Updates on Injuries and the FA Cup Fourth Round Draws
Yesterday saw Lionel Messi crowned the Ballon D’Or winner for the fifth time and comparisons with Cristiano Ronaldo dominated social media as the fans did their various bits to see reasons why Mr. A deserved it more than Mr. B, like it actually mattered. After the event, the top 10 players of 2015 was published and it was good to see that Alexis Sanchez’s efforts for club and country in the calendar year saw him book a place as the 10th best player in the world. You know, he was only behind Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Junior, Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Eden Hazard and Andres Iniesta.
2016 has began on a good note for the Gunners with their victories over Newcastle in the Premier League and Sunderland in the FA Cup. With all FA Cup third round matches played over the weekend, the fourth round draws are out and there are some rather interesting fixtures. The winner of the Wycombe vs Aston Villa replay will take on Manchester City and in recent weeks, the Citizens have found this a bit difficult in their travels. Then there’s the tasty prospect of the high-flying Derby County hosting the poor Manchester United. There is also an all-Premier League encounter when Crystal Palace welcome Stoke City to Selhurst Park.
Arsenal has been drawn with Burnley, a team that is currently fifth in the skybet Championship. The Clarets have been in fine form in the league, winning 11 of their first 25 games and they have their hitman, Andre Gray, to thank as his 13 goals have come in handy for Sean Dyche’s team. They earned a place in the fourth round after defeating championship league leaders, Middlesbrough, in their own turf with goals from Rouwen Hennings and Stephen Ward.
Arsenal’s head to head record with Burnley is pretty impressive with the Gunners having 28 wins, 9 draws and 9 defeats against the Clarets. Both teams have met just twice in the FA Cup and Arsenal has bested Burnley on both occasions. In January 2008, goals from Lord Nicklas Bendtner and lethal finisher, Eduardo da Silva, propelled the Gunners to the next round.
Both teams met again in March 2009 but it was Carlos Vela (I’m sure it was a chip), Eduardo da Silva and Farmer Emmanuel Eboue that scored the goals that ended Burnley’s FA Cup campaign. The match will take place on January 30, 2016.
Moving over to injury news, it was heartwarming seeing club captain, Mikel Arteta, returning to the pitch for the first time in two months when he came on as a sub for holding midfielder, Calum Chambers. With the Gunners on the ascendancy, I was hoping that he went through the game unscathed because with Arteta nowadays, you can never know. To his credit, he finished the game without any further setbacks which was highly welcome.
Having players fit in the central midfield position has been a thorn on Arsenal’s flesh but there’s great news because Tomas Rosicky is now available for selection. The last time Rosicky scored for the Gunners was in January last year, when he captained the team in a 3-2 victory over Brighton and Hove Albion. Having Rosicky available is a big plus because the ageless Czech’s experience can be vital in some games.
Then there’s Alexis Sanchez….
On a cold night in November, Alexis aggravated his ailing hamstring and he missed the remainder of the month, as well as the entire December. Since Alexis injury, the Gunners defeated Sunderland, Olympiakos, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Bournemouth, Newcastle and Sunderland. The only blip in this amazing run of seven victories was the shameful thrashing at St. Mary’s.
The team has adapted in Sanchez absence and with that the manager is more comfortable in allowing his talisman to get deserved rest before he eases him back into action,
“We think he will be short for Wednesday, he has a chance to be available for Sunday [against Stoke]. He is always keen to play. If you listen to Alexis, he can always play – even when he is injured. We try to be cautious. With a muscular injury you never exactly how big the risk but he is very close. If you look at him training he is very close.”
Arsenal has a tough run of fixtures against Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea and Southampton, and we would want Alexis to get into his stride for these games but proceeding with caution is the best option here. Besides, other players like Joel Campbell are performing brilliantly and in Theo Walcott, the Gunners have a genuine goal threat.
More on the Liverpool game tomorrow.
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