Written by Big Raddy
Elland Road mid-week in January, 40,000 noisy fans up for the Cup, a promising Leeds team looking to cement their reputations; the joys of the F.A. Cup 3rd round.
Being honest, we were fortunate to have the chance of this replay, the very late penalty saving Arsenal from the ignominy of an early Cup exit to a team from a lower division. Leeds outfought us at the Grove, they showed a grit we struggled to cope with and Mr. Wenger will consider himself fortunate to have another opportunity to progress into the 4th round. One can say that we played a second team but it remained a team packed with Internationals and expensive recruits – we had the personnel, we were at home, we should have won.
Some of the media around the game is focused upon Walcott’s “dive” admission which showed Theo to be an honest, if naive, young man. The Leeds manager Simon Grayson has called for Theo to be banned for tonight (according the the Daily Mail!). We can expect the crowd to get on Theo’s case from his first kick which will hopefully inspire him, because from the moment Theo came on as sub in the home tie we looked more dangerous.
I like Simon Grayson, he did a fine job with Blackpool, giving Holloway the basis for the team who have recently done the double over Liverpool. His work at Leeds has been nothing short of remarkable. Since Grayson’s arrival Leeds have had unremitting success, gaining promotion from Div 1 and now on the verge of a return to the Premiership, and he has done so without resorting to DirtyLeeds tactics. Grayson’s star in is the ascendant.
We saw in the first tie how Leeds play. Based upon a very solid central defence and backed by a Schmeichel they work extremely hard. A midfield that will look to harry our skill payers into making rash and inaccurate passes, and fullbacks who have pace (I was very impressed with their right back Max Gradel). Upfront Sanchez Watt will be looking to impress Mr Wenger – but not too much. Beccchio is Leeds top scorer but may be out injured tonight.
What side will Mr Wenger play? Who knows? Will he play a quasi- first 11 with Cesc, RvP and Theo starting or will he continue with the side that escaped at the Grove? Sagna is back and rested but AW likes to use Eboue in Cup games, and we have an important meeting with Wigan on the weekend. Will he continue with Djourou who played poorly at Upton Park and surely needs a break? Could he risk playing Miquel? The Nik B / Chamakh combination didn’t work at all in the first game, and Nik is clearly not a right winger. Either could start - my heart goes with Nik and my head with Chamakh. One player I would be surprised to see is Van Persie who despite having a huge impact recently should be rested and I expect Theo to come on as an impact sub should we need him.
Here’s my guess:
Eboue JD Koscielny Gibbs
Song Denilson Cesc Rosicky
Bench: GK? Sagna Nasri Walcott Eastmond Miquel Chamakh Ramsey
This team has enough to defeat any side in the PL let alone the Championship. Should the unthinkable happen, let it be down to poor refereeing or a superb Leeds performance and not lack of application and desire.
Tonight is a tricky tie, one we could easily lose but I see us beating Dirty Leeds, disappointing 40,000 fans, and moving onto the 4th round