Feb 19th, 2017 by 'holic
At last there is some real football to distract us from the general air of gloom surrounding the club at the moment. An incedible Saturday in the FA Cup saw a non-league team advance away against a Premier League club and a League One club defeat the champions. While Sunday’s fixtures went as existed the draw gave us more reason to cheer. Only non-leaguers Sutton United and Lincoln City stand between us and an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
Just who will start at Sutton became marginally clearer on Sunday as Danny Welbeck played for seventy minutes in the under-23 fixture at Leicester. The England striker confirmed on his Twitter account that the “plastic pitch at Sutton isn’t the best idea at the moment“. Clearly he has ongoing issues with that knee. Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were not involved at Leicester so probably will be at Gander Green Lane.
So, using the eleven that started at Southampton in the last round as a basis from which to work it is possible that Per Mertesacker and Nacho Monreal might come in for Shkodran Mustafi and Kieran Gibbs in front of David Ospina, and alongside Hector Bellerin, and Rob Holding.
Mohamed Elneny could come in for one of the young double-barrelled midfielders and alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a midfield three. If Lucas has not regained fitness we could be stretched up front. Olivier Giroud should get a start alongside Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi?
Sutton will obviously be up for the game, in particular the former Gunners Craig Eastmond, Roarie Deacon, Jeffrey Monakana and Jack Jebb. Eastmond was once considered to be ahead of Francis Coquelin for a future midfield berth with the Gunners, and made ten appearances in two seasons including a Champions League appearance in Donetsk. Talking to Jim White in the Telegraph Craig was warm in his praise of the boss who let him go, whilst upbeat about his new team’s chances of causing what would surely be the biggest FA Cup upset of all time.
“To be fair, we never think we haven’t got a chance, that’s one of our strengths. Sure, if Leeds had played their full-strength side we might have thought different. But once we saw their teamsheet, we knew we could do it.”
“I’ve not seen Arsène Wenger in the flesh since I left the club. I see him on TV all the time obviously. Be great to catch up. I know he’s taken a lot of stick recently, but for me there’s no question, he’s a great manager. And a great man.”
Much has been said about the nature of the artificial surface but in all honesty Arsenal effectively play on firm, enhanced surfaces every week. The bounce may be marginally different and the first burn will persuade most to try to stay on their feet more than usual, but if we are playing a possession game based on short sharp passes then we should be able to make our technical superiority pay.
The ‘holic pound
If you listened to the Bergkamp Wonderland podcast this week you will know I am not expecting an avalanche of goals. The standard of the National League isn’t so very far removed from that of Leagues One and Two so I expect the hosts to get bodies behind the ball and make it difficult for us. The lively Deacon and the experienced Tubbs will hope to convert any rare opportunities that come their way on the break.
I plumped for 0-3 to the Arsenal but don’t be surprised if at least a couple of those don’t come until the non-leaguers tire in the latter stages. Unfortunately for me the bookies think that is the likeliest outcome too. Paddy Power offer a market best of 13/2 against that and I have grabbed a piece of that while it lasts. Expect it to drop to 11/2 or even 5/1.
To the lucky 750 plus any of ours who have tickets from Sutton I wish you a fabulous evening of old style football watching. To the rest who hopefully won’t need to be behind the sofa let’s just hope we get an exciting, but eventually not too pulse-racing passage into a quarter-final against another National League opponent.
We all know the rest of the football world will be rooting for the underdog, as indeed we were when Sutton beat Leeds to reach the last sixteen. Should the unexpected happen I hope the vast majority of us will react with some class and grace.
Have a good one, ‘holics.