This one is an annoying fixture but it could be a good one to get back on the winning track. It is also a banana skin of sorts because a poor performance in this will magnify the previous loss inconceivably. Given that key players will be missing it will certainly be a tough encounter and any mistakes or laxity in front of goal at either end could cost the Gunners dear.
Tactically, I don’t expect anything other than a parked bus from the visitors. They’ll most probably play for a 0 – 0 with their best bet being on penalties. There wasn’t any evidence in the previous tie to think that Orient can really test the Arsenal defence but we must be wary of the self-destruct tendencies that come to the fore at all the wrong times.
Arsenal should see a lot of the ball and the number of chances created will depend on the speed at which that ball moves. Obviously, that will be linked with the understanding displayed by the players, something that might not click as well as one might expect due to the large number of changes that are likely to be made.
As long as Arsenal get enough bodies in the box, and some players are willing to take initiative in attack, there should be a couple of goals. With due respect to the visitors I’ll be shell-shocked if Arsenal fail to score in this one even with all the changes.
Arsene has already ruled out Song, Koscielny, Szczesny, and RvP. One can also expect changes at both full-back positions. That means at least 6 changes to the starting line-up. Since there is a possibility that Song might miss the next League game as well, I’d like to see Wilshere get a rest in this one. It will also be a good idea to give Nasri a breather as he’ll have to play a big role at the weekend and against Barcelona.
Possible starting line-up,
Almunia – Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs – Denilson, Rosicky, Diaby – Bendtner, Chamakh, Arshavin.
This won’t be the strongest eleven and we’ve seen problems in the past when a number of changes have been made but most of those have come away from home. In my opinion, Wenger doesn’t have much choice in such games as playing all the key players is just too big a risk.
I’m not sure about this but Ramsey is probably not available for this game as he was on loan when the original tie was played.
Wilshere and Nasri should be able to come on and affect the game if it’s not going to plan by the hour mark.
Rosicky and Arshavin will have to be involved in the game a lot more. That means their off the ball movement must show greater desire and the other players will have to find them with accurate passes. Bendtner should get into the box more often and the best way to do this will be by exchanging roles with Chamakh on a regular basis. Arsenal are at their strongest when the front three don’t stick to their positions all through the game.
This will also be a test for what has usually been a disappointing crowd at the Emirates this season. The supporters have a tendency of creating an air of expectation and pressure that turns into a proper football atmosphere only after Arsenal score. I don’t expect this occasion to be any different but would love a pleasant surprise.
As I said at the start, it’s not the kind of replay I’d have wanted at this stage of the season but it could turn out to be a fairly positive game if the performance correlates to the difference in quality of the teams on paper. This time I’m going to risk jinxing the result with a 2 – 0 prediction.