Another FA Cup weekend looms, along with all the anticipation and hope that it brings. For some there is still a bit of an aura surrounding this competition. The prospect of another Wembley Final is always an appealing one.
Perhaps a little bit of the gold dust is missing for we will probably see two squad teams at St Mary’s on Saturday evening. Southampton of course have already booked a day out at Wembley when defeating Liverpool in the semi-final of the EFL Cup this week.
Arsenal’s progress may or may not be hampered by the events of this afternoon. Arsene Wenger has been given a four-match touchline ban and £25,000 fine after accepting a Football Association charge of misconduct last weekend, and this starts with Saturday’s match. We can think it is or isn’t harsh, but it is the reality of the situation. Steve Bould can and will step up to the plate.
We will rotate on purpose although our midfield options are sparse in the extreme. With Granit Xhaka suspended, Mohammed Elneny at the African Cup of Nations, and Santi Cazorla injured, we are left with a senior pairing of Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin. Neither have been overused this season so I would like to think they will be up for three important matches in the next eight days.
David Ospina should confirm his status as the cup goalkeeper but we have options for the four ahead of him. Hector Bellerin was on the bench last week but could well get the nod to return and gain match sharpness ahead of next weekend’s trip to the bus stop in Fulham.
Similarly Kieran Gibbs is in line for a recall on the left. Should Arsene rest his first choice central defenders he has the option of pairing two from Gabriel, Per Mertesacker, and Rob Holding.
The boss may take this opportunity to give Alex Iwobi another audition for the playmaker role again. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas would then be likely options to play wide with Danny Welbeck up front?
A bench incorporating Mesut Ozil, Alexis, Olivier Giroud, and a returning Theo Walcott, should they be needed, may reassure those of a nervous disposition. There has been much talk of the strength of Arsenal’s squad, and at Southampton we will find out how strong we really are.
The Saints have been forced into utilising their squad as they have an Arsenal-esque injury list, and have also lost skipper Jose Fonte to West Ham. That didn’t stop them deservedly beating Liverpool and those players will be keen to impress manager Claude Puel with the chance of a Wembley appearance on the horizon.
The ‘holic pound
If you have listened to this week’s A Bergkamp Wonderland podcast you will know I was in very bullish mood when we recorded it. It’s a matter of public record now so my investment will be in a 2-3 win for the Gunners. At 25/1 it is a long shot, but both sides are capable of fashioning chances and may be prepared to throw everything at the other to resolve the match on the day, rather than add an unwanted replay into their schedule.
To the travelling faithful as ever I wish a cracking day out. I hope the boys put on a show for you. The rest of you who may be peering out from behind the sofa will have me for company!
Have a great one, ‘holics.