Will Arsenal’s Cup Of Joy Overflow?

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Morning all, and it still is despite the lateness of the post. The Premier League goes into hibernation for a week – ten days for Arsenal thanks to the fixture scheduling – and the FA Cup takes precedence. Some will tell you it should not be this way, the Football Association’s pride and joy has become a national tragedy. A proud and globally admired competition devalued, pushed to one side and treated contemptuously, according to the media, by a procession of managers fielding sides which were not full strength.

I understand why people may not like the competition, it can be seen as a distraction. Personally, I have veered in that direction myself as the list of winners becomes entirely predictable. I am sure some felt like that when Arsenal reached the final in successive seasons as the 1970s drew to a close. But there is more to it than that, something I touched on in the 2013 FA Cup Final Saturday post, wittily entitled “The Cup Final Saturday & We’re Not In It Post”. That highlighted the problems; we used to make more of a fuss of the day itself, it ended the season unlike now when broadcasters have shortened their coverage by several hours. We could pressurise them into bringing back that wall-to-wall programming. Cup Final It’s A Knockout could still be hosted by Stuart Hall, contestants would be his fellow inmates who negotiate fiendishly designed tasks whilst those watching launch an audacious escape plan. That’s two 70s shows for the price of one with Cup Final Porridge resurrected on the back of it. Quite literally given that a number of the cast have passed away.

The Final is just the tip of the iceberg. The biggest nail in the competition’s coffin, the surest sign of its devaluation is the knowledge that there is another round of Premier League fixtures immediately afterwards. That scheduling is baffling, making the last Sunday of the season anti-climactic in its build-up. It is bad enough with international breaks, with eight days between matches due to television. A fortnight off just so that the FA Cup Final can take place is nonsensical, confirmation that the Premier League dominates the English game on and off the pitch. Rectification of this balance needs to happen if the FA Cup is to be restored to anything like its former glories.

Simplistically, most people would prefer a top four finish over a day in the sunshine in May. There is a logic to the argument, Champions League football has sustained the club financially in recent years. The club assured us it wasn’t necessary and that they had budgeted for a season or two without the Champions League income or operating on reduced Europa League income. The flip side of that coin though is the barrier of winning a trophy, perhaps the Premier League would be less overwhelming with the knowledge that the squad were already winners.

It is a tough job and Arsenal are not without criticism in this. Since winning the trophy in 2005, there has been a concerted effort on the part of Arsene to take advantage of the competition to rotate his squad and give younger players the chance to learn their trade. It is a move which has backfired eventually, in subsequent seasons. The choice of teams is open to criticism and half-hearted performances such as the 0 – 4 drubbing at Old Trafford are not easily forgotten. Nor, for example, the loyalty to the side which had reached the semi-final but Chelsea were a different proposition. Not that fielding a strong XI has been any guarantee of success either. Yet if you look at the fixture lists at the time, you can understand the prioritisation of other competitions over the FA Cup most of the time.

Tomorrow holds no such caveats. A nine-day rest to the encounter with Aston Villa is motivation enough to field the strongest possible XI? Of course the manager is hamstrung by hamstrings and other ailments which need to be borne in mind but anyone whose statistics are approaching the infamous Red Zone will benefit surely from rest next week? We will know more after Arsène’s press conference has been dissected, devoured and disseminated but the nagging doubt is that he may be struggling to find an XI in the first place.

’til Tomorrow.

82 thoughts on “Will Arsenal’s Cup Of Joy Overflow?

  1. I love the f.a cup…i hear , every season how its become less important. How the prem and CL are more important, i dont see, even if true what difference that makes. If people choose to ignore the history of an event which is up there with any other , wimbledon for example, then thats their choice. Its still the same excitement to me and come saturday it will be again, just like many others. Granted it doesnt come with the same prestige as CL, but why should that fact make any difference to the passion of playing in an F.A cup game. The most famous domestic cup in the world. Get excited about it guys and stop this manufactured , seasoanal questioning. It is what it is, part of our heritage

  2. Man Utd flushed the kudos of the FA Cup down the lav all those years ago when they blew it out for a pointless ‘World Club Cup’ fixture or whatever it was.

    Responsibility for the death of the tournament lies at Alex Ferguson’s door.

    There is little if any difference between the FA & League Cups now. It’s only because we are up against Spurs that I want us to win today. Against any other credible opposition I wouldn’t be unhappy to see us go out with dignity (ideally by the smallest of margins & entirely due to poor refereeing).

    The stadium is paid for & we are supposed to be entering the next phase of the masterplan i.e. to become a rich global megaclub with a team full of stars. That means winning the premiership & the CL only. Domestic cups are for the reserves.

  3. @goonerandy

    I would hope so, firstly to keep our winning streak going, but more importantly, it’s against the spuds……… North London Pride is at stake!

  4. We all predicted last year’s winners didn’t we Yogi.

    See the aussies got 326 so that’s a lead of at least 100 then.

  5. We will soon see if we have a chance this year of winning the fa cup or if were taking it seriously if we see Wenger getting up having an arm wave , shouting at the 4th official, kicking a bottle of Evian in the air. If he is having a doze on the bench then expect …well….fa.

  6. When all you hear is about the CL money and the rediculous ‘fourth place trophy’ it’s a sad reminder that football is a business, sport is secondary. Anyone who isn’t excited by winning the F.A. Cup isn’t a true football fan IMO.

  7. The FA Cup is important.

    Those who don’t see it are probably a little on the young side.

    It was the FA, not Ferguson, who was largely responsible for that ridiculous decision.

    Where we are now, with the squad we have now, we must set out to win every match. I don’t care what the competition is.

    Winning begets winning. Losing does not. (See previous Arsenal implosions).

  8. Morning all,

    As someone who remembers being at Wembley to complete the double in 1971, to beat the mankers in 79 (as well as lose the following year in both cases) and all the Cardiff finals too… I would love us to win the FA Cup. However I agree with AW that qualifying for CL is more important and wouldn’t sacrifice that to get the old tin pot.

    All that doesn’t really matter tomorrow – we’re home, against the Spuds and I’m sure will field our best team, which sounds like it’ll be the same team that started against Cardiff. The crunch comes, not tomorrow, but if (when) we get to the 5th round in mid February – sandwiched between midweek home games against the evil mankers and Bayern. If we’re drawn away to (say) Southampton or Newcastle do we play the same 11 three times in eight days? Probably not – and if it means we go out….. I’d be sanguine if we win the other two games well – wouldn’t you?

  9. C’bob – you old traditionalist.

    I take the point about the habit of winning – and, in my hypothetical situation, the selected team would try to win and perhaps do so… We all want to win every game and are pissed off by every defeat… But in the round when it’s three crunch matches in 3 competitions, while wanting to win all three I would probably take two wins, and would regard the cup game as the least important – footballistically (to coin a Wengerism), economically and emotionally…..

  10. As a chart busting hit parade with cocktails to celebrate the FA Cup against the spuds my team selection would be.

    …………………………….Wojciech.Chesney Hawks

    Bacary Sonja….Mert Loaf….Laurent Perrier Koscielny…..Nacho Nacho Man

    A Little Mozart…………Matthieu Flaming Sambuca….. Santana Cazorla

    Serge Gainsbourg…… Theophilus P. Wildebeast………. Polka-dolski

    Nothing wrong with that to bring in the New Year.

  11. I suspect from an Arsenal point of view the ‘downgrading’ of the FA Cup was a matter of prioritisation caused by the need for funds to build the new stadium, but the problem has been compounded by the lack of squad depth too.

    Other clubs probably realised they had no chance against the Oilers who even with a 2nd eleven ‘scratch’ team would beat anyone outside the top 4, and invariably also anyone else (Arsenal) regardless.
    The pressing need to safeguard themselves from relegation, or to get into the top 4 qualifiers led to the pragmatic if unfortunate decision to cut their losses and put out a weak team.

    The legacy of the FA allowing first Abramovitch and then the other Oilers and their tainted money to ruin the Premiership also tolled the bell for their own Cup competition. R.I.P.

  12. Great post Yogi:

    I agree with andy and Cbob. I hope we start our best 11 players against spurs and make real push for the FA cup. Call me a trophy slut if you like but I really want us to get back to winning things. As Cbob pointed out winning begets winning. Unless we totally implode the way we did in 10/11 this year will represent real progress for Arsenal even if we don’t win the league. Just the fact that we are fighting for the trophy rather then hoping the scratch our way back to 4th is great. However, the year would seem even better if we finally end the dreaded trophy drought. Finishing a strong 2nd or even a fighting 3rd in the league and winning the FA cup would be an excellent year. If we win a double it would be even better. I think the FA cup represents an excellent chance for us to raise a trophy so I hope we give it our best shot. If we do beat spurs no doubt the next round is problematic because of the CL schedule but I still hope we give it our all.

  13. The Arse,

    I think that is a very fair team, other than Polka-dolski should be Polka Dotski of ‘it was an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini’ fame. 🙂

  14. CBob/Bill,

    I doubt you will find anyone to disagree with the wish/need/want to win a trophy after so many barren years, but to put out a ‘full strength’ team based on available players from our injury hit squad tomorrow is a gamblers choice, and if despite despite doing so we still lose and subsequently jeopardise our progress in the EPL and the CL then I would have to vote a big fat NO.

    Sorry. 🙂

  15. Good write up Yogi.

    I want us to win the FA Cup, we have a deep squad that is capable of it while also winning the PL and challenging in the CL. The make-up of this team is different and the confidence is there win or loss but winning always leads to more winning. I mean look at other leagues; Bayern, PSG, Madrid, Barca, Juve, Milan(previously not this term) all take their domestic cups seriously because they understand that winning leads to more winning not to mention a nice piece of silverware is what every player and fan wants no matter what it is.

  16. Also, we have a 9 days gap between tomorrows game and our next PL game. Plenty of time to recover.

    We can’t not play players in case they get injured. I expect to see:

    Szchezny

    Sagna
    Mertesacker
    Koscienly
    Monreal

    Flamini
    Wilshere
    Rosicky

    Cazorla
    Podolski
    Walcott

    Sub: Fabianski/TV5/Arteta/Gnabry/Bendtner/Jenkinson/Ozil

  17. According to the EPL injury table the only side in a worse situation with injuries to their 1st 11 is Tottenham (9 injured) vs. Arsenal (8). Both sides have two late fitness tests on players prior to the game tomorrow.

  18. So Martinez is staying at Sheffield Wednesday for the rest of the season on loan. He has taken over as 1st choice keeper and done pretty well from several reports I have read.

  19. @MA

    The big one is no Paulinho who has been their best player by far and has kept their midfield together both defensively and attacking wise.

  20. Daniele De Rossi comments in a recent interview:

    “It was a good thing that I didn’t go to Manchester, now I would have committed suicide. Last summer I didn’t feel comfortable, I didn’t recognise myself in the relationship with my teammates and with the fans,”

  21. @C

    Giroud and Ozil are expected to have late fitness tests for Arsenal, as are Ade and Holtby for the Spuds. I don’t expect we’ll see Giroud, no sense in making that call for the FA Cup.

  22. @C

    Did you see that young Chris Willock was asked to train with the 1st team yesterday? 16 years and English, been the best of the U18 side though that doesn’t say that much. Was voted the Player of the Tournament at the Manchester United Premier Cup back in the summer. It is a competition made up of 20 U15 sides from across the world (inc New Zealand) and he best out players from the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan etc. Hopefully, a bright future lays ahead for him. Oh, he is a winger and an U16 England youth International.

  23. @MA

    I wouldn’t start Giroud but I wouldn’t mind having him on the bench in case we are chasing the game late. Honestly we don’t have another senior striker which means if Giroud doesn’t make the bench than we will see Akpom there. Our bench will be interesting, possibly: Fab, Jenks, Arteta, Verm, Ozil or Zelalem, Gnabry, Giroud

  24. A LIverpool co-worker of mine just said that they are signing Mohamed Salah and that Liverpool will then loan Sterling out to Swansea. Apparently Salah is going straight into the squad and he is up in arms about it because he rates Sterling highly and thinks that him and Suarez have played very well together.

  25. This is what the boss told Arsenal.com:

    On Bendtner…
    What I can tell you is that from the last game we lost Nicklas Bendtner. We don’t know how serious his injury is at the moment because he had a scan yesterday. His scan will be assessed today.

    On Giroud…
    For the rest, Giroud’s ankle was quite positive yesterday in the test but he was sick overnight so he has a 90 per cent chance of being out. He is in bed today.

    on other injuries…
    Ozil will have a test later, personally I think he will be short. Gibbs and Ramsey are definitely out.

    on Oxlade-Chamberlain…
    He is close to being back in full training, next week. It takes a little time to be competitive again

  26. @MA

    I was just reading about Mr. Willock. Doesn’t say much about our current U18 but does say a tremendous amount about the lad, he looks to really have bright future. It is good to see both him and Zelalem training with the 1st team and not only getting that experience but learning from players like Santi, Ozil, Jack, Mozart and the lot.

  27. CBob,

    Of course you are correct. Each to his own, indeed.

    The whole point of a blog is to exchange views and without the stimulus of differing opinions against which we can measure our own perceptions what would be the purpose?

    No need to stand in any corner. 🙂

  28. I cant fathom a loss tomorrow,,, losing to Spuds should not be any thing less that a disaster no matter what the competition.

  29. My reason to bring Gnabry in (which I am sure AW won’t) is that he looks a handful on the wing and is quick and skillful and Theo has looked good in front of goal. Make hay while the sun shines. Taking a risk with an inexperienced player against Totteringham should not be so bad given their inability to find the net.

    Cazorla has looked good in the middle too and he, TR7 and Wilshere are all swappable if needed.

    Tell Flamini to go at them and bring Arteta on at 70 minutes to rest tired legs.

  30. @GA

    The only thing I would swap with your team, is that I would bring Santi centrally and move Mozart to the wing.

  31. If Ozil is fit for tomorrows game then I’d like to see him start with Theo and Podolski

    ———– Theozilski———-

    With Walcott and Podolski swapping occasionally in the CF roll

  32. The FA Cup is the oldest competion in the world 1871-72. I like it for it gives the little guys a chance to knock off the big guys, The bad thing is that we really don’t have a break to get rested. Let’s hope no one gets rested.

  33. Ah, HenryB

    Not standing in the corner as a naughty boy but rather standing in someone else’s corner. That is, support them.

    Old English phrase derived from bare knuckle boxing, I believe.

    When did you become all poetic, AitG?

  34. @Bob

    I do like it and it gave me an idea about a lineup for tomorrow. What about an unconventional 4-2-2-2 so it would look something like:

    Sczny
    Sagna—Mert—-Kos—-Nacho
    ——-Flamini—Mozart or Jack——-
    ———Ozil or Mozart——-Santi——
    ——–Theo—–Podolski——

  35. I`m expect Jenks & TV5 to both play tomorrow & possibly Gnabry too – with Theo down the middle.

    I remain a traditionalist & I`ve always loved the FA Cup (& hated Spurs of course) so the thought of defeat tomorrow is about as welcome as RVP at The Emirates.. yet I have to balance that with my instinct telling me we`ll have more chance of winning the EPL without a Cup run.

  36. CBob, @ 4:19

    Thank you for educating an ignoramus such as I.

    The tenor of my original comment was that the discussing of myriad views, and particularly those which seem to be contradictory, was to be welcomed as it is possible to learn from each other in doing so.

    In my brief time on ACLF, I have read your comments with interest, and it has come as a surprise to me, today, that you appear to feel that a pugilistic outcome might be preferable to a reasoned discussion, and I certainly had no idea that simply expressing an opinion was tantamount to picking sides.

    For the sake of clarity, who are you supporting, and who am I supporting? It’s rather confusing. 🙂

  37. It is not a question of fielding the strongest 11 or not. Obviously we should. However that does not mean rushing players back from injury before they are really fit and ready. We’ve suffered from this in the past. Neither Giroud nor Ozil should be brought back. Rambo, Bendtner, Ox, and Gibbs are out.

    WS
    Sagna, Merts, Kos, Monreal
    Wilshere, Flamini
    Theo, Rosicky, Cazorla
    Podolski

    Bench: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Gnabry, Ryo, Akpom

    There is a question about Gnabry starting which would be whether we prefer him or Cazorla wide or Theo up top with Poldi and Gnabry wide. To me that’s legit as Gnabry has been good and we’ve seen the attack stutter a bit plus Giroud and Bendtner out leaves wuestions without a clear answer. It could be time to try something different.

  38. Limestone,

    That team seems just fine to me, although I have read that Zelalem is slated to be called up — perhaps as a substitute.

  39. @LSG

    I would rather Santi play centrally with Gnabry or Mozart on the win with Podolski and Theo interchanging up top.

  40. I shouldn’t worry too much, HenryB.

    I haven’t boxed since school and while it’s true that Andy is a serving member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces, JJ is still recovering from an assault with a cricket bat.

    Reasoned debate seems the most likely way forward.

  41. I think your side for the ‘morrow looks fine C, although I suspect that Jenks might feature.

    As for the formation, Arsene is not much one for experimentation!

  42. @Bob

    I think Jenks might feature as well even though I would much rather it be Sagna.

    I know its a bit experimental but I think it would get the best out of Podolski and Theo partnership. They would be able to make runs off of each other and use their pace and intelligent movement and runs to get behind the back 4 and create space not only for themselves but for the late midfield runners.

    Zelalem is back.

  43. ‘Tis alright, duke.

    We live a good 100 ft or so above the Tamar a good 15 miles inland.

    Bloody big electric storm complete with bullet size hail this morning and the chooks are wading about a bit but managed fine.

  44. @C

    Zelalem is back but he hasn’t seen a lot of games since his return, seems early doors for him in my opinion. It is true that Arsene seems to rate the lad very highly however.

    I like your line up, but I think Jenks may get a look in as well. I would not be surprised to see Frimpong or Hayden added to the bench.

  45. @MA

    I agree not to rush any player back but from reports and what not, seems Zelalem is back and could make the bench. Jenks may very well start and it wouldn’t shock me if he did due to matches played.

    I say that Frimpong was training with the 1st team so maybe he will make the bench and one of Arteta or Flamini will be left out of the side for rest.

  46. @MA & LSG

    Both the Napoli and Lyon Presidents have been pubically talking about Gonalons and discussions over the player ever on going and it seems that he is off to Napoli and could potentially be announced as early as Jan. 6.

    I was really hoping we would get him.

  47. @C

    It is a difficult situation with regards Arsenal and any perceived move for the player because we have two players already under contract in Flamini and Arteta. Now, it maybe that one could be sold, but that was never going to happen in January.

  48. @MA

    You are correct but the thing is IMHO that we need a younger lad that can bed into the team and take over for the aging Arteta and the soon to be out of contract Flamini. A player like Gonalons would have been brilliant as he would have had time to bed while also showing his class and talent in a team that is built the way he likes to play and Arsene getting a lad that is basically a taller more physical version of Arteta.

  49. We could use some height strength and athleticism in our deepest midfield spot. Bringing someone in January allows them to adapt and be ready for the next season in addition to what they can give us the rest of this year.

  50. I’m guessing Giroud makes it on to the bench tomorrow just out of necessity, if its not going our way AW will likely have to throw him on as a sub rather than have it go to a replay. I don’t really think we need to rush Ozil back though, as we have more than enough cover in the midfield even with the injury list we have.
    With 9 days until our next fixture I would hope that we don’t swap the defence around too much, especially as Adebayor looks to be playing. Sherwood said, “I think if Arsene Wenger saw him limping off at Old Trafford, I’m sure there were a lot of pleased Arsenal fans and management and players. But, unfortunately, he’s going to be walking out against them on Saturday.”
    Adebayor hates us almost as much as we hate him and he has shown in the past that he really lifts his game against us, I could imagine him giving Jenks a torrid time. Adebayor has clearly lifted his game recently anyway, as he has realised the transfer window is open and he is trying to seal his next move.
    I think the same back four as against Cardiff would ensure Adebayor was shut out, but a slightly rusty TV5 is likely to struggle as well.
    Gamble against Spuds at home, or Villa away? For me we make sure we are in the draw for the next round and then look to areas we can rest players for the Villa game. Villa are all over the place at the moment and I’d have thought we can mix and match a bit more against them and still come out with the three points fairly easily.

  51. @C

    Ginter can indeed play in the deep midfield role, however his preference remains as a CB which is where he has played 83% of his games for Freiburg this season. I do like the player, young and has potential but it remains to be seen whether he’ll want to shift his interest from the CB role to that of the DMC.

  52. @MA

    I thought I had read that the last year of Flamini’s contract was an option year? I could be wrong but even with that said, bringing in a younger player and giving them time to bed will surely be something that is thought about and pursued come summer. Obviously Arsene thinks it is as well with his pursuit of Bender over this past summer and basically bringing back Flamini as a very good late signing.

  53. Smoke screen, or is the boss saying that he isn’t buying a striker?

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/boss-bendtner-s-injury-may-affect-plan

    I thought Sanogo was thrown in at the deep end at the start of the season as we had not managed to bring in another striker so were going to have to make do. I can’t see how he is going to make much more of an impact when he is fit again. He is surely a player for the future rather than the finished article now?

  54. @MA

    Agreed he has played mostly as a CB and it does remain to be seen where he does prefer to play as many in Germany see him as a natural replacement for Mert down the line but he is also highly rated for his potential deeper in the midfield. The other thing with Ginter is that he can be our 3rd CB should Verm leave but also be able to play deeper in the midfield. Again he is just one of many young players out there to be had.

  55. @C

    The summer seems the most obvious time to make a change, adding numbers just for the sake of adding numbers doesn’t really help anyone. I could of course be wrong, but I believe Flamini was awarded a 2 year deal.

    The fact of the matter is we need a striker, or another option at the striking role and anything else starts to look like a luxury. Great news to see Ox is nearing a start to his training again. I think we have missed his pace, power and width.

  56. @MA

    Ofcourse adding just to add is pointless and I think getting a midfielder prior to World Cup IMHO is the wise move.

    Agreed, striker is mandatory. What about Luis Muriel who can play both centrally and on the wing as he does for Udinese. He is a player I find interesting and have found interesting should we not get my first 2 choices of Lewandowski or Jackson Martinez.

  57. @C

    For me at this moment in time, I see the midfield as strong and wouldn’t be looking for recruits. We have another one returning from injury as well which further boosts what we already have. The striker one is the obvious need, whether that’ll be addressed is not so clear cut. If Arsene were more flexible in his tactics there would be a number of interesting prospects, but I don’t think he is.

  58. @MA

    We are in a good spot as far as the midfield but we must also remember that Arteta and Flamini have only 18 months and Arteta is in his early 30’s. Again come summer is when I would grab a young CM/DM type. Agreed about if Arsene was more flexible but I also think a player like Muriel would intrigue Arsene because he has a style of play eerily similar to Henry and is physical and young enough to grow with this squad.

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