Monday, 9 January 2012

Henry returns -Almunia, Coquelin and Yennaris to start? -Talks opened on Ivorian

Morning Gooners.

Leeds tonight in the FA Cup third round - it's finally here. It seems like ages since we played Fulham and I'm hoping for a better result tonight than the one I witnessed at Craven Cottage last week. Whilst everyone else has already played their third round tie, us and Leeds are forced to wait until 7.45pm to witness our teams kick a ball and already the draw for the fourth round has been made - (Aston Villa at home).

I generally enjoy the FA Cup. It's something different to concern ourselves about while we continue to fight for a top four spot. Last season going out to Manchester United in the Quarter Finals didn't hurt as much as being eliminated from the Champions League four days before at the Camp Nou. And although in the previous rounds against Leyton Orient, Huddersfield and Leeds - meant we were forced to play replays in two of the ties - that's the magic of the FA Cup, right?

I agree with Arsene Wenger when he says a top four spot is more important than winning a trophy and not qualifying to play in the Champions League. We saw that nearly happen to us this season. It actually scared me, the thought of having to watch us play Europa League football. I think that is worse than not being in European football at all.

Wenger's record of taking us to the knock out stages in Europe's elite competition for 14 straight seasons shouldn't be under estimated. A lot of other top managers fail to do it and it is something which I think us Gooners take for granted.

The manager said:

"The basis of our life at the top level is dictated by the championship. If we can add on top of that the FA Cup it is fantastic. 
"Everybody is entitled to view it differently but you can’t compare winning the Carling Cup to every year qualifying for the Champions League."

For me winning the FA Cup would be seen as a bonus if we qualify for the Champions League as well. The downside to reaching the final will mean another trip to Wembley, and we know that's not been our favourite ground since it's been redeveloped.

Winning the FA Cup must be seen as our best chance of lifting silverware this season and removing the trophy  drought money from our backs. As much as I'd love us to win it, I'd much rather finish top four and play in the Champions League against Europe's best clubs.

Tonight we go into the game with Thierry Henry back in the squad. He was signed prior to the noon deadline on Friday making him eligible for tonight and I believe he's likely to start on the bench. The Sun are already getting ahead of themselves - believing we'll try to sign the Frenchman if he has a good loan period until the end of the season.

Team news for tonight isn't wonderful. We're without all our recognised full backs. Even their replacements in Johan Djourou (suspended) and Thomas Vermaelen (injury) aren't available. I believe we'll see Francis Coquelin remain at left back and Nico Yennaris come in at right back.

Will Manuel Almunia start in goal? It's normal for Wenger to rest his first choice keeper for the cup competitions, so it's a possibility.

I expect the starting 11 to be:

Yennaris - Mertesacker - Koscielny - Coquelin

Arteta - Song

Rosicky - Benayoun - Arshavin


There is also the possibility Ignasi Miquel and Sebastien Squillaci coming into that starting 11. But I think that the manager will probably stick with a solid centre. We know that Robin van Persie won't be involved or will Gervinho who has flown to Paris for the Ivory Coast's pre Africa Cup of Nations training camp.

There is some transfer tittle-tattle. It involves Chelsea's second favourite Ivorian Salomon Kalou. The Daily Mail say we've made an inquiry for the player, valued at £3m. Wenger has always like the player and we've spoken to Chelsea about him in the past, but I don't think he's worth £90k a week.

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