The Cup Final – Who’s In YOUR Side?

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Due to my valiant attempts at recreating a home improvements show in my new abode, my Goonersphere Podcast appearances have suffered. Not having appeared since December saw at least three people tweet queries regarding my return ( one of those was me ) and my good name used as a plaything by my pod compadres.

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This week saw my shining return. It was genuinely great to be back and to talk about our wonderful club with people who may not agree with you, but at least take your opinion on board, unlike a few on certain social networks. The japes ran thick and fast and we had plenty to pore over in regards to events on the pitch.

Then we came to the occasion everyone is building toward. The Cup Final on Saturday is another chance to add another trophy placard right next to last years dramatic F.A Cup triumph. It is an opportunity to garner another stepping stone towards a title tilt next season and also – more importantly – us fans need it. It may not have been another nine years since we won silverware but after seeing our promised assault on the league fizzle out due to injury and poor form before the halfway mark, the F.A Cup is just reward for an improved team and it is expected considering the expenditure.

We discussed at length the tactics that will be employed by everyone’s favourite entertainment gimp Tim Sherwood and we all came to the conclusion that it will be to ultimately frustrate Arsenal by packing tight the centre of the pitch and staying deep like a coiled spring waiting to launch a counter-attack once we lose the ball in attack. They also have a rather potent weapon in Christian Benteke when it comes to set-plays. They will be a threat and seeing as they have been starved of any modicum of success for a while – they will put everything on the line to obtain that walk up the Wembley steps to collect

the trophy.

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When it came to our team selection however – James, Daniel, Mike ( @GreeneBantern ) and I differed. We all agreed that Szczesny, for better or worse, would come back into the side a la Fabianski last season. Seeing as Debuchy is suffering terrible luck with injuries in his debut season in the red and white, it would appear that Bellerin will play. He deserves his chance as he has been a huge asset in attack for us since his inception at right-back. It will leave a slight gap though – as only more experience will help him balance his duties going forward and defending. The centre-back pairing will see the continuation of Mertesacker and Koscielny and whilst Gabriel has been impressive when called upon, the current duo have had another solid season and should be the correct foundation to which we can build upon.

Another certainty would be that Nacho will start ahead of Gibbs. Last season saw the reverse of this but if we are picking on who is in form – as you should – then Nacho has been simply excellent all season, even when performing the emergency central defender position. Gibbs still has an excellent future ahead of him but Nacho wins this season by unanimous decision. The decider will be next season.

Ozil and Sanchez were undebatable. The fulcrum of our creation machine and the man who can create something from precisely nothing. They will be the men on which we pin our hopes if the siege mentality tactic Timmy is planning comes into play

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– and it will.

Coquelin, the man who probably had the biggest impact on our season in the second half, is a must. He won’t stop until the ball is his and no-one can doubt that the holding position must be his.

We were all in agreement thus far and aside from acknowledging that Theo could be in with a shout after his hat-trick heroics versus West Brom, we could all see Giroud getting the nod up top. Plain sailing so far.

Who partners Coquelin though? Who plays on the right? I was the lone voice in the wind when suggesting Ramsey should continue on the right. The point that was most pertinent was that the last three games or so when Ramsey played wide was that the whole team had suffered as with Sanchez cutting in from the left and Aaron looking to do the same on the opposite wing, we had no width to which we could hurt the opponent and all of our possession amounted to diddly squat. We were blunt.

Fair point and cannot be argued. My point is that his link-up play with Giroud is his most potent weapon and when he plays further forward, that will utilise that strength further. If he is played in the centre alongside Coquelin, he has a certain defensive duty to perform and this will blunt his biggest asset. His future lies in the centre of the pitch but let him weave his part of the web that Villa will hopefully become tangled in.

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The boys on the pod wanted Theo on the right. Seeing as Theo gave a powerful reminder as to why he should start on Saturday, this is another point that is hard to be objective towards. I think that because Theo is primarily an attacker, when he gets the ball, he will inevitably cut in or look to beat his man with his rapier speed. His defensive mindset is severely lacking and with Bellerin behind him, we need a player who can  fulfill the task of protecting young Hector. Ramsey can do that and with his excellent stamina, will be able to go back and forth all game.

As mentioned previously, if we are picking on form alone, then Santi Cazorla must start alongside hatchetman Coquelin as he has done for a good few games now. Since his surprise inclusion in this box-to-box role in the Champions League Play-Off match versus Besiktas at the start of the season, Santi has shown fantastic levels of adaptability and more prominently- tenacity – to truly shine in the role. We all doubted he could play in this all-action role due to his diminutive stature but not only is the Spaniard truly two-footed, he has the heart of a lion and a true knack for retrieving possession. His true power which allows him to hold down this role? The stunning way he carries the ball from our defensive third and converts it into attack. With his above average ball control, it means with a slight shimmy he can evade two or three players clutches and desperate dives and allow his team a breather and a chance to pounce on a team unprepared

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to defend.

None of us are correct though. We all have points which require pondering but it could quite easily be Wilshere in the team. In the centre or on the right. It could be Theo on the wing or playing centrally with Giroud either as a foil for which Walcott can run off or as a sole striker, feeding from Ozil’s ever-ample supply of passes.

We could all concede that we would be happy with either suggestion, but we had merely put our preferences forward. Whoever misses out on the showpiece will need picking up emotionally by Arsene Wenger or they may even take such levels of umbrage that they see their future elsewhere. We don’t know how precious these men and boys can be away from the cameras.

Wenger has a maths problem that will cause more than a few furrows on his forehead, but it is a great problem to have. The thoughts of summer and reinforcement will have been ousted from his mind as he will attempt to pick a team that can pass around a whole team in an eighteen yard box. I wish him the best of luck.

Who would you pick?

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