As expected, there will be a shuffle in the pack, not because it is a competition we do not intend to retain – the FA Cup is our best shot this season at not having another 9-year countdown started – but because some players need a chance and some others, badly in need of rest.
The VC has played the entire duration of every League and Champions League game this season since the trip to Goodison Park and recent performances have suggested a need to let him watch for a while from the bench. He did bemoan the fact that Koscielny had to come straight back into the team due to the absence of no real alternatives, but while we wait for Wenger to decide on fixing that flaw in this transfer market, the available players will still have to stand up and prove their wages.
- And the first is Mertesacker
Point noted that he needs a rest, but if we want to progress from this competition, we cannot play Hayden and Chambers, with due respect to their potential improving as time goes on. Both were made to pair in the League Cup defeat against Southampton and despite not having bad games, there is a little more at stake now and to just fling a real opportunity for silverware would spell a lack of ambition.
So, up step Mertesacker, into another game. But it cannot just be another uncertain performance from the BFG. He’s had quite a handful of faults this season and the fact that he was largely to blame for Abel Hernandez’s goal in our League encounter back in October should put him on his feet. I still think he should have done more than insure Mane’s effort into the goal, and in Arteta’s continued absence he has to show the armband is not just a routine match attire but a certification of his leadership credential.
- David Ospina
Wenger will use a third different goalie in three games against Hull and the Colombian will do well to know his predecessors in this fixture conceded two goals each. He would have noticed the fact that the manager preferred to use the fact that he will be starting against Hull as a response to Szczesny dubious slips at the St. Marys’. The onus will be on him to show more communication with his defenders, irrespective of they may be, and exercise more command of his area. Basically, give Wenger every reason to retain him for the visit of Stoke next week.
- Santi Cazorla
Another one of those who needs a rest but with few creative players available, he may not get it. The little maestro seemed lost in the physical cloud that was the Southampton players and rarely got his groove on in the middle of the park. Perhaps it would have been a different story had he not fired onto the turf with our best of the game. On the back of improving performances over the past month, we’ve accepted it as the occasional blip and if he rises to his stage again – which he seems to always do at the Emirates – we should be looking forward to the 4th Round draw.
- Francis Coquelin
Coquelin has really had two good games since his return to the team, and besides his accurate slide tackles, his passing is much more positive than Flamini’s (couldn’t resist the temptation). He did suffer, though, in his compatriot’s absence as Calum Chambers did not show any signs of readiness for that holding role just yet. Hull have some big lads in Huddlestone and Livermore and we would need some tough guy to be standing up to them. Coquelin can, and should.
- Theo Walcott
After several games on the subs bench, and a no-show at his boyhood club, this could finally be the chance to see Walcott in a starting role, a year to the day he made his last Arsenal start. Same competition, different opposition, but if he plays like the Walcott we’ve always known, it should be same outcome. Hopefully, he’ll make the 2’O sign at the end of the game, while still on his feet, his name probably on the scoresheet.
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