Today is the Third Round of the FA Cup, and with Arsenal facing Forest up in Nottingham we would usually expect lots of changes due to the congestion over the Xmas period.
But this is unusual times; Arsenal have not had a game since facing Man City on Jan 1st, while this will be Forest’s very first game of 2022, so both sides could put out there strongest, fittest teams, depending on Covid of course.
But also, in these unusual times, both teams are sure to have various absences due to the unstoppable spread of the Omicron variant, so it is nigh on impossible to predict who will be on the pitch this afternoon, which will also make a score prediction to be simply a bit of wishful thinking from either side.
As Arteta said when asked if he would be using some of his younger players today: “We have a young squad. A lot of them are already really young but we will assess the squad. We still have some issues around it like is happening in every single match tomorrow and when we have done the last training session and have every test back we will know who is available and we will try to go there to win the match witch is going to be difficult because they’ve changed their team so I expect it is going to be a tough match.”
Now I am sure we all remember the only time we ever lost in the Third Round under Arsene Wenger. It was only 4 years ago but we were beaten by Nottingham Forest, so I imagine Arteta cannot be too complacent ahead of the game.
Another interesting omen is that we have played Forest exactly 100 times and have won 51 of them, but we have only beaten them in the FA Cup twice (1979 and 1993) and both times we have gone on to win the trophy at Wembley. Can we make it 3 in a row?
As for form, Forest have been playing really well since the arrival of Steve Cooper, and although they have lost their last two games of 2021 to Championship highflyers Middlesbrough and Huddersfield, before that they had only lost one of their previous 14, so with the team well rested they could be very hard to beat.
Their manager was very philosophical about today’s game when he told Forest’s official website: “I’ve enjoyed watching Arsenal play,” Cooper said. “Not just ahead of getting ready for this game, but in general when following the Premier League.
“They are an exciting team who are in good form and a team who have been winning a lot of games recently.
“They are an attractive team to watch with some very talented players and really good young players as well.
“It’s a big challenge, of course, but one we’re going to relish and try and thrive on.
“One of the big things we try and do here as staff is get the players to believe in how we play, how we work and the values and beliefs we have.
“To do that, you have to be consistent in your approach in everything that you do. With that in mind, we’re preparing in the normal process.
“It will be an exciting game, it will be a tough game, but at the same time, we’ve got to focus on how we play and how we prepare, which gives us the best opportunity to be at our best on the day.”
So, I think we can look forward to an intriguing game, but with it being the FA Cup and with our historical omens, not to mention the Covid factor, I wouldn’t dare to predict how the game will go.
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