Tomorrow two clubs with histories intertwined meet in the FA Cup. With 8 matches in January already etched in stone and another league encounter to follow on Tuesday, Arsene Wenger has no choice but to make full use of his 25 man squad. It’s unlikely the FA will fine the club for fielding a team not up to their standards. Some might say that’s hypocritical, and you wouldn’t get any arguments from this writer.
One of the players sure to get a match is Andrey Arshavin. Wenger had this to say on the Russian’s form: “I am not concerned about Andrey`s form because if you look at the number of games he’s played, Andrey is too harsh with himself.”
“If you look at the best passers in the Premier League, he`s still up there. Sometimes we forget how good we are more times than we are conscious of. Andrey at the moment is in that position, so we have to remind him how good he is.”
The opposition is certainly excited to play one of England’s top teams. Midfielder Tom Clark had this to say on Huddersfield’s official website: ‘We are looking forward to the game, it is a massive occasion and one that will live long in our memories – win, lose or draw. We have been training hard over the last couple of days, working on specific set-piece routines and tactics to give us the best possible chance of getting a positive result. The lads can’t wait to travel down and play against some of the best players in the world.’
‘Everything about the occasion is going to be fantastic – I can’t wait to pit my wits against some of the most talented footballers in the world in one of the best arenas. I am sure the fans that are traveling down are just as excited as we are as players ahead of the occasion.’
Arsenal Team News:
With Everton to visit the Grove two days later, I don’t think we’ll see any of starters, bar one centre-back and the ‘keeper, Szczesny. With Squillaci coming back, either Djourou or Koscielny will get a rest. Also, Diaby and Rosicky are back in the squad.
Predicted Starting XI: Szczesny, Eboue, Koscielny, Squillaci, Gibbs, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin, Bendtner, Chamakh
Player to watch: Abou Diaby
Often I forget Abou is still at this club. He’s back for this one and I hope he doesn’t hobble off 25 minutes in. Without our most creative players in the team, a lot of responsibility will fall on the lanky Frenchman. He showed how good of a player he can be during the World Cup, and we’ll need him to be at his best tomorrow to avoid going out of the cup, or even worse, another replay.
Huddersfield Town Team News:
The unfortunate news for the Terriers is that their top scorer, Jordan Rhodes, picked up an ankle injury in League 1 action this weekend against Carlisle. He will miss a month of action. Expect Lee Novak and Alan Lee to lead the Huddersfield line. Arsenal youngster Benik Afobe will not be able to play against his parent club like Sanchez Watt did for Leeds because the FA have ruled that he joined on a ‘youth’ loan, despite Arsenal having no problems with Afobe playing. Fellow loanee Tamas Kadar is also out with a hamstring problem, as well as Gary Naysmith (toe) and Damien Johnson (knee).
Player to watch: Anthony Pilkington
With their leading scorer out injured, this pick has become exponentially more difficult for me as I haven’t seen Huddersfield play in years. Midfielder, Anthony Pilkington has 9 goals in 25 league and cup matches this season.
Match Facts & Stats
Arsenal were last eliminated by a club outside the top two divisions in January 1992, when Wrexham prevailed 2-1.
Huddersfield Town have won four of six in all competitions, and avoided defeat in six of the last seven.
If Arsenal do not concede, it will be Arsenal’s 150th clean sheet in FA Cup history.
Mark Clattenburg is the head official for this one.
Despite the fringe players not clicking in the past, I think we’ll see them have some relative success tomorrow. I’ll go with 3 goals for the home side and another clean sheet.
1/2 (Tue) – Everton (h) – Premier League
5/2 (Sat) – Newcastle (a) – Premier League
Possible replay date is Saturday, Feb. 19 or Sunday, Feb. 20
This match is on ESPN in the UK and FSC in the States.