Coventry Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups
With the Gunners steadying the ship in the Premier League, they switch their focus tonight against a Coventry side that could be a potential banana skin. The Gunners truly know how it feels to lose to a lower division side because as recently as last season, SkyBet Championship-based Blackburn Rovers knocked them out of the FA Cup in the fifth round, while Bradford City used the lottery of a penalty shootout to see off the Gunners in the Capital One Cup quarterfinal.
Coventry City went into administration in March 2013 following a row with Arena Coventry Limited over rent dispute. As a result, the Sky Blues started the 2013/14 season with a 10-point deduction and are currently placed 11th in the League One table having played 26 games & gaining 34 points. They are currently sharing the same stadium with Northampton and it hasn’t been an easy transition for the Sky Blue fans.
They struggled to balance their books and couldn’t effectively participate in the transfer market because of their financial turmoil. They could only bring in as many players as they sold off, which put the club in a precarious position and they ended last season’s campaign in 15th place.
Arsenal on the other hand are on a good run of form, winning their last six games as they head into the season defining months of February and March. In February, the Gunners would visit Anfield, as well as hosting Bayern Munich and Manchester United. March has a more daunting prospect with away fixtures to Tottenham, Chelsea and Bayern Munich as well as hosting the free-scoring Manchester City at the Emirates.
The last time both teams met was in the Capital One third round and the Gunners gazumped their opponents with a 6-1 thrashing. Olivier Giroud got the first of his 29 Arsenal goals in the game, and there were strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrey Arshavin, Ignasi Miquel and a Theo Walcott brace. The Gunners have won their last four meetings with Coventry in all competitions, scoring 12 and conceding two.
However, Coventry are in a good run of form in League One, scoring 65 goals in all competitions thus far, and they will hinge their hopes of the division’s top scorer, Leon Clarke. The striker has scored 18 goals this season (15 in the League One, three in the FA Cup) and he has been subject to a potential transfer to Wolverhampton Wanderers. He recently submitted a transfer request professing his desire to seek greener pastures elsewhere, and with the club in a dire financial situation, they might want to cash in on their prized asset.
To injuries, Nicklas Bendtner (ankle) is back in the mix and this game could be too soon for him but there is hope for Thomas Vermaelen (knee), Aaron Ramsey (thigh) and Mikel Arteta (calf) that are close to full fitness. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got more minutes under his belt in the Arsenal Under-21s 4-2 slump to Liverpool and he’ll be odds on to start tonight’s encounter.
Arsene Wenger was effusive in his praise for the Ox,
“He is in advance of where every player of his age is. He is in the national team, a regular player here and he has just been handicapped by a four-month injury but overall he is in a very strong position.
“He can play central and that is not some way off. It is always just finding the right balance because around him you also need a more defensive player. But I like his qualities in the middle because he can penetrate and has good power to get out of pressure, that is a very important quality in the middle of the park.
“He can pass people, can accelerate the game, has a good final ball and a good long pass.”
The manager also acknowledged that he intends to take the game seriously, so we should expect a relatively strong lineup. Wojciech Szczesny will get a breather and will be replaced by his Polish compatriot, Lukasz Fabianski but one must wonder what was going through the gaffer’s mind when he signed Emiliano Viviano on loan.
In defense, a very match-rusty Carl Jenkinson will replace Bacary Sagna on the right wing but I see the Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny combo in the middle due to the fact that Thomas Vermaelen isn’t fully fit yet. Nacho Monreal has been getting a run of games recently and I’d expect him to continue to stake a claim for a first-team berth.
In midfield, the Flamster will hold the fort and he will be assisted by Jack Wilshere that would man his favored box-to-box role. With Tomas Rosicky still recuperating from his nose injury, he might be given a breather while the Ox would play in the hole behind the attack. I see the manager using a three-pronged attack of Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry on the flanks, while Nicklas Bendtner would spearhead the attack.
My predicted lineups would be,
With a tough away clash against Southampton on Tuesday, the Gunners have to continue their winning streak to bolster their confidence and the FA Cup also remains a very realistic chance of winning a trophy this season.
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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