Here we are then. After weeks of moaning about ticket allocation, the fact that it’s on a Friday night and whether or not we’re even allowed to bleeding go, all that’s left to do now is watch our Sky Blue madmen take on the mighty Arsenal.
Things have changed quite a bit since our last trip to the Emirates. Last time around we were at our lowest ebb, but at least we had a home. Nowadays we’re actually somewhere approaching a useful line-up, but are as homeless as that mini Mark Fowler wannabe from the original Santa Claus movie. (Out of date niche festive reference, right there.)
Anyway, enough of that. It’s going to be a stretch, but let’s take a look to see if we’ve got any chance at all.
How are they getting on?
As discussed on this week’s Nii Lamptey Show, Arsenal are a football club. They are a good football club, and as far as current knowledge of them goes – many of you will have watched them play more times this season than our own club.
So at the risk of stating the obvious, they’re having a pretty terrific season by their recent standards. Top of the Premier League, through to the knockout stages of the Champions League, and continuing to play a typically attractive brand of football, aided in no small part by the arrival of a particularly creative German who we will come on to.
As far as their recent form goes, they’ve won six on the bounce, which is about par for the course for any team that’s topping their table. It’s easy to forget that this is actually only the fourth round of the FA Cup, so it’s only the start of their attempt at making this their first trophy win since 2005. Things couldn’t have started much better for them however as they made light work of rivals Spurs in the previous round, giving them a solid 2-0 hiding.
Who could cause us trouble?
At this point the temptation is to copy and paste their entire squad and let you take your pick. They’re riddled with high-class, often world class footballers… oh and Nicklas Bendtner. Who if he plays is also likely to be far too good for us.
I remember last time out Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was starting to show himself as a decent player, and he certainly looked content with his ability to cause us grief. Clearly the call here for Wenger is whether he goes for the big guns, or mixes it us with some of the reserve players. If he doesn’t fancy the risk of messing this Cup-run up, we’ll suddenly have Ozil, Giroud, Walcott, Cazorla, Arteta and God-knows who else to content with.
As a long time Fantasy Football owner of Aaron Ramsey, I can tell you that he’s been out for a while recently. You’d think it unlikely that Wenger will be able to include him for this game.
Sky Blues team news
Poor Callum Wilson is still in recovery from his shoulder surgery so he’ll miss out on what would have been a fantastic stage for him to showcase his speed.
Pressley’s pretty sure that Leon Clarke will be available to play, even though he’s asked to be let go. Fair play to Pressley on that one by the way – our need is far more important than his willingness to force through a move before the end of the month. It’s a sobering thought when you think back to this time last year and Leon Clarke making what I believe was his first appearance for the club against Spurs at White Hart Lane. One year, and a shed load of goals later, and the man already wants to sling his hook.
It would take a brave man to adopt our highly fluid approach in a game against such top class opposition, so you’d have to expect something fairly compact in midfield, with Baker and Moussa acting as the main connectors to Leon Clarke.
The other big decision is just where Pressley will play Jordan Clarke this week? Rumour has it he is currently being primed for a cameo in the Peter Beardsley role (he’s probably not, but you never know).
As for the rest of our lineup, you can now choose your own team at skybluesblog.co.uk/selector
There’s a difference between expecting to lose and genuinely believing you have no chance of victory. The only time I have ever entered a game thinking victory was completely impossible was back in 2007 at Old Trafford.
I’ll leave that thought with you.
Having had first-hand exposure to the Premiership gulf last season against this team (and even more so against Tottenham), I am under no illusions as to how tricky it is going to be just to keep the game even vaguely tight.
Clearly I think we’ll lose, but I have no doubt that if we are able to provide enough intensity off the ball, whilst maintaining our composure on it, we have a chance to at least make this a very interesting football match. Pressley will make sure of that.
After a while though, they’ll probably knock a few past us. It feels pretty likely against our defence.
Neil: Arsenal 4 – 1 Coventry
Joey: Arsenal 4 – 1 Coventry
Image by Julian Olsey