First of all, I would just like to say how absolutely ridiculous it is that we’re playing on a Friday night, especially in the Cup against a team two divisions below us. The FA are trying to encourage more people who support the bigger clubs to attend Cup matches but a game on a Friday night which is also being shown on BT Sport, means that attendance figures could be quite low at the Emirates.
In total 54 positions separate league one Coventry and Premier League Arsenal as the Gunners hope to avoid a cup-set in the fourth round of the FA Cup. This Friday could well be a test for the team’s fringe players who are looking to gain some valuable game time and hopefully stake their claims for roles in the starting XI. As mentioned when we faced Spurs in the Cup a few weeks back, the FA Cup is our last trophy and we’ll be desperately hoping we don’t face an embarrassing defeat like we did to Blackburn last year. We faced Coventry last season too, albeit in the Capital One Cup though and won with a resounding score-line of 6-1. That game saw Olivier Giroud score his first goal in English football, so facing Coventry should bring back happy memories for the Frenchman. That day saw 3 other players score who won’t be playing tomorrow though. Andrey Arshavin scored one whilst Walcott grabbed two and Ignasi Miquel, currently on loan at Leicester, notched his first senior goal.
As for our previous meetings against The Sky Blues in the FA Cup, we’ve come out on top in our only other two previous clashes. In 1975 and 1977 we overcame them 3-0 and 3-1 respectively in which both games were also held at home.
Friday will see a break in normal league proceedings and as mentioned should give some valuable game time to the fringe players. Serge Gnabry would usually be a definite starter in a Cup game but due to his recent League appearances could be made to settle for a place on the bench. Carl Jenkinson and Thomas Vermaelen could both receive game time in defence whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain is due to make his first start after injury. Nicklas Bendtner is meanwhile fit after injury again and could we given a chance upfront. Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey are still sidelined whilst Rosicky has also now been ruled out. Gedion Zelalem, our 16 year old prodigy may also be in line for his senior debut, but like Gnabry, may be on the bench. Wenger has made his intentions clear that he’s taking a game against a lower league team seriously after slip ups in previous seasons.
Because of that, I’m predicting a team similar to this: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Monreal; Flamini, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski; Bendtner.
For me, Coventry is a great game in which the players have a chance to boast their goal tallies. It will also give our more senior players like Szczesny, Per, Ozil and Giroud a chance for a rest before our very tough February and March period. A game against lower league opposition is harder than it looks and The Sky Blues will be going into the game with nothing to lose. We’ll need to be at our fluent best in order to reach the Fifth round of the competition. It will be a game where we have huge amounts of possession and unlike against Fulham where we wasted quite a lot going forward, we’ll need to be clinical.
By Matt Dawson