With the FA Cup with us this weekend, this week’s question is a simple one – how should we approach the FA Cup – especially with the Arsenal game coming up on Wednesday? Should we feel a weakened side, and if so how weakened?
By Dave Cronin:
Any desire I had for a decent domestic cup run was sated last season. Whereas then I felt it was important to end our trophy drought, this year it is imperative that we get closer to the Champions League spots after three years of being increasingly distant also-rans. I think fourth place is beyond us, but with Everton and Arsenal stuttering of late, fifth or sixth are achievable and I believe we need to compete with those teams if we seriously intend to contest fourth next season.
As was the case in three of the last four seasons, I feel our second fixture against Arsenal will be key to our League season. Get a positive result and we’re firmly in competition with them and can conceivably overtake them. Lose and I can see our season petering out, watching them sail away while we have nothing left to play for.
I say play a second string XI at Oldham. If we lose, no big deal and we can point to the weakened team as the reason. If we win, it has no bearing on the Arsenal match to come.
I wouldn’t be unhappy with an XI of: Jones; Wisdom, Coates, Carragher, Robinson; Coady, Allen, Shelvey; Suso, Borini and Pacheco.
By Chris Rowland:
Tricky one this. Unlike some, I don’t think the FA Cup – and winning a trophy – are of zero relevance. On the other hand, I do regard the PL as more important. Finishing 4th or winning a trophy – well the latter’s definitely more fun than the former, but the former may well be more ‘useful’ to the club. The game on Wednesday – against one of the clubs we need to overtake if we are to harbour anything remotely close to a realistic ambition of top 4 – complicates the issue no end.
Does the fact that it’s lower league opposition influence the decision one way or the other? You might see it as a great chance to get through to the next round and get close to the more advanced stages of the tournament. There’s a risk of injury – of course. But what about fatigue? Rodgers says Suarez is better playing games than being rested. You could argue that Wisdom and Sterling need resting, and who’d risk Gerrard, Johnson and Agger for Oldham? Not me. Downing and Henderson maybe should play to build on their growing confidence. Would Lucas, Sturridge and Borini benefit more from game time or rest time? And then there’s Allen. For me, selective resting but still a strong side is the balance we need to strike. Right back’s a concern – if we want to rest Wisdom and protect Johnson, and with Kelly and Flanagan both injured, is it time for Ryan McLaughlin? Or play Henderson there with Downing at left back and hope they don’t have any good wide players? 🙂
The FA Cup – and winning a trophy – still matters. But Arsenal on Wednesday matters more. How much more is what defines your stance really.
By Alex Tate (Tattva):
The FA Cup should always be treated as positively as possible in the situation the club is in at the time of the game. Our league form is improving but there is still substantial ground to gain to get to fourth. I’m not suggesting we can achieve that but it should at least be our aim.
Should our league form drop off, a cup final can give us something to look forward to. Why do I find that familiar? I still look back on last season’s two finals with disappointment, the game against Cardiff was a shambles and Carroll’s goal against Chelsea could have made a real difference. So I feel there’s some unfinished cup business.
Oldham sit four points out of the relegation places in League One but have played two more games than their rivals, which include Colchester whom they beat on 8 December, their last league victory.
I would field a side strong enough to get a win, if that means playing some of our senior and more important players then so be it. I’d have a strong and varied bench too. I’m aware the pitch may be heavy due to recent weather, and it’s also bitterly cold at Boundary Park even in the height of summer. It’s not far geographically either so there’s no tiring through travel.
The Latics are having a great run in the cup so we should be aware of the danger, which includes striker Jose Baxter, with 11 goals this season – an ex-Evertonian, can he drag the rest of the team up to cause Liverpool problems? Paul Gerrard, ex- Everton keeper, is part of the backroom staff, so there could be some spice to warm up the Baltic air.
With Arsenal on the horizon I may be tempted to rest Suarez totally but start Sturridge with Borini. Either can then come off if they run out of steam or the game is won. Rodgers’ intelligent substitutions against Norwich gave players a rest or a run out. We should be raring to go.
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