After plenty of transfer talk and the reaction to the win over Manchester City it’s the weekend again and we can finally get back to business.
The Premier League hiatus gives us a chance to continue our defence of the FA Cup with a 4th Round trip to Championship strugglers Brighton.
It’s exactly two years on Monday since Arsenal left the capital to play an FA Cup game when, in 2013, the Gunners also visited Brighton in the 4th Round of the competition.
At that time the Championship side were chasing promotion to the Premier League and gave us a real scare. It took an 85th minute goal from Theo Walcott to send Arsenal into the next round after two Olivier Giroud goals had been cancelled out.
The Team News
Arsène Wenger this week strongly hinted at starts for Theo Walcott and German international Mesut Özil. That’s a pretty mouth-watering prospect: the link-up of these two was highly anticipated after the £42 Million deal for the German yet they’ve only started together five times, and not once since Boxing Day 2013.
Both should thrive on each other’s strengths – as we saw when Walcott spurned a number of chances during Özil’s debut at Sunderland in September 2013.
Elsewhere Wenger wasn’t particularly committal but we should expect plenty of rotation.
Danny Welbeck is still out, possibly opening the door for Chuba Akpom to make his first Arsenal start. There are doubts over Héctor Bellerín (ankle) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) but otherwise the squad looks strong despite long-term injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, Mikel Arteta, and Jack Wilshere.
With a whole week passing since the Manchester City game the manager has the opportunity to field a strong eleven if he so chooses. Nonetheless, I still fel he’ll rotate a bit – Aaron Ramsey looked exhausted in Manchester and Laurent Koscielny should be handled with care.
The club this week confirmed the signing of Polish midfielder Krystian Bielik but it is too soon for him to make an appearance.
Possible XI: Ospina; Bellerín, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Coquelin, Flamini; Walcott, Özil, Rosicky; Akpom.
Brighton have struggled so far this season but have enjoyed something of a renaissance since the resignation of Sami Hyypia.
Hyypia took on the role of manager in the summer but resigned shortly before Christmas following just three wins in twenty-two games. Brighton managed a win the following week and have won a further three of four since the appointment of Chris Houghton as manager.
Spanish midfielder João Teixera scored two in the midweek win over Ipswich, while The Seagulls have signed former goalscorer Darren Bent but he isn’t expected to start.
All things considered Arsenal should be far too strong for Brighton on Sunday afternoon, no matter how strong Wenger’s selection is.
You would expect a fairly dominant performance and – with Walcott and Özil set to feature from the start – Arsenal should have more than enough quality to finish Brighton off as well as just putting them to the sword.
Winning this competition last year was huge for everyone at the club, and hopefully we approach this game with the same attitude we approached the game against Coventry this time last year.
Özil played and was magnificent that day (he usually is) and a vibrant performance from him would be a massive boost with big Premier League and Champions League games to come. Walcott has spoken about his desire to repeat last season’s success after missing the games at Wembley last season.
I’m waiting for these two to shine at the Amex on Sunday and fire Arsenal one step closer to retaining The Cup.