The matches are coming thick and fast. In a good way, it doesn’t allow us to over-think what went wrong in the Manchester City match and develop any self-doubt. Tonight’s the FA Cup replay against Swansea and the prize on the cards is a trip to the AMEX Stadium. While Gus Poyet’ Brighton Hove Albion defeated Newcastle in the previous round, it won’t be the toughest of games and we could still capitalise on it. But to face them, we need to win tonight. Against a team whom we have not beaten in the last 3 matches we’ve played them.
If we look back at the last 3 matches against Swansea, in 6 halves, we have only dominated in just 1/3 of those halves. The other 2/3 pretty much went in favour of the team from Wales. In the past, any team that sets up to have a go at us, would be overrun by us. Even as far back as just 2 seasons ago, we would definitely be having most of the games against sides that chooses to play an open game when lining up opposite us. That is no longer the case these days. There’s a variety of reasons why we’ve not been as assertive or dominant as we used to be. However, the crux of the reason is the same; we no longer have the personnel to play as we used to.
With another 6 games to be played over 15 days, rotation becomes a necessity. We can’t use the same 11 players in every one of those 6 games. Well, we can but we would just be risking their availability further down the season. Having said that, any massive change in the line-up will also do us no favours. A balance need to be struck and that’s the responsibility of the coaching staff and the manager. Which is no easy task on its own. For example, take the weakest link the opponent. On one hand, we could probably field a reserve player against that opponent but it would also make sense to field our strongest player in that position to try to maximise our advantage.
One player whom we should be prioritising to rest is Jack Wilshere, but according to Arsene Wenger, the time for that has not come yet. It is very encouraging to see Wilshere getting back to his pomp with every passing game. It is heartening to see how his body has been able to cope with continuous games thus far. However, we are risking putting him through the same problem that made him missed the entire last season – overplaying. Wenger do know better than the rest of us in terms of how his body is adapting to playing again and his recovery rate. Even 45 minutes less than usual, would do wonders to a player’s fitness level.
Some of the changes will be enforced though. I don’t envision Abou Diaby starting his second consecutive games on the trot. That will likely mean that Francis Coquelin comes into the starting line-up. With Swansea looking to use their wide players constantly and the abundance of pace that they possess, it would be unwise to slot Andre Santos back into the line-up. However, whilst Carl Jenkinson was at fault for the 2nd goal that we conceded at home in that league defeat to the same opponent, he could very well come in for Bacary Sagna on the right.
Another player who will also definitely play is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Unceremoniously pulled off early in the Manchester City game after the Laurent Koscielny red card, he will be raring to go. At least he has the chance to play again, unlike Robert Pires who left the club after his early tactical substitution in the Champions League final back in 2006. Other positions looked more or less the same as the one that played last. Although, I’m still hoping for Olivier Giroud to take to the field from the first minute onwards or Aaron Ramsey be given a chance in the middle and give Santi Cazorla a well needed rest.
I’m not sure how much Michael Laudrup and his men will be up for this game or where their priority lies. The League Cup looks a mighty good prospect for them after their first leg win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A more winnable trophy compared to the FA Cup which is still at its early stage. That represents a clear route for them to feature in the continental cup competition and Laudrup might want to focus more on that. That doesn’t mean he will completely let go of the FA Cup though. He might make a few changes but will no doubt still put out a competent hoping to capitalise on our poor run of form.
This cup is genuinely our best chance to attain a trophy this season. I hope we pull through, easily or via the hard way of penalties. Up The Arsenal.