“At least we will not have the excuse to be surprised because they beat Manchester City in a convincing way. That is a good warning for us. In the Championship, any team that plays at the top is a danger for any Premier League team. They are well organised, play good football with good pace, and they are very creative.”
Well, I guess that means we are not underestimating the challenge that Middlesbrough will offer on Sunday. Arsene’s assessment is a welcome sign of just how seriously we are taking the defence of our trophy.
The Gunners treatment room is again full to bursting. Aaron Ramsey has reclaimed his spot with a hamstring strain, and Alexis Sanchez isn’t expected to vacate the treatment table after Upson’s assault on him on Tuesday night. Long term absentees Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, and Abou Diaby are all still out.
Jack Wilshere has returned to training, so don’t be surprised to see him on the bench. Wojciech Szczesny returns between the sticks as the cup goalkeeper and an impressive performance would not do his chances of reclaiming the number one slot any harm.
Arsene hinted that January signing Gabriel could make his debut in a back four that may also include Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, and Nacho Monreal.
Francis Coquelin should continue to anchor the midfield with Tomas Rosicky slotting into the box to box role vacated by Ramsey, and Santi Cazorla as the creator in chief.
Perm any two from Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, and Mesut Ozil to start in wide positions. All have been given free reign to come inside in support of Olivier Giroud and that could be the key to unlocking Boro’s impressive defence.
The Teesiders took Liverpool to a penalty shoot-out in the COCup this season as well as beating City at the Etihad in this competition. Their manager, Aitor Karanka, is quietly confident of an upset.
“It’s going to be a massive game, everyone at the club expects we can beat them, but if we go there and think it is going to be easy, or another game we can beat them without playing our best, we can make a mistake.”
The ‘holic Pound
I’m backing the holders to be well-prepared for the counter-attacking style that got the visitors through the challenge of Manchester City. Looking at the odds I am drawn to a favourite (though rarely successful) prediction of mine this season, 2-1 to the hosts is 15/2 with Paddy Power. I’m on it.
The Week Ahead
With no midweek fixture I’m delighted to see the issue of a new book, I Am Sam, by James Durose-Rayner. There will be a review published next week as soon as I can get through 485 pages of what promises to be a cracking read.
That’s it for now. I look forward to seeing some of you on Sunday. As ever, have a good one ‘holics.