Our director of football takes charge of team affairs this afternoon and his wily ways will be tested to the full.
David has been stripped of the services of Sol Campbell and Sergei Rebrov, injured on international duty this week and has doubts over Ledley King, Luke Young and Stephen Clemence.
Add those to rapidly-improving Stephen Carr, Oyvind Leonhardsen, Chris Armstrong and Tim Sherwood, Darren Anderton, who is still on crutches and long-term victims Ben Thatcher and Maurico Taricco and you can see why he has had to put his faith in youth — 11 of his 18-man squad for Highbury are aged 21 or under.
David said: “It will be a somewhat damaged squad that goes into this game but I’m sure, whatever happens on Saturday, won’t have any effect when the ball rolls in the semi-final.
“It’s a different game, a completely different motivation and it’s safe to assume our team is unlikely to be the same.
“Young players may get thrust into the limelight on this occasion, players who might not have had an opportunity.
“But there will be an atmosphere and it’s good to have an atmosphere because players respond to that.”
David Pleat believes Saturday’s Premiership derby fare at Highbury will bear little relation to next week’s FA Cup semi-final.