Today is a day where we can change the mood. On Wednesday, we literally didn’t turn up – it’s the worst performance I have ever seen in Arsene’s reign – I’d say it was worse than the 8-2 at Old Trafford, because then, we tried, whereas on Wednesday, we literally didn’t even try.
“You can find 100 explanations [why] we had a poor performance and an off day. We lost against a good Milan team, not an exceptional one. Unfortunately we were punished severely.”
Exactly, an average Milan side beat a very poor Arsenal side. I am not going to analyse it any further today, for we need the focus, the fans and the players all on today’s game.
The FA Cup, Sunderland vs Arsenal
Today is a BIG game. The players know it – the post Milan news was that the manager was livid after the game. The FA cup is our last chance of a trophy this year and he wants the team to react in the right way today and get back to winning ways. I’d expect us to field the strongest possible team today. The boss spoke yesterday on how important the game is – the defeat on Wednesday effectively means that we are in two competitions now – the cup and the race for fourth. To be honest, I don’t think we have the squad that good enough to compete for the European Cup – in fact, if Milan can beat us 4-0 this season, just wonder what would have happened if we played Barcelona – hold on, perhaps we may have given a cr*p if we played them – but the defeat in Milan showed us that the lack of confidence, the desire to compete wasn’t there – so better we’re out now, so at least we can concentrate on salvaging our season.
“It is more important now. It was always important but, because we had a big disappointment in the last game, it becomes more important. The Champions League and FA Cup can collide a bit and, schedule-wise, you see that again this year – you go to Milan, you go to Sunderland. But especially after what happened on Wednesday night it is important to have a great performance. We are in fourth position and we have an opportunity to qualify for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. It is important that we are up for it and do not feel sorry for ourselves because of that [one] performance. It can still be a positive week and we will see how we deal with the Milan game in the second leg later. What is important now, first of all, is not only the FA Cup but as well the response and the mental attitude of our team. They are at stake as well. That is something that is very important for us.”
Arsene spoke of rotating the team and refreshing a few positions, I think he has to have a hard look at the squad – it’s a strange one because we played 9 of our first choice squad against Milan, with only Wilshere & Gervinho the players who would have played if fit… But looking at today’s game, we need to focus on playing an attacking formation – a 4-3-3. With Gervinho back, Oxlade rested and Koscielny injured, my guess at the line up is:
Sagna – Djourou – Vermaelen – Gibbs
Song – Arteta
Oxlade – Rosicky – Gervinho
Arsene is going to start Gervinho I’m sure – he can be very effective and after the loss in the ACN finals, I’m sure he will be eager to put on a show.
“He was very down when I spoke with him on Monday, now he is better and hopefully he can contribute on Saturday. We don’t know [what impact the Africa Cup of Nations will have]. I see Yaya Toure played on Thursday night for Manchester City and sometimes the best thing to get things out of your system is to play a game and have a performance. When you are young it is important to focus on the next game and show you are a good player.”
With Gervinho back, I hope it adds an extra level of pace and directness to our game. We no longer have Henry in the ranks, and I have to say that he did pass expectations in his performances when he was here, and we have a few different players in the squad now – Oxlade having proved he can make a difference at this level. But we do need more than just players – we need the desire that was missing in Milan. The desire that flows through the team at every level. The desire that make you win the first ball AND the second.
On the game, Arsene did give us some fighting talk.
“We have put together a good series of results and we can consider that night was just an off-day. Therefore we are focused on what we have done well recently because we go into a battle now in which we need confidence, belief and great commitment.”
Until tomorrow, adios for now…