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Just before we get into this preview I should point out that Phil got the score on Wednesday 100% correct. Not bad eh? Tony
Orient v Arsenal, by Phil Gregory
From Wednesday night’s clash against Barcelona, we’re back to earth with a low-key cup tie at Brisbane Road. I don’t think there’s much else to say on Barcelona that the excellent articles from Walter, Tony and Sammy the Snake didn’t cover, so I’ll stick to the task at hand. Three wins and two draws in Orient’s last five at home might have them going into this game a little more confident than you would expect versus Arsenal. Indeed they’re one of the form sides in League One, with four wins and four draws in their last eight league games. A tie to be approached with respect, I think.
There is nothing too bad to be revealed on the injury front: Djourou is out with a bank injury but it’s not serious, most likely just a case of taking a bit of a knock. If possible Wenger will look to rest him to keep him at 100% for the bigger challenges ahead. Walcott has had a minor hamstring issue and he too will probably be wrapped up in cotton wool for this game. Diaby is suspended after getting sent off against Newcastle a couple of weeks back, while Vermaelen is still out of the reckoning. Injuries to squad players such as Frimpong are a particular shame when these kind of games come up.
The fixtures are coming thick and fast as ever, and it wasn’t surprising to hear Wenger talk about rotation for this game. It was tricky putting an eleven together; in some positions such as centre back we’re a bit light for wholesale changes.
Eboue Squillaci Miquel Gibbs
Bendtner Chamakh Arshavin
Almunia comes back in goal with an eye on keeping him match fit in the event anything happens to Szcznesy. Eboue may continue at right back even though Sagna missed the last game through European suspension, given the France international will be playing the next two games.
Vermaelen’s injury means we can’t swap our starting centrebacks for two recognised backups, so while Squillaci will come in for Djourou we might see a debut for reserve team captain Miquel to allow Koscielny a breather. It’s not the perfect tie to bring a youngster in for a start and it would certainly represent a gamble, but I feel the priority will be keeping our powder dry for future challenges. Even a defensive mess-up at the heart of defence shouldn’t be a disaster with our forward options.
Denilson comes in to hold alongside Song. I expect Jack to be left out even after his heroics against Barcelona as Wenger will have one eye on ensuring the youngster doesn’t burn out. In an ideal world Song would be rested too but Diaby’s ban and Frimpong’s injury means this isn’t possible. Song is used to the rigours of a long season and will offer us some height at set pieces which could be useful. Two defensively minded players may be overkill against a League One side but I’d imagine Song will have more licence than usual to get forward, so he’ll be more box to box.
Up front Arshavin is coming down from a winner against Barcelona to a start at Brisbane Road. I included him in place of Nasri to allow a little rotation, and perhaps Arsène will be cautious with the Frenchman after his recent injury. That said, he might want to give him game time after a two week absence, though Samir was hardly lacking sharpness on Wednesday night.
Bendtner comes in on the right in place of Theo and Chamakh replaces Van Persie. All the big names will be on the bench, and if it isn’t looking like happening with 65 minutes gone, a triple substitution of Van Persie, Nasri and Fabregas might just do the trick.
On paper, this is a game that we should simply be negotiating and making our way through to the next round. However every year there are cautionary tales in the FA Cup – at the time of writing non-league Crawley Town had United under the cosh and are only one nil down – which is how it finished – and our own travails against Leeds and Ipswich are hopefully fresh in the memory. A rotated team going into the game will be enough for a 3-0 to the Arsenal or thereabouts, here’s to hoping.
Title watch – Manchester United have three away games coming up in the Premier League, against Wigan, Liverpool and Chelsea. They have picked up just less than 1.5 points per away game, which is effectively winning half and losing half of your aways.
While Wigan isn’t the trickiest fixture around no away game seems to be easy for United, so a draw isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Chelsea’s poor level at the moment makes me think they’ll at best get a draw from United, but I expect Liverpool to beat United. Fives points dropped over three games for the Mancs would be nice, but if I were a betting man I’d place my money on four. Arsenal draw level, and ahead on goal difference… that would be enough for me at this stage!
A very personal note from Tony: Barclays Bank made £11.6bn profit last year and paid 1% tax in Britain. It’s not football, but for me it is just as important. Read the Guardian article if you find it troubling that more is paid in bank bonuses than in tax.