The FA Cup is a competition that is synonymous with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. The great man has already lead Arsenal to 4 FA Cup triumph for the last 13 years, the last coming in a penalty shoot-out against Man United. Patrick Vieira scored his with his last ever touch in an Arsenal shirt. Another journey begins tonight against West Ham.
West Ham are struggling in the league despite in being in the helm of legendary Gianfranco Zola. They are currently one place above the relegation spot in the league. However, despite the lowly stadings, West Ham have always provided stiff challenges to Arsenal. They were the first team to win at Ashburton Grove and earlier this season have managed to claw back from a 2 goals deficit to hold Arsenal to a draw at Upton Park.
Similar to us, Zola is also faced with a whole host of injuries to his set of players. The likes of Ilunga, Parker, Noble, Dyer and Cole will be missing for West Ham tonight with various different injuries. The one that they will missed the most will be Scott Parker. The Englishman has been the one shinning light in the Londoners’ dismal season. His drive and determination will be sorely missed tonight. In his place, Zola will look to Matthew Upson to provide the leadership on the pitch. Upson, who had a spell with Arsenal previously, have been consistently been linked to a move back to us but Wenger is not known for taking back players he had sold.
For Arsenal, the list of players that is unlikely to feature tonight is even longer than that of West Ham. Fabregas, Denilson, Van Persie, Djourou, Clichy, Gibbs, Walcott and Bendtner are big players for Arsenal that are now spending their time in the medical vicinity. With a crucial backlogged league game on Wednesday against Bolton, Wenger will resist the temptation to put his available first team and will probably go with a mixture of young and experience reserves. Provided Phillipe Senderos pass the fitness test today, I suspect the line-up will resemble something like this;
Gilbert — Senderos — Silvestre — Traore
Ramsey — Song — Eastmond
Wilshere — Vela — Merida
It is the side that has played in the 2 Carling Cup matches earlier. Song will definitely get the nod, since this is his last appearance before jetting off to Angola. There’s a side of me that wants Song to be injured in the 90th minute when we are leading the tie with at least 2 goals. Then he will not need to fly off to the African’s Nation Cup. The injury would have to be one where he can recover in 2 weeks so that he can still feature for Arsenal. It probably won’t happen but a man can still dream. He will be the one that Wenger looks to tonight, to guide and lead the rest of the younger players. Together with Craig Eastmond, we will have a good shield in front of the new back four.
Aaron Ramsey will get another run-out tonight and the expectations is getting higher and higher for him. It’s been a relatively yo-yo performance from the young Welshman this season. He can be phenomenal in one match and be totally invincible the next. However, he will not have to hold the sole burden of playmaking tonight, as the like of Jack Wilshere and Fran Merida are both equally equipped for such functions. Tomas Rosicky is also available, unless he is really 100%, I hope Wenger do not risk him from the start. Wilshere has not had much chance to shine this season having been kept in wraps for most of the time by Wenger. Against his boyhood club, Wilshere has an extra incentive to do well tonight.
Another who needs game time is Carlos Vela. The Mexican have not quite lived up to his wonderful cameo performances in last season’s Carling Cup. The new formation is suppose to suit him better than the one we normally line up with in the recent seasons but unfortunately that has not happen yet for Vela. Just like Eduardo, Vela needs a goal or two to really kick-start his season.
While we all like to have a real go at the FA Cup, well basically every competition in that matter, but we also need to be a bit realistic. We are currently with a real shout of the league trophy and every focus should be channelled towards that. So, if other competitions needs to be sacrificed in other to win that, so be it.