Nottingham Forest’s European Cup winner Garry Birtles says manager Mark Warburton will relish the chance to face Arsène Wenger in the FA Cup third round next month.
On Monday, Arsenal drew Forest in the third round of the FA Cup, with the match due to take place early in January. Birtles seemed very pleased with the draw, and told the Nottingham Post that everyone involved with the club would have reason to enjoy such a big game.
“It’s a great draw for the fans, and for the players it’s a chance for them to showcase their ability against a top team,” Birtles explained.
“They don’t always play their full strength sides early on in the FA Cup, the big boys, but Arsenal might put out a strong team. They’re the defending champions, they are not going to want to get knocked out by Forest.
“Nobody will expect Forest to win, there will be no expectation on the players’ shoulders so they can relax and go out there at full pelt.
“It’s going to be a great occasion for the club. For Mark Warburton, it will be a chance to pit his wits against one of the best, in Arsene Wenger, and he will relish that.
“Everybody will want to play in it. Every player wants to play in the big games, and the Forest players will be no different. But it’s not going to be easy, Arsenal will not want to get knocked out by Forest.”
It won’t be the first trip to the City Ground for many of the Arsenal squad, as the two teams met in the League Cup just last season.
On that occasion, the Gunners won 4-0, with Granit Xhaka’s deflected effort, Lucas Perez’s brace and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injury time effort giving them the win.
Unfortunately, only one of those players still plays their football with Arsenal this season, so Wenger will have to look elsewhere for his cup heroes.
You’d have to imagine that this was just the kind of draw the academy boys were hoping for. Reiss Nelson, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah and the rest will all feel that little bit more hopeful of a chance of featuring now the Gunners have avoided the likes of Manchester City or Chelsea.
Perhaps Birtles is right, and Arsenal will field a strong team anyway. They’re going for their fourth FA Cup win in five years after all. But it’s certainly not the worst draw for the fringe players.