Arsenal V Manchester United: Just Bring It!

January 30, 2010

When I started watching football this was the biggest game. In my mind it still is. With due respect to the North London Derby, which is always a game immersed in history, this one is more of a history-in-the-making kind of duel. There’s always something going down when these two giants of English Football meet.

Given the way the league is shaping up, this is a big match for not only Arsenal and United but Chelsea too. The Blues are sitting at the top and will be hoping for a stalemate that would give them a chance to pull away. Arsenal and United know that they have to use the present opponent as a stepping stone to reach within striking distance of Chelsea.

I am quite excited for this one. We might see Cesc, Arshavin, Rosicky and Nasri in tandem and that’s a bunch that can carve any opposition apart. It’s been a while since we beat the Mancs comprehensively and this might just be payback time.

To me, on paper, our team looks far superior to that of the visitors. Apart from Rooney, I am not sure if any United player offers a genuine threat. Giggs and Scholes can’t last the full duration anymore. Nani, Valencia, et al. are just not in the same league. Ferdinand will be missing and Vidic has been quite shaky ever since Torres taught him a lesson. Some might consider Fletcher’s persistent fouling and the Referee’s bias towards the visitors to be just as big a threat as their striker. I cannot argue with that, we just have to deal with it.

This game is about translating our superiority into a big result. Too often in the recent past we have dominated big games only to come away empty handed and at times even embarrassed. Often it has been a case of us committing hara-kiri rather than the opposition deserving a win, Diaby’s own goal in the reverse fixture being a case in point. Right now the league is just as complicated as the economy and we cannot afford expensive gifts to the opposition. If only the team could learn to be as miserly as Le Boss himself! (Be a Gooner, Be a Giver does not apply to the performance on the pitch, gentlemen.)

Tactically, this game will be a tight one. I expect Fergie will put three central midfielders all of them pre-dominantly in a defensive role. He might also put Park and Valencia, who must be quite fresh, on the wings making it a strong defensive midfield supported by two wingers capable of quick breaks. United have caught us on the break quite often. The Champions League semifinal was decided by two early counters. With Sol Campbell likely to replace the injured Vermaelen, I’d be a little worried if we played a very high line. On the other hand, I am hoping Sol will help us deal with set-pieces better.

Undoubtedly, Song will have a big role to play. If our full backs bomb forward, he will have to track the United wingers or midfielders who come forward to support Rooney. Song will also have to re-establish the link between defense and midfield that was broken in his absence.

The first few minutes will be crucial. We need to come out with purpose and establish our superiority. An early goal will do wonders as it will force United to be a tad more open. By the same measure, we can do without any early slip-ups. Conceding the advantage to a title rival in such a game due to a lapse in concentration or hesitant play would be a cardinal sin.

Another interesting tactical aspect is the striker’s role. Will the young Dane finally get his chance? Many of us want a big, strong Center Forward and I have no doubt about his abilities. However, if I was the manager, I wouldn’t start with Bendtner in this game. He is too rusty and at the moment his first touch isn’t good enough. United defenders will nick the ball off him far too easily and that might break down many of our attacks.

The team I would love to see is,

Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Campbell, Clichy; Song, Cesc, Denilson; Rosicky, Arshavin, Nasri.

Some might say we should play either Rosicky or Nasri in the middle in place of Denilson and play Bendtner up front. I think that’s a good option as well but we must not forget that as far as Arsene goes, Denilson is irreplaceable 😛

Are you with me in sensing a season defining triumph then!?

So, How Much Did We Miss Song?

January 29, 2010

I guess most of us were worried about losing Song to the Africa Cup of Nations. Now that he is back and I am assuming he will play against United, it is worthwhile taking a look at just how badly did we miss the Cameroon hard-man.

Song left for Angola after helping us win the Cup tie at West Ham. Since then we have played five games – four in the league and one in the FA Cup. During this period our form book reads DLWWD.

I was trying to think of any objective way in which to analyze this performance and co-relate it with Song’s absence. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to think of any acceptable approach. After all, Denilson does have the ability to rack up impressive statistics! So I will just share my opinion on this issue. Do tell me if you have a better idea/approach.

Out of the five games, we won the two against Bolton. There isn’t much room for improvement in these results and as title contenders we should be doing the double over relegation candidates. Let’s look at the other games now.

First up, the draw with Everton at home was hard fought but could we have done better? I believe that we would have won that game if Song had played. This is just an opinion and there are enough ways of arguing for and against the case. For instance, people might point to draws against West Ham and Burnley and say that Song was involved in both those games so how can this draw be held down to the absence of one player. To me, just based on the way the game was played, it’s a feeling that we would have done better with Song.

Next was the loss at Stoke. This one is even tougher to judge as we really did play a weakened side and we don’t even know the team Wenger would have selected if Song was available. However, I feel that his physical presence would have been quite handy against the “rough and aggressive” approach of the Potters. At the very least, we might have escaped with a draw. Of course, some might consider that an even worse result!

Finally, we had the draw at Villa Park. Once again, given the way this game was played, I have a feeling that Song in place of either Denilson or Ramsey would have given the team better balance and control in the midfield. It’s another two points that we could have achieved.

In effect, the best case scenario would have been four more points in the league (putting us top)  and still in the FA Cup. The worst case is what we have right now as I can’t imagine us doing any worse with Song in the team. Realistically we might have been somewhere in between.

I understand that there are many other factors involved and the injuries to Diaby, Ramsey and Nasri had a big impact on some of these results. Moreover, there is a long way to go and as genuine title contenders we must overcome any minor set backs we encounter.

Right now, it’s impossible to say for sure but if we are four points of the title winners at the end of the season, some of us will always wonder what if.

Aston Villa 0 – 0 Arsenal: There’s Something About These Claret & Blue Teams

January 28, 2010

Arsenal return from Villa Park with a point. As we’d discussed a couple of days ago, it’s not a bad result by any means, except perhaps from the point of view of those people who actively seek out reasons to be negative.

Curiously enough, this is our third away draw of the season and all have come away to teams playing in Claret and Blue colors. First a 2 goal stalemate at Upton Park, then we shared a goal at Burnley and finally this nil-all result against Villa. What comes next could be a good IQ question, eh! Maybe Wenger should research the influence of colors on the players’ performance.

Jokes aside, there isn’t much to talk about from this game. Arsenal struggled once again as the passing game never clicked into gear. It’s another game which showed that in the absence of Song and to some extent Diaby, all the onus in the midfield falls on El Capitan. Cesc has to drop deep to collect the ball, he has to press opponents all over the field, help out in defense, he has to find the creative passes and make the lung bursting runs into the final third.

Villa came out with a simple game plan. Long balls down the wings and players moving forward in support. Cross and press at every opportunity. Hope someone gets a good connection inside the box. Unfortunately for them, the last part hasn’t worked in the last four games. I am not sure how O’Neill found Arsene’s comments “an appalling insult.” I thought they were quite matter of fact.

Defensively Villa were solid and their game plan worked for most parts. Most of our good attacks came through the middle and they did well to push the game wide and negate our movement. I was hoping we will shift play a little more to the center and the left but we never got into any sort of a rhythm.

In spite of our problems we created the best chances but apart from the couple of shots hitting the woodwork, Freidel didn’t have much to do. The first attempt from Fabregas was pure genius as he ran with the ball from the halfway line right into the Villa box skipping past challenges as if playing with a bunch of kids in a park. If he’d scored, it would have been a contender for the goal of the season ( at least in the eyes of those who can see beyond the long range strikes.)

Similarly, the second chance was created by a mesmerizing run by Arshavin. His attempt was saved by the keeper and Fabregas did well to set up Rosicky with a first time pass from an awkward height. The Czech captain’s effort was a little disappointing as he smashed it against the bar from ten yards.

I feel these are the games which are won by individual skills and we should have created space for the likes of Cesc and Arshavin. The problem was that Ramsey and Denilson weren’t really great in the defensive roles and too many players had to drop deep to help out leaving us short up front. Villa deserve some credit for working hard and moving the ball from flank to flank.

The worst part of the game was not the result but the injuries to Vermaelen and Eduardo. Hopefully, they won’t be long term but to be honest, I was expecting some casualties in this game. It’s not that Villa were dirty, they weren’t, but we are getting some players back from injury and given our luck it was only a matter of time before some others hit the treatment table.

At the end of the day, it’s not an ideal result but it’s not a disaster either. Our unbeaten run in the league continues and we can build on it against United.

Individual Performances

Almunia: Made a big save early on. Was decent with crosses and set pieces but not perfect. Another solid performance and he seems to be regaining confidence with every game.

Sagna: Solid defensively but didn’t offer enough going forward. To be fair Villa made it difficult for him.

Gallas: Managed Agbonlahor’s runs adequately. Was quite good while dealing with balls into the box as well.

Vermaelen: Was caught out early on by Heskey and picked up a yellow card but the injury is a far bigger concern. We will really struggle if he is out for the season!

Clichy: Still looks a bit rusty. We need to do better down the left and he needs to get forward. It might have been a team strategy to hold him back as Villa are strong down the wings.

Denilson: Another really poor game. The link between defense and midfield is just not working. He looks like a liability in the defensive third and on counter attacks.

Ramsey: Looked good on the ball at times but lost possession quite often. I guess it’s down to inexperience and these are the times when you appreciate the importance of simple sideways passing.

Cesc: By far the best player on the pitch. Right now he is having to do too much as his partners in midfield have been passengers.

Rosicky: I thought he was a touch too casual. Lost the ball a few times when you expect someone of his experience to do better. To an extent a victim of our game not working.

Eduardo: Doesn’t have the pace to play the lone front man when the rest of the team has to drop deep. Picked up another disappointing injury.

Arshavin: Didn’t get into the game for large parts. For a man of his quality, I expect him to take responsibility when the going gets tough but somehow he doesn’t seem to have that mentality.

Subs: Campbell had a decent game, Bendtner was clearly out of touch but it’s good to see him back and Nasri didn’t get much time

Aston Villa V Arsenal: Will The Real Arsenal Please Stand Up

January 27, 2010

So it begins. I guess all of us are looking forward to this period albeit with different mindsets. Some, like me, who believe in the team are hopeful of positive results over the next fortnight. Others are waiting for a slip-up so that they can come out and criticize the team and vent their frustrations.

In either case, judging by the response to yesterday’s article, I think most of us expect a win tomorrow, although some are cautious and believe it will be a draw. There aren’t many who think we will lose at Villa Park and hopefully the squad and the manager will have similar confidence. After all, history is on our side as we haven’t lost in the last ten league visits, while winning half our games.

Arsene is excited and wants to consolidate the league position. Speaking at the press conference Le Boss said,

It is an exciting period for us because we are in a very good position. I make it a good opportunity to strengthen our position in the League. That is how I see it. We have a good level of confidence and know that with so many big games, psychologically it is important to go in with a high level of confidence, so every result has an influence on the next one.

The psychological part is indeed very important. A good result here can set us up nicely for the big clash at the weekend. For all we know, United might be coming into that one on the back of a demoralizing loss in the Carling Cup.

Anyway, as all the wise men say, right now the focus should be on the game at hand. We have some players returning from injury and should be able to put out a strong side for this one. The first choice defense should be restored and the return of Ramsey will give us a strong midfield. Rosicky, Eduardo and Arshavin should make a good front three once again.

We might have a really strong bench now that Bendtner and Narsi will be available along with Theo, Vela, Campbell and Traore. This also gives us the opportunity to mix things up as the great Dane, almost literally, offers a different dimension and so does Walcott.

To me, this game is simple in terms of tactics – We have to break down a resolute defense while being strong enough to prevent counter attacks and be solid on the set pieces. I thought our home game was brilliant defensively and there is no reason we shouldn’t see a repeat performance given that some key players have had a good rest.

Wenger has to make sure that we don’t pay the price for Rambo’s inexperience or Denilson’s weakness in the defensive half. Both these players have to come out with a focus on their defensive duties and leave the creative part of the game to the likes of Cesc, Rosicky and Arshavin.

It will be interesting to see which team starts off at a higher tempo. If we can control the tempo from the start it will help us negate the crowd and affect the hosts’ confidence. Allowing Villa to dominate the early play can put us under pressure, especially if they manage to score.

Baring any late injury concerns the starting line up is quite likely to be,

Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Ramsey, Cesc, Denilson; Rosicky, Eduardo, Arshavin;

I am gunning for a 2-1 win (hopefully, this won’t be a repeat of my prediction against Stoke) with Cesc and Arshavin to score. And yes, it’s very difficult for me to imagine Arsenal keeping a clean sheet. Believe me, I am trying hard but it’s just not working for me right now.

How Many Points Do Arsenal Need From These Four Games?

January 26, 2010

Over the last week or so I have been trying to think of acceptable results from the next four games. It’s just a thought stuck in my head more than anything else. We have all shared some laughs over the fixture computer but the time for jokes is now over just like our FA Cup run.

Mathematically, even if we lose all four games we can reach the 82-84 point mark that AW and Fergie have been speaking about. We will have to win all our remaining 12 games though if that were the case. This to me represents the worst case scenario and I am quite confident we won’t be in such a situation. But it does tell us that there isn’t much room for maneuvering.

In contrast, winning all four games would be the best case scenario and I am sure the team will try their best to achieve this. It will certainly put us in pole position as we will have won six pointers against the two title contenders. To be honest, I don’t think it’s a realistic proposition.

As I think more, the two games against United and Chelsea seem far more important than the other two. These games are called six pointers for good reason and we just cannot afford to lose. If these games end up as a draw it still puts us level with the contenders. So I would say we need a minimum of two points from these games.

In my opinion the United game is eminently winnable, while the one at Stamford Bridge would boil down to individual moments. Four points from these two games would be a fantastic result for us and will most probably make the title challenge a two horse race.

The games with Villa and Liverpool are quite tricky. If we can be at our best we should win both, but these teams have the ability to put men behind the ball and play on the counter. They also have the ability to come off the blocks at top speed, quite like what Stoke did on Sunday. We haven’t lost at Villa in ten league visits and I don’t see any reason for that record to change. Similarly our performances against Liverpool have been far better than those against United or Chelsea. I think four points from these two games would be very acceptable, while six would be perfect.

One reason these fixtures are important is that United and Chelsea also have to face them and could potentially lose points in these games. If we can win these games we give ourselves a good chance of picking points on the competition.

The way I see it, the only real cause for worry from these four games would be a loss to the teams either side of us in the league table. Any other result is acceptable but failure to win consistently will create tremendous pressure on the team and give strength to the voices of dissent amongst supporters and the media.

If we avoid defeats against United and Chelsea, I would consider the points as

Four – Acceptable but cutting it too close

Six – Keeps us in the hunt

Eight or more – Highly positive result

I understand that the premier league is not won or lost by games against the top teams but considering the league is so close, losing against the competition gives them a huge advantage. If we lose to either of the two we won’t have fate in our own hands. Arsene has already put his eggs in the premier league basket so now is the time to deliver. After this period we could be anywhere from practically out of the race to clear pace setters.

United have only three games in the same period with games against us and Villa in the mix along with an easier one at home to Portsmouth. Since they have played an extra game already this gets balanced out. I don’t see them pulling away unless we let them win at the Emirates.

Chelsea on the other hand have five fixtures during this period with games at home to Birmingham and Arsenal, and away trips to Burnley, Hull and Everton. The Blues could pull away from the pack during this period but their run in at the end of the season is quite difficult with away trips to United, Totenham, and Liverpool a part of their last six games.

My guess is that we will take six to eight points from this period while Chelsea will emerge as leaders with a slender margin in a title race that will go down to the wire.

Stoke V Arsenal: Wenger’s Nitro Boost Turns Out To Be Self Destruct

January 25, 2010

Right from the moment the starting line up was announced it was clear this one was going to be an uphill battle. Things got worse right in the first minute as Stoke capitalized on their first salvo. Delap fired the only real weapon in the hosts’ arsenal and Fuller made sure it found the target.

The worst part of this goal was that it was down to poor awareness on the part of Arsenal defenders and the keeper. In other words, Stoke were fired up and ready from the word go whereas Arsenal were tentative and caught on the back foot.

Given the way Fabianski handled the rest of Delap’s throws there is no reason to believe that he couldn’t have handled this one had he been prepared to attack it and catch it at the highest point. Unfortunately for us, it took a goal for the realization to sink in. Since he is not a regular starter, you have to wonder if the coaching staff and the manager had prepared him well for the task. The rest of the game tells me they had but Fabianski was not switched on early enough.

The other complaint against the young Pole is that he should have at least caught Fuller arriving from the corner of his eye and made an attempt to reach for the ball. Maybe the goal was an eye opener for the Arsenal number two!

Similarly our defense was caught unawares. We had four players marking two Stoke players with both central defenders really close to one attacker. To me it seemed like it was Silvestre with his man and Sol Campbell in no man’s land. Once again, he has been out for so long that it’s all matter of preparation rather than a question of ability.

When the first goal went in, I was really worried if this might turn into a rout. As it turned out, it was a scrappy game with Stoke hassling us all over the park but offering little threat of their own (kicking our players with intent is not counted!) In the first half they had fifteen attempts at putting the ball in our box, but apart from the first one Arsenal were able to hold fort.

After initial pressure from Stoke, we settled down and started getting into the game without creating any chances. To me, the main reason we struggled was that our defensive midfielders completely failed in their job and we got control of the ball only after Cesc dropped deep. With Walcott and Vela forced back to cover for the inexperienced full backs we hardly had anyone forward as the debutant JET cut a lone figure.

Neither team dominated the first half as Stoke’s strength was their destructive ability and Arsenal failed to get their game going.

For the second time in two games at the Brittania, we scored via a double deflection. Denilson the beneficiary this time. Unlike some others, I didn’t find anything controversial about the free kick decision.

The second half was a continuation of the first and I thought Arsenal looked more and more in control as the game went on. When Le Boss made the triple substitution I felt this would be the killer blow for Stoke. For a while Arsenal looked more in control as Ramsey imposed himself in the middle and gave Cesc the freedom to move forward. We also had more control in the final third.

Unfortunately, Ramsey in his enthusiasm picked the wrong pass, especially given the fact that Traore had made a good run forward. It was a really poor pass but shouldn’t have been a source of concern as Sidibe was five yards inside the Stoke half when possession was lost. The big striker glided into the right channel effortlessly as a hopeless Denilson chased shadows.

Firstly, the Brazilian failed at something that is his strength – reading the danger and nipping it in the bud. The run from Sidibe and the pass to him were really obvious and the only choice Stoke had from that position. Secondly, he was beaten for pace by a hardworking Sidibe highlighting his physical incapability for the job. Finally, he didn’t have the awareness to commit a professional foul and help the team recover it’s shape. Thus showing his mental incapability for the role.

Silvestre was at fault for not rushing out to cover for Traore. He is not very quick but at one point he stopped his run as if expecting Sidibe to cross or cut inside. This gave the Stoke striker a clear run to our box and an unchallenged opportunity to cross. At this level, even Stoke players are good enough to take such a gift.

Even after the second goal we should have recovered and equalized. I thought the problem was that Arshavin and Eduardo took a long time to get into the game and that allowed Stoke another chance to pressurize our defense.

A long kick by Sorenson was missed by Campbell and Denilson but Eastmond was in the right position. Unfortunately, the youngster failed to keep his balance and Tuncay was able to nick it off him. Once again Denilson was standing and watching as Etherington got a free run with the Right Back out of position. His cross was similar to that of Cole’s from the Chelsea game. Once again our central defenders were guilty of not making an attempt to clear it and Traore unaware of Whitehead’s presence. The hapless Fabianski left with no chance of making a save.

One worrying aspect is that Arsenal do not have the ability to lay siege at the opposition goal while chasing a game. I have said this often in the past, if Chelsea or United were chasing the game you can be certain the opposition defense will face a barrage of attacks. We don’t know how to maintain our attacking shape and more worryingly we tend to leave the back door open for counter attacks. Champion teams convert defeats into positive results but how often have we seen us losing from a position where we looked like we can win!

Individual Performances

Fabianski: Bad mistake for the first goal. Struggled with some crosses but had a decent game overall. I don’t blame our goalkeepers for our defensive problems.

Coquelin: Baptism by fire for the young man. Worked hard and made some good tackles. Looked a bit nervous and lost the ball on occasions but overall an excellent effort given his age. Big prospect for the future.

Campbell: Was at fault for the first goal and to some extent for the third goal. Got some good tackles in. Clearly in need of match practice.

Silvestre: Almost gave away a penalty and was partially at fault for the second goal and third goals. But I never expect him to be impeccable.

Traore: Was excellent going forward and put some great crosses in. Did a decent job defensively.

Eastmond: Was useful on set pieces early on and did a good job at Right Back. Doesn’t have the ability to impose himself on such a physical game but we can’t fault him for that.

Denilson: Really poor. It’s not often you feel that the only goal scorer was the worst player on the pitch. It’s three games now and he is not good enough without a strong DM.

Cesc: Tried hard. I would love to know his genuine thoughts on playing in such a team in such a game. I think Wenger should have started him in a deeper role.

Walcott: Totally out of sorts. There is a simple problem – he is not a natural footballer. Without regular games he will always struggle.

JET: Decent debut for the youngster. I thought he looked better when he dropped deep. I felt he would have been a better choice for the center three.

Vela: Worked hard and had a few good moments. Another player who needs some games. Provided decent cover for Traore.

Subs: Ramsey looked lively and it’s great to have him back so soon. Eduardo and Arshavin failed to get going.

Stoke V Arsenal: Momentum, Priorities, Balance and More

January 24, 2010

It’s that time again. A tricky Cup tie is upon us, eleven first team players are unavailable and we have a potentially decisive set of league fixtures lined up for the next fortnight. Le Boss has to walk the tightrope once again and hope that the squad has enough depth and quality to get a result.

Just to put things in perspective, we are visiting a team that has scored 19 league goals in 21 games, that is less than a third of our goals. Stoke have scored 15 at home from 11 matches, which is marginally better.

If this were a league game I have no doubt a full strength Arsenal team (even from those available) would be favorites. In some ways it is a measure of Wenger’s work that a youthful squad is still expected to comfortably win away at the Britannia. How else would you explain odds of 3/4 or 4/5 for the Arsenal while Stoke fetch 7/2.

Arsene has to find a balance between maintaining our momentum, keeping us in the hunt for the FA Cup and resting players before the big games in the coming days. While the FA cup may be third in our list of priorities, it is not a competition Arsene would want to sacrifice. I like it when Arsene says he will put out a team capable of winning the game. What some people fail to realize is that the Arsenal first team is, in most cases, far superior to the opposition. So even when we rest some of the players, we should have a team that is capable of winning the game. Playing youngsters in a balanced team should not be considered as disrespectful or sacrificial in anyway.

That brings me to the magic word – Balanced. I think Arsene has realized that we need a solid and experienced defense to provide stability and confidence to the youngsters. Once we ensure the goal is well protected, it is much easier for the lesser experienced players to play their game as they know they can afford a mistake or two. For this reason, unless they are really struggling, we will see at least one of Vermaelen and Gallas on the pitch.

Similar questions will have to be answered for other positions as well. If Clichy is completely fit he should be fresh enough to play. Denilson is another who might play if he has fully recovered. Rosicky too hasn’t played too many games this season but the problem with him is that he keeps picking up niggling injuries every time he plays regularly. Walcott and Vela should certainly get a start. Sol Campbell might also chip in with a second debut and Silvestre is also an option at the back.

These players should provide a relatively experienced foundation for the team leaving two or three places for the youngsters. The unfortunate aspect our our squad is that most of our defenders can’t step into a DM role, a position where we are really short. Another problem area is the Right Back position where we don’t have any experienced player as Sagna needs a rest.

Can Sol Campbell play Right Back? Or maybe we can have Gallas at right back and Campbell in the center. Would it make sense to break the WG-TV partnership for one game? Can we play any of Silvestre, Clichy or Traore on the Right? Or will Arsene put the big responsibility on the young shoulders of Eastmond or Coquelin? My choice would be to put Gallas on the Right and Campbell in the Center along with Vermaelen. This would give us a very strong back four and make it easier for the youngsters in front.

Eastmond is likely to continue his education with another difficult job at a very physical away game. Denilson and Rosicky would be my choice for his partners in the middle with the Czech maestro having the creative responsibility.

Up front I would put Vela through the middle with Walcott on the right and Wilshere on the left. The three of them should be able to change positions at will.

My starting line up would look like,

Fabianski; Gallas, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy; Eastmond, Denilson, Rosicky; Walcott, Vela, Wilshere.

It is quite impossible to guess Wenger’s starting line up. I have picked a very strong defense that should help us negate the limited attacking options that Stoke have. The big risk is in playing Gallas and Vermaelen, but I reckon they have played well so far this season so why should this game be different. Arsene might even start with Fabregas to give the team more of an attacking edge.

Le Boss might even change the tactics or the formation to use the pace of Vela and Walcott but I doubt that. He has shown enough confidence in the youngsters so far and is likely to stick with the same formation and tactics.

In any case, I think it is imperative we have Cesc and Arshavin at least on the bench. I feel these two can help us recover even from a two goal deficit in the final half hour just in case things don’t go as planned. We will be pushing our luck if we don’t have a strong bench.

We definitely want a result in this game as the fifth round is scheduled for 13th Feb and if this goes into a replay we might just have another irritating fixture between the United and Chelsea games. That will really stretch our resources.

I am gunning for a 2-1 win.