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
so, last year I took a brief moment out of focusing on my life and my hobby to take a look at the upcoming FA Cup final between arsenal a Hull City, which you can read here.
As you’ll see, I anticipated a lineup of
Sagna mertesacker koscielny Gibbs
I was wrong on a couple of counts, firstly in goal. At the time there had been uncertainty about the starter due to Fabianskis performances previously but as he was leaving it seemed odd to potentially disrupt the confidence of Sczeszny- but Wenger opted for Fabianski anyway.
I also expected to see Flamini in to help with the anticipated ‘roughing up’ from Hull (this isn’t to detract from the,, I merely felt as the underdogs they’d be organised and try to disrupt our play). Wenger opted for Podolski instead, which I found odd given his indifferent form over the season.
The match itself did not go to plan, as Hull hit hard and fast (almost like the arsenal of old) and were 2-0 up very quickly, leaving arsenal on the ropes- I’m almost certain there was call for a third too. Arsenal then recovered- or rather started the match- and came up against the anticipated stubborn defence of Hull, only a fantastic Cazorla free kick giving us hope at 1-2 at half time.
As play resumed arsenal had clearly had a bollocking from Wenger and kept the pressure on Hull, however as penalty appeals were denied and chances missed it felt as though it was too little too late, until Yaya Sanogo (On for the anonymous Podolski) hooked the ball out and the referee
mistakenly ruled for a corner. Up rose Koscielny and thumped the ball into the net. Typically, with Hull seemingly some we missed chances to end the game and we reached time at 2-2
After a short break it was down to extra time, and as an arsenal fan this worried me, we have this terrible habit of pushing and pushing before being caught by a single goal, and with tired legs and time short this seemed a distinct possibility.
As time dragged on and Giroud and Ramsey missed chances Wenger went for the more direct approach, taking of Ozil and Cazorla for Rosicky and Wilshire. Finally a break through was made as Ramsey got his goal and put us ahead midway through the second half of extra time, meaning we just had to hold on for a bit longer. Typically it wasn’t without drama as Mertesacker (solid most of the game) slipped and we suffered flashback of Birmingham in the League cup final, making matters worse Fabianski came flying out of the box leaving the goal open for the hull player- in a stroke of luck he hit it wide, his legs probably gone.
The final chance of the game again went to Hull as Fabianski redeemed himself for charging out by saving the shot in the last moment of the game. Arsenal had won- not on the style of have liked but still a win is a win.
Another strang r,one that occurred as ‘club captain’ Thomas Vermaelen lifted the trophy despite spending the season warming the bench, whilst it was a nice touch it wasn’t necessary.
Within days Vermaelen, Sagna and Fabianski were gone.
In the next post I’ll look ahead to this years final Arsenal vs Aston Villa