Morning all. Its been a crazy week in football, yet again. Mega million pound deals are being talked up by the papers every day, but very little has actually happened. The cash cow of Shite Hart Lane went down 3-0 against a motivated and organised Burnley side and should have gone out on the away goals rule. Instead, the rules are different for the Carling Cup and Lucky 'Arry Rednapp survived into extra-time to snatch a winner at the end. Well played Burnley, I feel very sorry for them.
This weekend ahead is quite interesting, in that the 4th round of the FA Cup poses some options that are not available for Premier League games, such as rotating the squad and resting players.
With a game at Everton away next Wednesday, I can see the logic in resting players against Cardiff. But I think its a dangerous tactic and might back-fire. There are several arguments in favour of resting players. For instance, beyond merely giving some of the first XI a rest, you give the fringe players a chance to prove themselves and gain some experience for when they are actually needed in the first XI. Football is a squad game now and players cannot play 55 or 60 games a season like they used to.
Thats a good point, but its dangerous to put out a side that does not stand a good chance of beating Cardiff. Lets not forget that Cardiff are on a bit of form at the moment and are unbeaten since 22 November, having won 5 and drawn 5 since then. Ninian Park is going to be completely up for this as well. Having made the FA Cup final last year, their fans will be delighted at the prospect of taking a big scalp.
On paper, Arsenal should win, but football is rarely that simple. Should we lose, then we go into the Everton match having lost all momentum. I really think getting stuffed 4-0 by ManUre in the 5th round last year was a factor in the collapse of our league form. If we draw, then we create fixture congestion, and the additional game defeats the point of resting players on Sunday.
In my view, you either decide that the competition is not worth the hassle and put the kids out as Arsenal do in the Carling Cup, or you want to win the FA Cup and you put out the strongest XI you can, perhaps with the aim of having the game sown up after 60 mins so that you can bring on 3 subs.
The kids have done great this season, and whilst I have a lot of confidence in players like Vela, Ramsey and Wilshere, I worry that an off-day for Randall, Merida et al will see us crash out the FA Cup.
Given that we desparately need some silverware this season, my vote is that we have to play the strongest team we can. Lets try and smash Cardiff to bits and then take some momentum into a crucial game against Everton. A cold January afternoon in Cardiff is not the time to put players like Vela and Wilshere to the test. If they fail, it could really hurt them. And probably end our chances of silverware this season.