Sunday’s FA Cup game against Middlesbrough is almost upon us.
In addition to our extensive pre-match coverage of the game, we’ve gotten our writers together for a short prediction on how they think the game will pan out.
And if you think we’re just going to throw these predictions out there and then forget about them, fear not.
We’ll be back to take a look at how we did and laughing at the person who got it wrong more than anyone else.
Lee Hurley Win 2-0
Everyone seems to be expecting a tough game and it’s not hard to see why.
Middlesbrough have already shown that they should not be taken lightly by virtue of their league position in the Championship and dumping Manchester City out in the last round.
With our defence expected to see a number of changes it’s easy to worry about how a backline that can already show an ability to panic will deal with new personnel, including a debut for Gabriel. I predicted he would be alongside Mertesacker but it seems as if the BFG will be given a rest (captian Rosicky?).
For all the understandable concerns, I don’t think we’ll have any problems at the back (for once) and feel it will all come down to breaking down Middlesbrough. Get an early goal and the game will be forced to open up.
Prediction: Not without it’s moments of concern, but a 2-0 professional win by full-time.
Helen Trantum Win 1-0
This is a game which has banana skin written all over it.
Top of the championship, packed with rival loanees and managed by a Mourinho apprentice, it’s as if the Stars have aligned and not in our favour.
The fact that it’s championship opposition means that we can expect some measure of rotation, but out relatively limited squad size at the moment does at least limit how much.
Given Boro’s emphasis on defence, I’m expecting his to be a frustrating game for us – Karanka’s side are likely to borrow Mourinho’s classic ‘play for 0-0′ approach and wait for an arsenal error’. We must not give it to them.
However, at home I would always back us to find the breakthrough, and pace in behind may be the key if Middlesbrough bring the same high line they have been deploying in the league.
Prediction: 1-0 to the Arsenal with the possibility for a second on the counter.
Stephen Bradley Win 3-0
With the news that Mertesacker will be getting a day off, this game will be all about seeing how new signing Gabriel plays.
We’ve seen Koscielny struggle whilst playing beside a defender who plays in a similar way to him, one who plays higher up the pitch trying to make interceptions instead of sitting back and reading the game. Stats-wise, Gabriel and Koscielny are carbon copies of each other, so seeing if there are any issues with them as a partnership will be key.
As for the rest of the game, expect Middlesbrough to set up very similar to how Leicester did on Tuesday: deep at the back but with the forwards pressing high up.
We’ve struggled with this lately, but hopefully we’ve been adapting as teams have adapted to our new 4-1-4-1.
Until Alexis got hurt, we attacked brilliantly in the first half, and I expect a similar display here.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0.
Paul Williams Win 2-1
I don’t know enough about Middlesbrough to comment (I know, I don’t watch enough football. Sorry) on them, but I do know that, having seen them knock out Manchester City in the previous round, is that they are not to be taken lightly.
Incidentally, it’s a bit odd that two years in a row, a tie with Manchester City has been averted by a Championship side- imagine if Arsenal made a habit of losing to clubs in the Championship…
Anyway, it seems that Aitor Karanka has got them playing well and Chelsea’s Patrick Bamford’s name is on more than a few lips- a shame he’ll never get a chance in south west London.
I must confess that I’m a little uneasy about this game.
Despite the three points in midweek, it’s not been a good week for the boys and I suspect that a slow start will not be welcomed by the home crowd. In spite of these misgivings, I do expect Arsenal- even with some rotation of the squad- to do enough to win the game.
Prediction: I’m saying 2-1.
Sylvain Jamet Win 4-1
The last two games have not been up to a high enough standard and Arsenal cannot afford three bad games in a row so I expect a reaction to the two previous games.
Szceszny will be back in goal and I expect a bit of squad rotation.
Prediction: No clean sheet but enough goals to win it comfortably. 4-1 Arsenal.
Lewis Ambrose Win 2-1
If Boro come to sit deep and hit us on the break it could be really interesting, seeing as we’ve shown no interest at all in keeping the ball lately.
Complacency shouldn’t be an issue after their win at City and our last two performances.
Gabriel should get his debut and it’ll be nice to see him finally. Hopefully he isn’t too busy but – as Stephen suggested – I’m not sure he’ll fit with Koscielny.
Fingers crossed that’s irrelevant and we click going forward, causing loads of issues for a back four which could have veteran Jonathan Woodgate coming in for Daniel Ayala.
Prediction: The Arsenal to win 2-1
Nia Griffiths Win 2-1
After our unconvincing midweek performance against Leicester City, I’m not as confident as I was a few weeks ago.
Middlesbrough beat Man City to progress to this stage and I reckon they’ll be really up for it. They’ll have seen our shaky displays over the last week and will probably be feeling quietly confident.
They’re sitting top of Championship and have been enjoying a run of good results so they’re not to be underestimated. The only upside to this is that they might try and have a go at us early on, leaving us with space to attack and making them vulnerable on the counter.
I do think we’ll win – or at least we should. I don’t think we’ll keep a clean sheet though and I don’t think it’ll be a walk in the park (although with Arsenal, when is it ever simple?).
Prediction: A bit of a struggle but a 2-1 win.
Andi Foster N/A
Andi is still missing and still assumed drunk.
Prediction: He’s in for one doozer of a hangover.
Sean Ferguson Win 2-1
This will be a tight game, a few changes in the squad will probably make us a tad rusty to start with but as the game goes on I’d expect us to get stronger. Middlesbrough showed they’re a threat in the last round v City so that should be a reminder to the whole squad to take the Championship leaders very seriously.
With the champions league starting again in 10 days we could really do without a replay so I hope we go with a nice pacey, attacking line up including Walcott and Welbeck against a defence that’s used to the likes of Conor Sammon.
My only concern is that Flamini will probably start, his lack of positional awareness and mobility will leave us open at the back so expect Boro to grab a goal.
Prediction: I’m gonna go for a 2-1 win.
Mark Fine Draw 1-1
It’s always hard to predict a match against a team you don’t see very often. That said, what I have seen tells me this has all the makings of a rough, defensive rumble.
Middlesbrough, 1-point table leaders in the Championship are no slouch. They dismissed Man City from the FA Cup just six days after we beat City at the Etihad, also by a score of 0-2. Both of those goals come from their second and third leading scorers, Patrick Bamford and Garcia Martinez. That is, Chelsea loanee and media darling Patrick Bamford, who was recently billed on 606 as the next Alan Shearer.
Did I also mention they kept City scoreless with Aguero playing?
I’ll go out on a limb and say both sides bring the same game that they brought to the Citizens.
Discounting the fact we’re at home, this will probably be a gut-wrenching 1-1 draw, coming down to a replay on the 18th.
Prediction: A 1-1 draw and a replay.