Where We Are
Last Saturday’s last minute equaliser against Preston came as an unexpected boost during a game where we had been comprehensively outplayed for much of the contest. However Moussa’s wonder-goal now means that we’re on a 6 game unbeaten run in all competitions, having lost only once since the beginning of December. Defeat against Preston would have put is in a downward spiral in terms of morale following on from Leon Clarke’s transfer request. As it is, Moussa’s goal has reminded us that we’re still Steven Pressley’s Coventry City and we can still pull off the outright absurd when the want takes us.
This week has been fairly settled on most fronts. Wolves are still steadfastly refusing to pay Leon Clarke’s asking price with only a swap deal with Bjorn Sigurdarson seeming to be in the offing. To the best of my knowledge, Clarke is only attracting interest from Wolves at the moment leaving us the chance of keeping our top goalscorer. Elsewhere in the world of Coventry City transfer business a deal for Dylan McGeouch seems to be coming to fruition but will come too late for tonight’s big cup match.
The attention this week has been firmly focused on how we might fare against Arsenal in front of the BT Sport cameras. The pessimists are expecting a tonking in the manner of our previous encounter with the Gunners which ended 6-1. The optimists reckon we might only lose by two goals. It’s fair to say that we go into this encounter with the Premier League leaders somewhat as underdogs.
Last Time We Met
As mentioned above, our last encounter with Arsenal finished in a 6-1 victory in favour of the North London club. Arsenal fielded a weakened side in that League Cup encounter which still featured the likes of Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. For us it was far too early in the Mark Robins era to judge where we were with Franck Moussa and James Bailey making their debuts for the club. Obviously a lot has changed at the club since then with only 4 from that starting 11 likely to figure this evening. Whilst the experience of that match is fresh in the memories of a lot of fans, for most of the team tomorrow it will be their first chance to brush shoulders with some of game’s best players.
Overall we have a poor record against Arsenal, that’s to be expected given our respective histories. Although there have been several memorable upsets for the Sky Blues in years gone by. The last time we beat Arsenal was on Boxing Day in 1999 where an enterprising City team under Gordon Strachan shocked Arsenal with a 3-2 victory. Goals from Gary McAllister, Mustapha Hadji and Robbie Keane rendered a late fight-back from Arsenal superfluous. Even longer back in 1993, a hat trick from striker Micky Quinn handed Bobby Gould’s Coventry City side a shock win on the opening day of the 1993-94 Premiership season. That win proved to be the last time Coventry won away against Arsenal, perhaps the Gunners are due another humbling?
How Are They Doing?
Arsenal top the Premier League this season despite many fearing during pre-season that the Gunners would struggle to maintain their Champions League status. A famously long trophy drought by Arsenal’s standards always adds pressure for the team to perform in cup competitions irrespective of how well they’re performing in the league. The feeling is that despite their league form, Arsenal will leave nothing to chance in tonight’s match in an attempt to regain the trophy they last won in 2005.
At the risk of stating the obvious Arsenal’s dangermen for tonight will be in midfield. Mesut Ozil may not be in the best form but more be given more space than he’s used to in our system and could put paid to any hopes of a cup upset. With Aaron Ramsey recovering from injury and Jack Wilshere being made out of eggshells, Wenger may opt to test out one or two of his young prospects in a low-risk cup tie for Arsenal. Thomas Eisfeld impressed during a recent League Cup tie against West Brom and may be given another chance alongside either Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Serge Gnabry. There are high hopes for German-Ethiopian-American kid Gedion Zelalem who impressed in pre-season and has already drawn comparisons with ex-Gunner Cesc Fabregas.
Elsewhere in the side we can expect to see Lukasz Fabianski tend goal for Arsenal. The Pole may be maligned but can perhaps claim to have been unfairly dropped at the end of last season after appearing to oust his fellow Polish international Wojciech Szczesny. The other selection issue is whether to rest Olivier Giroud ahead of a grueling February schedule and give another chance to their comedy forward Nicklas Bendtner.
So all in all, it might be pretty tough tonight.
The chances of an upset are slim and seem to rest more in Arsenal’s hands than our own. Recent examples of Sheffield United and Bradford beating Villa in cup competitions, and even further back Leeds United beating a relatively strong Manchester United will give us heart. It is possible that a League One side can beat top Premier League opposition. However the precedent is overwhelmingly in favour of the favorites, everything needs to go flawlessly for us to stand a chance this evening. The worry is that our open, attacking style of play will only increase the opportunities for Arsenal to score rather than us, but I’d rather watch us go for it than sit back and get thrashed anyway.
I predict that Arsenal will win 3-1.