With Middlesbrough efficiently dispatched, Arsenal are now three games away from retaining the FA Cup.
Eight teams will be in the hat for the sixth-round draw on Monday evening and while the main focus will be on Wednesday’s Champions League game with 2004 finalists Monaco, Wenger will be eager for another good draw to give the team a good chance for another trip to Wembley.
This year’s FA Cup has seen the magic of the tournament much more re-enlivened and for every team, every game has pretty much been taken as seriously as the final itself.
Being the favourites, Arsenal will face one of seven teams eager to cause an upset in the next round and it may be useful to examine which one will be best suited to the Gunners at this stage.
Liverpool: MARIO, FINALLY MELLOWED
The Reds have had a change in fortunes after a bad start to the season and the extra-time defeat to Chelsea in the League Cup represents their only slip since losing to United in November. Arsenal fans have had good words for Liverpool in the past few weeks, thanks to the finally mellowed Balotelli, for ensuring the Spurs remain behind them. Brendan Rodger’s men will surely be a handful for Wenger.
Aston Villa: TIM SHERWOOD RETURNS
The last FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Villa was a very strange one, the Gunners needing to score twice from the spot to cancel an initial two-goal deficit in the first half. On the back of a recent drubbing, and given Tim is “one of our own”, this could be the one Arsene might want.
West Bromwich Albion: TONY PULIS FACTOR
It was quite a shock how they easily beat West Ham as the hammers were a decent challenger for this Cup. Wenger will remember that Pulis has caused him some trouble in this competition before while he was at Stoke City. For West Brom, Berahino is among the top scorers with 5 and Ideye has been impressive. If it’s not a home tie, gooners will want to skip this.
Bradford City: NO, THANKS
If there is one team nobody wants now, it’s definitely the Bantams, especially not at their home. Not just because their turf is terrible, but the level of confidence oozing from beating two Premier League teams could prove too much to handle. But so was it said of Boro and the Gunners did away with them like they were not there. Plus Wenger may be motivated to avenge the League Cup embarrassment in 2013, what he described as the lowest point of his career.
Blackburn Rovers: THE LAST TEAM TO BEAT ARSENAL
With two Premier League teams – Stoke and Swansea – as their latest casualties, Blackburn will want to make a hat trick against the Gunners, while holding their heads high as the Gunners FA Cup bogey team. Would love to see them try.
Reading: STARVE THE YAK AND HE WILL NOT
Previous rounds had focused on Heskey and Gudjohnsen as the oldies that could shine but it is Yakubu who has proven to still have the midas touch in front of goal. A repeat of the 7 – 5 League Cup thriller in October 2012? The heartache was grueling but it will be quite a sensation were it to happen again.
Preston North End or Manchester United: PRES-TIGE
Guess Arsenal will rather play the fellow invincibles than a team who could not even qualify for Europe last season despite being League Champions. Should United make it past Preston, i don’t think many Arsenal fans would want to face them – home or away.
So that’s it, balls 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 examined; who would you rather have ball 2 come up against? Seeing it’s the sixth round and Wenger is going for a record sixth Cup…
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