Following our pretty shoddy recent form, this game could be one of our most crucial this season. Defeats to Liverpool, Bayern and Stoke recently have really dented the flow in which we’ve been playing with, but a win in the FA Cup could bring a massive morale boost. A win here will take us to a semi-final at Wembley, and then a potential final. With all the hard work the players and staff have put in this season, it would be bitterly disappointing if our season was to unravel in the same way it has done in previous campaigns.
Roberto Martinez seems to have a love affair with the FA Cup, having lifted it with Wigan last season, before they were shortly relegated following a defeat against the Arsenal. However he has done a great job at Everton and they look real candidates to go all the way under his guidance. It’ll be a very tough game and they managed to restrict us to a draw when we last played them at the Emirates. Mesut Ozil struck, before young starlet Gerard Deulofeu equalised. Although games against Everton over the past few years have been tough encounters we’ve had the upper hand at home. We’re unbeaten in our past 19 fixtures against them and we’ll be looking to make use of that in yet another home FA Cup tie. We’ve already defeated Liverpool and Spurs so why can’t we fight off the Blue side of Merseyside too?
Remember the FA Cup is our last success in a major competition, something that has been a distant memory over these past eight years. The omens look fairly good for this game, but judging by our previous luck we can’t take the past for granted. Wenger has only lost twice in the FA Cup at home, against Leeds and Blackburn. We’ll have to be at our very best, and off the back of an international fixture and with Bayern in the week in mind, it won’t be easy. How many players we will see rested is an ongoing debate, some players will be more tired after quite frankly was a pointless international friendly schedule.
During that we lost two players to injury. Laurent Koscielny picked up a hamstring problem and is a doubt whilst Jack Wilshere suffered a fractured bone in his foot and will miss the next six weeks. It’s hardly ideal considering he’ll miss games against Bayern, City, Chelsea, Spurs and Everton twice. The good news though and maybe softens that blow is that Ramsey should return in just over a week’s time. What’s annoying though is the fact that we never seem to have all our best players fit at the same time. Lukasz Fabianski looks set to continue in goal after featuring in the previous ties, despite the fact he’ll have to play against Bayern in the second leg in the week.
Therefore this would be my team: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal; Arteta, Chamberlain; Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski; Sanogo.
As with previous weeks it isn’t easy to predict the forward line. With Wilshere and Ramsey missing I’d like to see Chamberlain feature in the middle to inject what will be a much needed drive into the game. Meanwhile I’d like to give Sanogo given another run-out and keep Giroud fresh for Bayern. Nicklas Bendtner seems to have been frozen out of the Boss’ plans since Sanogo returned but he may well feature at some point too. The likes of Flamini and Gibbs may start but for this game I’d prefer to go with Arteta against his old club, and Nacho Monreal. Therefore also keeping Gibbs hopefully 100% for Tuesday night, I feel the same about Mesut Ozil too and he could do with maybe another week off.
By Matt Dawson