Bradford City vs. Arsenal: Capital One Cup Quaterfinal Preview and Prediction
Arsenal will continue their quest for their first trophy in seven years against League Two side Bradford City on Tuesday.
The Gunners stopped their long, painful slide to 10th place in the Premier League with a sorely needed victory over West Brom last weekend, but anything less than a decisive victory will be massively disappointing.
Realistically, the Capital One Cup is Arsenal's best chance of winning a trophy this season, and Arsene Wenger is not treating this match like the youth team exhibition he usually does.
Speaking about the strength of the squad he will take to Bradford, the manager said in his pre-match press conference (h/t Arsenal.com):
We will have an experience[d] squad at Bradford. We have a good recovery time ahead of the game at Reading on Monday. So we can use the players we want to use.
Wenger will be forced to make some changes, however.
Olivier Giroud was in visible pain against West Brom after being kicked in the lower back, and he will not be available. It's a baptism of sorts for Giroud: his first trip to the hallowed Arsenal medical center.
Other players out with slightly more serious complaints include Abou Diaby (whose obdurate thigh muscles resist any attempt at mending), Laurent Koscielny, Andre Santos and Theo Walcott. The latter two should be back on the pitch relatively shortly.
Jack Wilshere will likely be watching his mates play from the sidelines, as he is nursed back from a lengthy spell away from the game. While Wilshere gets closer to full fitness every day, he is not yet ready to handle two or three games in one week, and this is not worth risking him for.
With such a focus on fatigue and rest in recent games—and seeing how much the former helped Arsenal defeat West Brom—it is hard to believe that Arsene Wenger will include many of his best players.
Thomas Vermaelen has played several games recently (including the pointless Champions League tie against Olympiacos), and while the captain is finally getting into some good form, a benching might be in order.
There has not been any word on the fitness of Johan Djourou, but as he did not play in Greece last week, we can safely assume that he is injured.
If so, Per Mertesacker and (gasp) Sebastien Squillaci will probably occupy the two centre-back positions.
At left-back, pint-sized but hugely impressive youngster Jernade Meade will likely be rewarded with another start after a very impressive showing against Olympiacos. With a contract that expires at the end of the season, Meade can and must make the most of his limited opportunities.
Who will start in midfield and up front is anyone's guess. Presumably, Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey will get nods, but Wenger could dip into the youth system to round out his midfield trifecta.
Or Tomas Rosicky could see a return to the starting XI after a man of the match display against Olympiacos and a brief but effective cameo against West Brom.
He has a number of options regarding who will start at striker and on the wings.
Gervinho could reappear in a central role, where he has scored a few goals this season, or Olivier Giroud's torch could be passed to Marouane Chamakh—who scored his first goals in over a year in Arsenal's last Capital One Cup match against Reading.
Perhaps Andrey Arshavin could be handed a start as a left winger, with German wunderkind Serge Gnabry his opposite number on the right.
Bradford might be a League Two side, but they will not be pushovers.
The Bantams are contending for promotion to League One and will play with abandon in front of their home fans.
With the pressure well and truly off against a clearly superior side, no one will begrudge the underdogs a few reckless runs at goal.
That said, this should be a fairly open-and-shut case for Arsenal. Three leagues and dozens of spots above Bradford City in the standings, the Gunners will be expected to take care of business with the ease of a Champions League side.
Expect a reasonably three-nil victory to The Arsenal, and one further step toward that elusive first piece of silverware in almost eight years.
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