As usual Wenger’s playing the starting lineup close to his chest; only giving out little bits and bobs of who will be included today. From the article linked above, we can see that Fabianski and Gibbs (who have featured in the FA Cup) are the only two who are certainly being included in the starting XI. From there on out it’s a matter of fitness, rotation, and tactics that will decide the squad.
For fitness, the boss spoke of Arshavin’s desire to get on the pitch despite suffering a gash from a Ooijer tackle (link possibly NSFW) that required 8 stitches on Saturday. The Fonz spoke openly about the events of Saturday saying of the wound
It’s like a knife cut – not very deep but quite painful. Ooijer tore my boot and the skin, too. At half-time, our doctor had to do a lot of work on my foot. So when I scored the second goal, I ran over to thank him for a job well done.
That explains why he was late coming out of the tunnel and his sort of tearful hug of the team doctor after he scored, I was wondering about that. Arsene wants to include him, Arshavin wants to play, but ultimately, he’s going to be a game-time decision.
Rambo, on the other hand, has been ruled out owing to the fact that he is “growing in stature” and needs a rest. I remember some talk from Arsene about Rambo’s lack of fitness when he came in to the squad and so I’m guessing the boss means that and not that Aaron has literally grown and needs rest. 17 year old’s sometimes do have growth spurts and they are very painful. Either way, he’s not even included in the team.
Robin van Persie hasn’t played since the 11th so I expect him to get the start, no sense leaving him to rot on the bench, but after that the Gods only know who Arsene will pick. He could play a 4-5-1 with RvP as the lone striker, Vela and Arshavin on the wings, Nasri in the middle (or switch Nasri and Arshavin) and the two-headed-hydra in central midfield. He could put Diaby in the middle, could start Djourou and rest Gallas, etc. etc. Wenger has a lot of choices today and that’s a good thing. If he rests those folks and starts Vela and Bendtner up front, that leaves him RvP and Theo Walcott coming off the bench.
For their part Hull and their manager have a great deal of belief coming in to this match:
Win this – and don’t forget we’ve already won at Arsenal this season – and we’re at Wembley playing Chelsea, win that we’re in the FA Cup final
…our performances were good, but results were hurting. The Cup run reminded us of how good we can be. It meant players were still bouncing, still coming into training looking forward to the sessions we were putting on. A smile on a player’s face is priceless to me. There’s no question that the FA Cup maintained spirit.
Hull will be up for this game and we should expect a spirited, attacking team who see the FA Cup as a light in the dark tunnel of Premier League survival. Buoyed by their surprise result at Emirates at the start of the season and their run of form to get them this far in the FA Cup this is by no means a walk in the park. Arsenal will need to closely mark danger men like Giovanni in open play, be prepared for Hull to mark them closely in return, and defend well from set pieces: three things we didn’t do well last time.
Hull will want to score early in order to take some pressure off so, look for them to come out hard in the first 5 minutes. This isn’t the same team that Hull shocked earlier in the season and I expect that this Arsenal team can handle that pressure — considering that they just got back from Rome and played a world class team in an unfriendly stadium, Hull, at Emirates, should be considerably easier.
So, for our part, Arsenal will look to soak up their pressure and hit them on the counter early.
What are the odds for van Persie to get a goal in the first 10 minutes?
Right, that’s it, I’ve been sick basically since I got back from London (two different colds I think) and finally got on antibiotics for this crud that settled in my chest. I am feeling a lot better and need to get in and put in a half day at work… which is perfect since kickoff is 12:45 PST.
The match is being shown live at Doyle’s so come on down and join us if you’re in town. It should be a cracker!
Oh yeah, happy St.EveryoneInAmericaIsIrishAndDrunk Day!