The matches continue to come thick and fast as today brings the FA Cup Replay which sees Arsenal travel to Hull to take on Steve Bruce’s Hull City.
A little over two weeks ago saw the first attempt of finding a winner in this tie end in stalemate, much to Gooners chagrin. It wasn’t through lack of trying on Arsenal’s part, but the Tiger’s stand-in keeper Eldin Jakupovic produced a one-man shield to deny the Gunners and add one more troublesome fixture into an already stacked schedule.
Well, since then, it has been a pretty glum time to be a Gooner. Following the frustrating draw at home to Hull, there was a disappointing loss to Barcelona, a catastrophic loss to an ordinary Manchester United and a defeat at home to Swansea which saw booing from the crowd.
On Saturday however, a metaphorical corner was turned. It certainly felt that way anyway. The simple things were being done rather than just talking about going back to basics. We cleared the ball rather than attempt to pass our way out of a hole. We harried, we pressed. We showed a bucketload of passion. We also had a certain Mohamed Elneny who proved to be an absolute dynamo on his Premier League debut.
There were other variables which added up to a vastly improved performance, but Gooners were just cheered to see a difference in the side which surrendered so meekly to Swansea and United. Aaron Ramsey put in a more dynamic performance. Sanchez never gave up, and Mertesacker was the sage head that Gabriel needed next to him. Despite yet more dropped points, the display pointed towards brighter results.
With another all-important League match in the weekend, and the North London Derby just three days past, Arsene Wenger will no doubt juggle his cast members to refresh things. David Ospina was another who performed admirably on Saturday and with Petr Cech out for a projected four weeks, he will stay in between the sticks.
In defence, Keiran Gibbs played in the weekend and he will more than likely play again today. Koscielny is still out, so any two from Mertesacker, Gabriel and Calum Chambers could make up the central defensive pairing. Alternatively, Chambers may just replace the oft-used Hector Bellerin.
In midfield, firebrand Mathieu Flamini will no doubt be involved, but it would have been expected Aaron Ramsey will be rested. With Coquelin suspended however and Mohamed Elneny playing on Saturday, Arsene may struggle to keep the midfield refreshed fully for the game Vs West Brom.
Joel Campbell has impressed lately and is a shoo-in for the right of midfield, and we can expect Mesut Ozil to be given a break. Alex Iwobi will be available and his composure could just prove the key to breaking the deadlock. This leaves Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez to duke it out for the remaining slots. With West Brom having height in their backline, you would expect Olivier Giroud to start on Saturday, but maybe Theo’s pace against the physical but far from rapid Baggies backline may just be the answer?
In short, I’ve no idea who will start. We can only surmise who will play. About seven of the starting eleven are nailed down, but the other four are still in Wenger’s mind. All we can hope for is Jakupovic doesn’t summon the spirit of Lev Yashin again to deny us once more.
What is known, is that whilst Hull are in contention for promotion, they only have one win in the last five games ( one win more than us ). Shaun Maloney and loanee Nick Powell will be handed starts, but regardless of who plays for the Tigers, the Gunners should surely have enough this time to squeeze through to the next round and play Watford?
If not, then we won’t deserve the FA Cup Hat-trick.