Hull to give their all in this match. Anything short of proper commitment from Arsenal could have dire results. Even a draw would be disasterous as we simply cannot afford any additional fixtures on the calendar at this point in the season.
There’s some interesting team news ahead of the match. Fabianski will start in goal as expected, but may have to start against Newcastle as well. Apparently Almunia is struggling with an ankle problem. It must have happened in training because he didn’t suffer any bad tackles against Blackburn. I mean, if he had suffered a hideous challenge from someone, perhaps El Hadji-Diouf, I’m sure we’d be hearing about it from the media. And since the media hasn’t made any mention of a bad tackle, then I suppose it must not have happened. (Unless, of course, the media are all a pack of moronic, lazy Arsenal bashers. In which case it’s possible that El Huge-Douche did commit an arocious fould on Almunia causing him to suffer an ankle injury.)
The starting XI for this game is once again a big question mark. We’ll see what Arsene comes up with tomorrow. Surely Nasri gets a rest and Vela is given an opportunity to start. Diaby might come in for Song or Denilson. Wenger may be tempted to use Walcott as a substitute, although I really hope that he starts. With Arshavin possibly out of the starting XI, Walcott’s influence will be key to providing a cutting edge. Wenger has said that Gibbs will come in for Clichy and that Ramsey is out of the team completely. Of Ramsey, Wenger said, “Aaron Ramsey is not in the squad too. At the moment he is growing in stature and a bit tired so we will rest him.” You feel for Ramsey a bit. After starting the season enthusiastically, he had a real stumble in the FA Cup tie at Cardiff and hasn’t recovered since. He is a very young player with plenty of time to develop but his recent cameos have been undeniably poor.
Andrei Arshavin is a doubt for tomorrow and Wenger will want to be very careful with him. As important as the FA Cup may be, three points at Newcastle over the weekend are vital. Apparently, Arshavin is struggling with a cut on his foot that he picked up against Blackburn during their “footballers against feet” campaign. The good news is that Arshavin has the right attitude about playing through pain. Wenger said today, “He is desperate to be involved. He just wants to play. He couldn’t practice today but we’ll assess him tomorrow morning.” Frankly I’d be surprised to see him in the starting XI. Eight stitches are a lot in a big foot, but in his tiny little foot they must practically go around twice.
Arshavin needs to lick his wounds after Saturday’s victory over dirty Blackburn
Wenger has continued to talk up Nicklas Bendtner after the stuggles he had converting more than his share of goal scoring chances at the weekend. That’s not quite so surprising as the player he thinks Bendtner should look to for reassurance. Do you think Bendtner cringed just a little when he saw this headline on the official website?
“Wenger – Bendtner can follow Eboue’s lead”
Apparently Eboue is now a role model at Arsenal. But I have to admit that Wenger’s comments about Eboue’s recent improvement were unintentially hilarious.
“I am pleased that Eboue starts to score because it looked to us that he could never score goals. It shows as well the importance of a psychological factor because he scored last week, again this week and could have scored another one. Before that he never looked like scoring so it’s more in their heads sometimes.”
Wonderful! Good to know that Wenger and his staff had such a high opinion of his starting right midfielder’s credentials. In any case, Wenger’s feelings were not far off from those of the supporters so it’s good to know he’s still in touch with reality.
Now I present a new installment in this blog: “news that comes as a surprise to absolutely no one.” Here’s today’s bombshell delivered directly by Arsene: “Tomas has had a little set-back…” For those of you that have been living under a rock since January 2008, Wenger is of course speaking about Tomas Rosicky. He claims that it’s a set-back of the one week variety, but I’m certain that none of us will be updating our “welcome back Tomas” party calendar.
Somewhat more worryingly, Adebayor’s return is now being described as “likely” happening after the international break. With Eduardo in and out of the lineup and Van Persie struggling for form, we must admit that Ade’s return will be important. Hopefully there are no Tomas-esque setbacks lurking.
So that’s the news that fit to print. Now that Chelsea and United are in the semi-final, I find myself more interested in our FA Cup campaign than I was before. It would be a real test of this team and a massive accomplishment if we were able to overcome such stiff opposition. I won’t even hazard a guess at the starting XI like I did on Friday. As I said earlier, this match is more about focus than the starting lineup. If the players on the pitch approach the game properly, we should be one step closer to silverware this season.
Come on you Gunners!