Up For The Cup – West Ham United Preview
The short trip to Upton Park heralds the FA Cup, a competition which is rapidly acquiring the same status as the League Cup in its various guises. Rotation is the order of the day for Arsenal and it would be little surprise to see substantial changes from the team which wiped the floor with Aston Villa. For both sides, today’s encounter could be considered an unwelcome distraction to their Premier League aspirations, victory and survival more important in the longer term for both clubs.
Alex Song is likely to be one of the few who retain the place although depending upon injuries, he may be required to form a partnership at the centre of the Arsenal defence with Mikael Silvestre. The question mark arises with Philippe Senderos who is apparently ready to return although Arsene’s phraseology left some doubt as to whether or not the Swiss international is entirely fit. Assuming he is, he and Silvestre ought to be the main pairing. At left back, Traore may well be rested for Cruise to be initiated into the FA Cup following a decent debut at Eastlands in the Carling Cup.
The only defensive position where the should any question mark is right back. Does Wenger want to risk an entirely new back five by including Gilbert there – assuming Fabianski is custodian – or is he is going to put Sagna in to give some experience on the right hand side of the team? With Eboue’s absence, the choice is Sagna or Gilbert. If the midfield contains Song, Gilbert will play; if not, Sagna will slot into the right side to bring a touch of solidity.
The opportunity presents itself for a number of players in midfield and attack. Ramsey was outstanding against Portsmouth and should continue in Cesc’s absence alongside Diaby and Song in the first choice. The only change to that trio would be the inclusion of Merida to compensate for the Cameroonean playing defensively. Rosicky was slated a week ago to start today and on the opposite side, I would like to Wilshere given 90 minutes before he seemingly disappears off on loan to Burnley although with Owen Coyle the current favourite to replace Gary Megson, some doubt must be arising with no guarantee of first team action in a footballing side under new management.
The final choice Arsene has to make is central striker. Watt is the apparent understudy of choice but Eduardo got a confidence boosting goal at Fratton Park and could be preferred to start at least. The count against Watt is the lack of experience in the side further back. Is it too much for the XI to have a youngster?
A possible starting line-up would be:
Fabianksi; Gilbert (Sagna), Senderos (Song), Silvestre, Cruise; Ramsey, Diaby, Song (Merida); Rosicky, Eduardo, Wilshere
FA Cup history is part of football folklore in this country. The numerous upsets have woven a rich tapestry through time but some of the sheen has been dulled by the revisionism of Murdoch’s Empire and Uefas degredation of domestic cups to Europa League places. A competition purely for cup winners was not rated at the time, considered lesser than the Uefa Cup by general consensus. Now that is happening to the Uefa Cup, rebranding it the Europa League does not enhance, merely confirms its subserviance to the Champions League.
With that background, it is hardly surprising that in the early rounds for Premier League teams, rotation is applied. The public’s answer was given in part yesterday at Wigan where barely 5,000 hardy souls turned out to witness the 3rd round encounter. Does that mean we care less about it or merely a sign that the EPL is being served notice that supporters are not the bottomless pit they are assumed to be?
Personally, I love the FA Cup but I do not feel cheated if a “second string” side is put out. Facing 80 or so teams, the XI fielded has a decent chance of progress. As the tournament reaches its latter stages, Wenger will put out stronger teams. I do not subscribe to the theory that defeat today could derail a title challenge since not many starters are regulars in Arsenal’s strongest line-up.
I do think, however, that winning the first trophy is going to be crucial to this squad, helping make the transition to champions; history has proven that cup wins are a good stepping stone for title winners. It is not essential though; it is not necessary to follow that path. It is, if you win, an enjoyable afternoon.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on January 3, 2010, in Arsenal, FA Cup, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, FA Cup, Football, Premier League, Soccer, West Ham United. Bookmark the permalink. 190 Comments.