Bring on Sanchez and all the stars!
MOST centre-halves would be doing cartwheels at the sight of an Arsenal teamsheet shorn of Chilean goal-machine Alexis Sanchez.
But when the Gunners name their starting XI at 3.15 this afternoon, Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson is desperate for the £30m man to be included.
After putting a fullstrength Manchester City to the sword at the Etihad in the last round, a trip to the Emirates holds no fear for the highly-rated 21year-old. Nor does their galaxy of stars, even if the likes of Sanchez and Ozil earn more in a week than some Boro players take home in a year.
“I remember before we played Man City, one of my mates said, ‘I bet you hope Sergio Aguero doesn’t play’,” recalls Gibson, a Boro academy graduate who has been with the club since the age of 12.
“But that wasn’t how I felt at all. I wanted him out there. If you haven’t played in the Premier League, like me, you want to prove to yourself that you can handle it.It’s like anything in life – if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
“You always want to test yourself against the best and I genuinely hope Arsenal put out their strongest side.
“Saying that, it’s not like they’ll be weak. If Sanchez doesn’t play, he’ll be replaced by another world class player so it’ll still be a huge test. But I genuinely believe we’ll go there and give them a real good run for their money.”
And after battling to a 2-1 victory on Blackpool’s rutted pitch to go top of the Championship in midweek, Gibson says the Emirates’ bowling green will play into Boro’s hands.
“The surface will be immaculate, which suits us just as much as it does them,” he added. “We’re a passing team.
“I can’t wait. It’s a perfect pitch, perfect stadium. These are the days you live for in football and they don’t come by very often – especially when you’ve been stuck in the Championship for so many years.”