So, previously I looked at last years cup final and my predictions (which weren’t a million miles away), You can read it here. this time I’m looking ahead to Saturday’s game and what we can expect to see.
Going into this game things are different, gone is the 9 year wait for a trophy, in have come some truly talented players. A decent season (despite the raft of injuries) even if we started slowly and didn’t challenge for the title. Having said that, we dropped points in the last few games which cost us second place.
We’ve also had a good run of form and beaten Man City, Liverpool and Man United, as well as not losing to Chelsea. So confidence is high- however the last few games hint at fatigue making the lineup a little unpredictable.
Last season there were few doubts about the strongest lineup, and largely it’s the same again, however things have changed in recent games. It’s also a worry that for the second season running our goalkeeper situation is uncertain.
Here’s how I’d expect/hope to lineup
Bellerin Koscielny Mertesacker Monreal
Ramsey Ozil Alexis
In goal Ospina gets the nod based on game time, he’s been solid since taking over from Szcesny in January though has had a few wobbles recently. I prefer the Pole but his lack of game time isn’t going to be helpful.
Defensively things largely pick themselves at the minute, an injury to Debuchy opened the way for Bellerin who hasn’t really looked back aside from a few early issues, so he’ll start. In the Middle Mertesacker and Koscielny are the top two centre backs at the club, despite some solid performances so far from Gabriel. left back is the only area of doubt, Monreal has been far better than Gibbs this season so should start, though Gibbs’ attacking threat may be more desirable.
In midfield things are also fairly decided- probably not what pre season predictions would have been. Coquelin has been another player given his chance by injuries to first team players, he hasn’t put a foot wrong that I can recall, feeling like a huge upgrade on Flamini. Alongside him Cazorla has been impressive from a deeper position and his form seems unlikely to see him replaced. Ahead of them sees Ozil, who’s form has been good this year, Alexis who has an ability to turn a game, though has looked jaded recently, and Ramsey who’s doing well enough out of position that he can’t be dropped.
Upfront is an uncertainty, Giroud has improved again this season and would have been a certain starter, however five games without a goal and Walcott getting a hat trick in the last game casts a little doubt over the position. Does Wenger want Girouds ability to bring others into play or Walcotts speed? I’d opt for Giroud for his experience and overall form over the inconsistent Walcott.
Jack Wilshire is another player who could come in having impressed in his previous game, but once again a season of injuries has held him back. I said last year this could be a breakthrough year of his ankle could stay strong, yet he’s now not even necessarily first choice off the bench, let alone in the starting XI.
On the subs bench I’d expect to see
Sczeszny, unless he starts
Gabriel, a potential sub if we need fresh legs in defence
Gibbs, not likely to get on.
Wilshire, another potential sub if the more direct option is needed
Walcott, the alternate to Giroud if Aston Villa play high
Rosicky or Oxlade Chamberlain, dependent on the fitness of the latter.
Outside chances go to Chambers (who had a decent start but tailed off) and Flamini (who’s likely to be gone in the Summer as his forms dipped), as well as Debuchy and Arteta dependent on fitness.
The match itself is really hard to call, Aston Villa seem an Arsenal lite- potential for defensive nightmares but plenty in attack, so the worry is a repeat of last seasons start, however equally likely could be a few arsenal goals. Either way I’d anticipate a high scoring game, hopefully this time with less stress and drama.
A 4-2 score could be worth a bet