Lincoln’s FA Cup fairytale set to end at Arsenal
Gunners should coast through
FA Cup quarter-final
BT Sport 2, 5.30pm Saturday
Lincoln’s dream ride to the last eight of the FA Cup has been the enchanting story of this year’s competition, though it’s one fairytale that probably doesn’t come with a happy ending.
Clearly some punters disagree judging by the cash that has been chucked at the Imps this week at odds of 40-1 and upwards to pull off what would be, without any question, the greatest ever domestic cup upset.
After all, the non-league Imps have consistently managed to defy the odds on their spectacular run to the quarter-finals and all’s not well at the Emirates where the clamour to get Arsene Wenger removed is reaching fever pitch.
But one more chapter to this beguiling saga? Probably not. Though don’t bet on Lincoln being outclassed, because it has not happened yet.
Danny Cowley’s men have headed to London full of confidence having seen off Oldham, Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley on their journey into territory no non-league side have visited for more than a century.
Indeed, Lincoln have beaten more Sky Bet Championship sides in 2017 than Rotherham, who play in that division.
But big, bad wolf Wenger, the man whose side huffed, puffed and eventually blew down Sutton’s house in the previous round, needs to put an end to this ‘magic of the cup’ nonsense, and it’s hard to believe that on a carpet of a pitch and against a side 88 places below them in the pyramid the hosts won’t do the business.
Victory, no matter how emphatic, won’t stop the terrace chatter about his future.
What will ramp it up even more, however, is an unconvincing triumph and it might be well worth betting that that’s the outcome.
A bet on Arsenal at 1-12 is a non-starter. Once invincible, they’re now untouchable at a price that does nothing to reflect what’s going on at the club.
Wenger, being Wenger, has shrugged off the flak regarding his future while rumours of player unrest gathers pace, yet it’s odds-on that the Frenchman won’t play his strongest side, whatever that is.
He’ll play his cup side, or a version of it, as he always does.
That alone doesn’t mean Arsenal are a lay, far from it. Though Lincoln will point out that they won at Burnley, whose home record in the Premier League is identical to Arsenal’s.
There has to be a case for the Arsenal to win to nil. They won at Southampton and Sutton without conceding and they’ve had six wins to nil since Boxing Day.
And Lincoln, meticulously prepared under Cowley, won’t be open. In their three wins against Ipswich, Brighton and Burnley they scored five goals from just eight shots on target.
They are a threat from set-pieces – Sean Raggett’s winner at Burnley is your evidence – but this match is all about trying to stay tight, stay in the game and taking a chance on reaching extra-time and penalties.
It probably won’t work but a side who have conceded one goal in their last three FA Cup ties might not be disgraced.
Arsenal & under 3.5 goals
1pt 17-10 Betway
Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Danny Welbeck have all been suffering from illness. Santi Cazorla is still out.
Midfielders Billy Knott, Elliott Whitehouse and Josh Ginnelly, defender Callum Howe and striker Lee Angol are cup-tied. Lee Beevers is a long-term casualty.
Lincoln have kept clean sheets in six of their last nine matches.