Writer: Brice Coffer
Date:Sunday February 15 2009
Arsenal and Cardiff conclude the FA Cup fourth round ties on Monday, even though the fifth round fixtures were played over the weekend. Heavy amounts of snow not only delayed the Arshavin transfer but also the Cardiff replay. The Emirates pitch was indeed playable due to under soil heating technology, but concerns over the safety of traveling supporters for both teams made the FA postpone the match.
Both players and the manager alike have identified the FA Cup as our best chance to end our silverware drought. Arsene had this to say pre-match, 'We want to prepare well because we know it is a very important game for us and we need to focus.'
'We are unbeaten and want to keep that going in every competition - the longer that lasts, the stronger you will be.'
The Arsene added: 'If the three draws put together don't look good, then you must put the whole 11 games together and that looks like we are on a run.'
'We want to transform that bit of disappointment from a draw into a convincing victory, and the team is in a good way.'
Sagna also talked about the competition. 'We can feel it as soon as we run out on the pitch, from the fans, it is the oldest cup competition in the world. In England it is very important for the teams,' said the French full-back.
'I won the French Cup with Auxerre and I know how great an achievement that is. Every game was a fight, a war on the pitch.'
'We have to be focused and try to win because we want to go through,' he said. 'The FA Cup is really important for the fans and for the club and for ourselves. It is one of the competitions we can win, along with the Champions League.'
Robin van Persie commented on the lack of trophies in recent seasons. 'I am like them [the fans]. I feel the same. I want it as badly as them and it can be frustrating when it does not happen,' van Persie told the Sunday Mirror.
'I think positively, though and the fans should do that as well. The club has gone too long without winning anything and we are doing everything we can to change it.'
'If we could achieve it this year it would be an even bigger achievement considering how unlucky we have been with injuries.'
After Eduardo completed thirty minutes for Croatia midweek, he has declared himself fully fit for this match. Everyone around the country awaits his first team return to Arsenal. Eboue will serve his mandatory one match ban, and Arshavin is not eligible to play in this replay as he was not a Arsenal player at the time of the first game in Wales. Cardiff old boy Aaron Ramsey suffered knee ligament strains playing for Wales, and he will not get another chance to play his boyhood team. Though Gael Clichy has recovered from a cut on his head and a mild concussion; He will most likely play a part in this one. Diaby, Cesc, Walcott, and Rosicky are all still out.
With so many injuries in the midfield, Arsenal fans might see their first glimpse at summer signing Amaury Bischoff. I expect him to get his Arsenal debut.
Possible Starting XI: Fabianski, Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy, Bischoff, Song, Denilson, Nasri, van Persie, Eduardo
This time last year, I was unsure if Eduardo would ever play football again, much less in a top flight league. But now just 359 days later, Eduardo will return to the Emirates pitch. I hope he receives the loudest welcoming ever heard at Ashburton Grove.
Starting Cardiff goalkeeper Peter Enckelman has sustained a knee injury that will keep him out for two months. New signings Dimi Konstantopolous, Michael Chora, and Quincy Owusu-Abeyie are in the same boat as Arshavin and will not play. Stephen McPhail picked up a knock playing for the Republic of Ireland, but Peter Whittingham and Gabor Gyepes have recovered from their respective injuries.
Coming to the Emirates, Cardiff will most likely deploy Jay up front on his own in a 4-5-1 formation. He will be looking to use his pace and stamina to catch the Arsenal defense sleeping. He also spoke this weekend of his dream of scoring against his former club.
The winner of this game will play Burnley at home, and the winner of that game will play either Sheffield United or Hull City at home. Its confusing I know!
Cardiff are 19 places below Arsenal in the league ladder.
Wenger has never been knocked out of the FA Cup by lower league opposition.
Mark Halsey will be the match official for this game. In the English Premier League this season, Halsey has the lowest card per game average of any referee. He has managed 15 games handing out two reds and only seventeen yellows. This gives him an astonishingly low 1.26 card per game average. Personally I like the officials to keep the cards in their pocket as long as they can.
Even with all of our injuries, I think Arsenal will go on to win this one. I will go with a 3-1 scoreline. Eduardo and van Persie to grab the goals for the Gunners.
21/2 (Sat)- Sunderland (H)- Premier League
24/2 (Tue)- AS Roma (H)- Champions League
28/2 (Sat)- Fulham (H)- Premier League
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Date:Sunday February 15 2009
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