Arsenal host Championship side Blackburn in the 5th round of the FA Cup on Saturday afternoon. The Gunners will be hoping to avoid an upset as the FA Cup is their most realistic chance of picking up a trophy this season. If Arsenal do win, they will be through to the quarter-finals.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen is expected to be fit for the game following an ankle injury and should certainly be in the squad for the game at least. Laurent Koscielny will need to pass a late fitness test as he has a calf injury, as will Jack Wilshere, who has a thigh problem.
Aaron Ramsey, Bacary Sagna and Abou Diaby are all fit for the game, but Carl Jenkinson is suspended following his red card last weekend at Sunderland. I said at the time, it’s a bit of a shame as this weekend would have probably been one of the games that Jenkinson would play in!.
Lukasz Fabianski made his return to action in midweek against Manchester United for the reserves and Kieran Gibbs remains out injured.
Blackburn could play new signing Karim Rekik, on loan from Manchester City. Former Arsenal youngster David Bentley has joined on loan from Tottenham, but this game might be too soon for him as he may not have been registered in time for the fixture.
Blackburn boss Michael Appleton says that his side will come and ‘have a go’ as they try to spring a surprise at the Emirates. It can’t hurt them as they have nothing to lose. They’re definitely the underdog in this match and nobody is expecting them to win or even get a draw. But those are dangerous thoughts. Arsenal crashed out of the League Cup to Bradford earlier this season and cannot afford another embarrassing defeat in a domestic cup. Whilst Blackburn were a Premier League club just last season, a defeat at home to them would be very bad for the club.
Arsenal won’t mind Blackburn coming and having a go at them. In fact they’ll probably like it. Arsenal hate nothing more than when a team comes and parks the bus at the Emirates in the hope that they can play out a boring 0-0, or better yet, catch Arsenal on the break and win 1-0. Blackburn won’t need reminding that their last visit to the Emirates finished 7-1 to Arsenal and they will certainly be looking to give a better display this time around.
I don’t know what sort of team to expect tomorrow. I don’t expect to see Wilshere out there at all. He picked up a slight injury last weekend and that’d be too big of a risk I feel and Wenger will have more of an eye on him for the Champions League. With Nacho Monreal cup-tied in the Champions League I’d expect him to start at left-back tomorrow, but it could also influence whether Vermaelen plays. Vermaelen can play left-back but again, Bayern Munich next week could be on the mind of the manager. That would leave Per Mertesacker partnering either Laurent Koscielny (if he passes his fitness test) or perhaps Ignasi Miquel. Either that or Vermaelen might have to play. It’s a difficult situation, but if you want to be competitive, you need to take all competitions seriously and have the quality and depth in your squad to deal with the challenges it brings.
I’m taking nothing for granted, Blackburn sound as if they will come and have a go at Arsenal, so we have to be prepared. I feel Arsenal should have enough to see them off, but I wouldn’t be expecting the 7-1 result that occurred when Blackburn last visited in February 2012.