Awesome Arsenal set for open game at Brighton in FA Cup contest
Brighton and Hove Albion last crossed paths with fellow flowing football philosophers Arsenal in this very round of the FA Cup two years ago, with the Gunners edging that clash 3-2. A repeat scoreline is a 25/1 chance with Coral.
Having conquered Premier League champions Manchester City away last time out, Arsene Wenger’s Gunners will be full of confidence for this tie, and that is why the Londoners are odds-on 8/15 favourties for victory at the Amex. Seagulls head coach Chris Hughton is right to be wary of the FA Cup holders, then, with his south coast side 6/1 outsiders for an upset, and 3/1 to force a replay by drawing.
“I certainly won’t need to motivate the squad,” Hughton told local press in the build-up to the tie. “But you still have to have a gameplan that gives you a chance. There probably isn’t anybody who doesn’t know the magnitude of the job.
“Irrespective of what team they play, you know it will be a big task. They are an extremely good side with quality players. But it is our responsibility to try and do the best we can and nullify periods of their play when they can really hurt us.”
Wenger did take round three very seriously, but that is perhaps because Arsenal’s opponents were Hull City in a repeat of last May’s final. Brighton, on the other hand, are a lower mid-table Championship side, and frankly the Gunners have bigger fish to fry in February.
There’s the small matter of a north London derby, plus Wenger’s reunion with old club Monaco in the Champions League, on the horizon, so some fringe players may get run-outs at the Amex.
Chief among those who need to impress is Costa Rica forward Joel Campbell. He’s been linked with loan moves to the continent, including David Moyes’ Real Sociedad. Campbell is an 11/4 anytime scorer chance for Arsenal here.
Best of British pair Theo Walcott (5/1 to grab the opener), Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil need minutes to get fully match-fit after lay-offs, and this seems as good a place as any.
Gunners star Alexis Sanchez and France centre forward Olivier Giroud are really short to score here and, as their participation in the tie would be overkill, they are perhaps best avoided.
For Brighton, Hughton has the problem of no reliable striker nailing down a first-team spot, so it’s to mercurial wingers Joao Carlos Teixiera (5/1 anytime chance) and Pat McCourt (6/1) that he may be looking for goals from.
Set pieces may offer an opening through which the Seagulls could swoop too, especially if Arsenal rest giant German centre back Per Mertesacker. Brighton counterpart Lewis Dunk remains their top scorer with six this term, and thrives from corners, so is worth considering as a 9/1 anytime shout.
Rotation is likely to disrupt Gunners rhythm but, because both sides are likely to treat this tie with an open approach, backing Wenger’s men for a win and the two teams scoring an enhanced 5/2 (max stake £20) is splendid value.