Let’s face it. We all remember Julio Baptista once played for Arsenal on a season long loan from Real Madrid. Jose Antonio Reyes went the other way in the same deal. I don’t know about you but for the life of me, I can’t remember much of his performance during that season bar for one. Arshavin’s 4 goal salvo at Anfield last season only serves to remind us of what Baptista did 4 years ago.
Now the repeat of the same matchup is happening tonight, this time at Asburton Grove in the fourth round of the Carling Cup. Both teams come into this match in contrasting fortunes. Arsenal are in a little rut (if you could call it that) having drawn their last 2 fixtures. Despite taking the lead in both matches, we allowed the opposition the chance to level the match through a combination of defensive incompetence and poor finishing. Meanwhile, Liverpool are surely in a more ebullient mood having stopped their own rut with a win over Man United at the weekend.
There’s no reason to think that Rafa Benitez will follow Wenger’s cue and field his second side for this game but regardless of that, there’s never any doubt that Wenger will field a side completely different from the one that took to the field at Upton Park. Luckily for me, my yesterday’s post turns out correct as Wenger publically states that Fabianski will start ahead of Almunia.
From the same interview, Wenger also confirmed that Jack Wilshere will play no part as the young English lad is suffering from an ankle knock which luckily for us only meant a few days instead of weeks or months. Unluckily for Jack, he lost another chance to feature in a match where I would think that he will definitely play the whole game.
Several of the first team players will be involve though, in a bid to recover their fitness and maybe, just maybe try to sneak a spot for this weekend’s derby. With that in mind, here’s how I suspect Arsenal will line up tonight.
The front 3 will be a handful for any Premier League defense and Benitez will need a rethink if he decides to play his second string defense. I think Skrtel will start today as he did not play much in the United game. Here’s another oppourtunity for Bendtner to show/prove his worth in the center of the attacking trio. With Nasri’s incisive passing and the cleverness of Eduardo, if Bendtner plays to expectation, he can be a perfect foil for others to find the goal.
Wenger has been playing up the potential of Fran Merida and judging from his form this season, rightly so. Merida has starred in each and every reserves game that he has appeared in this season. So much so, that every other player on the pitch looks second grade compared to him.
Coming from the same path as Fabregas once trod on, the expectations are unbelievably high on his young shoulders which have achieved far less than his more establish compatriot have at the same age. Attacking wise, I do think that Merida provides more in terms of speed and shooting compared to Fabregas. His timing into the box is also good as illuminated in Spain’s shortlived campaign in the U20 World Cup.
It would be churlish to expect another 6-3 score. If Benitez puts his reserves side, then the same margin is imaginable. If the likes of Torres are playing, your guess is as good as mine.
Enjoy the game.