“We’re professional people, we’re winners, we expect to win, we’re used to winning, we like winning, we enjoy winning, our lives are better when we’re winning.”
One of the managers is sounding particularly bullish ahead of Saturday evening’s FA Cup quarter-final.
“We go to Arsenal with a game plan, and to try and execute it. It would be a disservice to our players to tell them just to wake up on Saturday morning and enjoy the day. We work every day for this; this is our lives.”
Danny Cowley, manager of National League giant-killers Lincoln City, isn’t under pressure right now. How his opposite number must wish he could say the same. To be fair Cowley has also said that his team have a one in a thousand chance, which seems far more accurate than the bookmakers odds of 33/1 against what would surely be the biggest FA Cup upset of all time.
If it doesn’t rain, it pours on Arsene Wenger right now. As well as standing his ground in public he has to contend with a bug that has hit some of the squad in the last ten days. Those of us with rather too much snow on the mountain remember only too well the effects of a flu bug on our 1969 League Cup Final team. Don’t panic Captain Mainwaring!
The bug has probably ruled out Danny Welbeck and Alex Iwobi, and possibly Mesut Ozil. Nonetheless the Gunners should still be able to field an eleven strong enough to show Lincoln the respect their run deserves as well as giving us every chance of progressing comfortably in what is surely our last opportunity to lift any silverware this season.
David Ospina, horribly exposed against Munich will want to see Laurent Koscielny starting alongside Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs, and either Shkodran Mustafi or Per Mertesacker.
Aaron Ramsey may be rested after his return to action against Bayern, and if we are to go 4-3-3 then it is possible that Ainsley Maitland-Niles could get a call-up to partner in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Granit Xhaka. A front three of Theo Walcott, Alexis, and Lucas should prove to be a match-winning combination.
I’m not being dismissive of the Imps who have thoroughly deserved to reach the last eight of the competition. The leaders of the National League have beaten Guiseley, Altrincham, Oldham Athletic, Ipswich Town, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Premier League Burnley on the way. That is impressive indeed for a team that isn’t likely to be non-league next season. They have a punchers chance, as they showed with that late Sean Raggett winner at Turf Moor.
We haven’t played the Imps since 1915, which was a year after the last non-league team reached the quarter-final stage. Our previous meetings all came in the old Second Division. The Gunners last lost an FA Cup tie to a non-league team, Swindon, in 1911.
The ‘holic pound
The bookmakers favour 3-0 to the Arsenal, and at around 13/2 that doesn’t look bad value. I’m being a bit more positive although that is based on us going for that attacking 4-3-3 set up which did for Southampton in the fourth round. Anthony Taylor is refereeing so I think Lincoln might well prevent the blank sheet, not that the two things are in any way related, you understand. I’ve grabbed a bit of the 20/1 available if you shop around for a 5-1 home win.
That should guarantee a heroic defensive performance by the visitors and a decider from the penalty spot!
If you are going remember there is another planned march from Highbury to the concourse at the Grove and plan your journey accordingly. To those who will be watching on television and streams from behind the sofa – I feel your nerves. This really could be an historic day, but I have confidence that we will be fully prepared and will produce the performance we need to progress.
Have a great one, ‘holics.