Coventry City Preview: Over The Hill Where The Sky Is Blue


Nearly four decades have passed since Arsenal first met Coventry City in the FA Cup. On this day in 1975, Highfield Road – like Highbury, now consigned to memory banks and history books – hosted a 1 – 1 draw. Arsenal won the replay four days later; none of this waiting a week or more to organise a match to suit police or broadcast sensibilities. I couldn’t find a video for that so 1991s First Division demolition on the last day of the season will have to do. I know;  any excuse…the original Super Swede. It’s funny for years some claimed no-one from Graham’s era could play in the current Arsenal side. Now, with the disciplined style of play, most of the 1991 team would fit into Wenger’s idea of a footballer. The back five, Rocastle, Limpar, Smith; eight would certainly be capable of comfortably holding a place now.

Had we not been in the heady days of giantkilling, a top-flight meeting in the FA Cup would have attracted a lot of attention in 1975 but Stafford Rangers had beaten Rotherham in the Third Round, Walsall defeated Manchester United in a replay. At this stage of the competition, Altrincham took Everton to a replay whilst Leatherhead United raced into a two-goal half-time lead at home to Leicester City. The Foxes fought back, Jon Sammels scoring the first of three second half goals as the Leatherhead Lip got bitten.

But it was Dickie Guy‘s time. Wimbledon were a Southern League side but won at Burnley, the prize being a trip to Leeds United, now recovered from the 44 days of Brian Clough. The bearded Dons goalkeeper recalled his heroics on The Big Match with Brian Moore the following day as Wimbledon clung on for a draw. With the number of replays shown, you felt certain Peter Lorimer would strike the ball better next time around but history never changed; Guy always saved that penalty. The actual replay? Leeds won, a deflected goal from memory, at Selhurst Park.

Those results romanticised the cup. How quickly that lustre has dimmed.

1975 like 1991 feels a long time ago. Times and the fortunes of clubs have changed. Arsenal are poised to emerge from lean years, looking to re-establish themselves as  Premier League contenders, even if the bookmakers odds reflect them as outsiders of the top three teams to win the title. Where to begin with Coventry?  A ten point deduction is costing them dear at the moment as they sit that difference away from the last play-off place in League One; four draws in the past six games does not help their cause either. Nonetheless, it is one of the more impressive recoveries from such a penalty. All that against a backdrop of discord and rancour; David Conn’s article in The Guardian is as good a starting place on the story.

Whichever way you look at it, the US military term fits most aptly. The only hedges in football ought to be a nice display of topiary lining a boulevard on the way to the ground; football is such a middle class sport. Hedges should certainly not be a fund owning a club. The business side of the modern game has much to answer for, not least in scheduling a fixture such as this for no reason than BT want to show it. It’s another stain tarnishing the FA Cup that away fans are hampered in supporting their team to appease the terms of broadcasting contracts. This evening Coventry supporters are planning protests on 35 minutes (the distance between the city and Sixfields Stadium in Northampton) and 61 minutes (the year Jimmy Hill joined the club). Reliable sources are urging Arsenal supporters to stand and applaud the away fans at those times, something I would wholeheartedly agree with.

Hill is a link between two clubs, more so than the likes of Jeff Blockley who turned out for both. Hill had an extraordinary influence over the Sky Blues and is as synonymous with them as he is Match of the Day even though he started broadcasting with ITV. For Arsenal, he was the lyricist for the double-winning season’s updated Good Old Arsenal as well as running the line when necessity called in 1972 during a goalless draw with Liverpool at Highbury.

That was then, this is now and in his pre-match press conference, Arsène quashed suggestions of a very-much weakened side taking the field tonight. It will be the squad from last weekend with one or two additions; a similar squad but a much-changed XI which starts. Lukasz Fabianski will have a rare start as his contract winds down and goalkeeping will be a position that Wenger has to address in the summer if as expected, the Pole leaves. Unless he is convinced that Viviano is a capable replacement, he will surely need to buy experienced cover for Wojciech Szczesny.

There has been talk of a plethora of youngsters coming into the line-up, the likes of Hayden and Zelalem suggested as featuring from the start. I don’t think this will be the case. Indeed I would be surprised if anyone more inexperienced than Hayden is in the XI at kick-off with the manager looking to seal victory before using his substitutes to gain experience. He also has to balance the upcoming fixtures and this tie offers the opportunity for the likes of Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Bendtner to gain match fitness. Next week sees trips to Southampton and Liverpool, both tough matches and Arsène will want those players ready if he needs to call upon them. He also needs to rest some players, Mertesacker and Koscielny have played a lot of football this season without much respite; this evening offers such an opportunity.

Wenger is conscious of last season’s debacle against Blackburn, he spoke pointedly of it earlier in the season. It is something he will want to avoid although exiting the competition now brings the hidden advantage of a week’s rest before the visit of Bayern Munich in the Champions League next month. It’s not exactly rewarding failure; more of a positive from the immediacy of a negative situation. But he has the squad capable of winning and there are plenty of opportunities to put out a strong line-up nonetheless:

Fabianksi; Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Hayden, Gibbs; Flamini, Wilshere; Gnabry, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski; Bendtner

Fully focussed and professional is what Arsenal need to be. The FA Cup may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it offers the opportunity for silverware and should not be underrated in that sense. I know that people rate a top four finish more highly but no-one has ever come up with a valid reason why that and winning either of the domestic cups is a mutally-exclusive outcome to a season.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

191 thoughts on “Coventry City Preview: Over The Hill Where The Sky Is Blue

  1. Podolski/Giroud/Santi

    That is our most dangerous attacking strikers and Ozil.

    Another goal and lets take off Ozil and bring on Zelalem.

  2. @MA

    He scores when he plays simply as that. With Theo now out, lets move Santi to the right and Podolski on the left flank.

  3. Hahahahahahaha

    Bring on Zelalem or even Flamini. No need to force him to play when there are subs on the bench.

  4. Am looking forward to see Zelalem. Wonder if he will live up to the hype 🙂 If he is only half as good as the hype he will probably still turn out a very good player.

  5. why does our midfield always poo themselves when things are going well? they poo themselves when things are going bad to.. they always always always poo themselves.. whats wrong with our midfield. Are they incapable of controlling a match?

  6. Very scrappy 2nd half. We need to just hold on to the ball and play it around, to much lack of control

  7. the only team that can beat arsenal today on this pitch is Arsenal themselves… its kinda weird. We can win and loose and draw, its all up to Arsenal. Coverntry is only there as a filler tbh…

  8. We always think the job is done when we take the lead.

    Letting them back in the game.

    Playing a dangerous game.

  9. I love that mertesacker gets on he players around him. That was not the first time he has been screaming at them for the lack of movement to receive a ball.

  10. After today’s showing, if anyone seriously thinks Bendner is a good enough reason to not get a striker I will seriously have questions about their sanity.

  11. We do need another striker but it is great to see Podolski making a point that he deserves and more importantly NEEDS to be first choice with Theo done for the year.

  12. @Moe

    The one thing I feared with Jack and Ox has been a mixed bag thus far. At times we have seen no protection infront of the back 4 but mostly 1 of then have stayed back.


    Mert is such a leader of men and understands the bigger goal isn’t just this match but the FA Cup and EPL title and his drive and leadership is massive. He has turned into the most important player in the squad not only for his great futboling talents but his leadership.

  13. Some fair points being made but really Arsenal are just standing back and running down the clock.

    Not exciting but the job gets done with minimal effort.

  14. @Pistol

    If Podolski is on the bench after this and him continuing to show he is the finisher we need with Theo out, then Arsene must have lost his mind. I mean he’s scored 2 more goals and everytime we see him he scores.

  15. player that really needs a rest comes on for player that really needs game time ? You right Miami, Jenks has been great today.

  16. @Bill

    I have and I got a response that said simply:

    We are top of the EPL and I love my coat.



  17. Giroud was getting jealous so apparently he had to score from the update that I got on my phone. Who made the pass?

  18. @MA

    Thanks mate!!! Sounds like Arsene is trying to get his top scores from last term on track and Podolski is ready not to mention Santi and Giroud.

    How’s Zelalem played?

  19. @MA

    Isn’t Santi such a technically gifted futboler with both his right and left foot. Damn I love that Spaniard and that German to play alongside the beautiful French bloke with that German with the cultured left foot.

  20. Zelalem has been tidy in possession but we haven’t seen anything of note from him yet. Ozil just struck the post, near post. Zelalem is pressing in the middle fine. Tidy debut but nothing to write home about.

    4-0 final score

  21. @MA

    Well that sounds like a good debut from Zelalem for me. While we know Zelalem has exceptional passing ability, sounds like he played his game perfectly.

  22. AM thinking if Jose is crazy enough to sell Mata to United, surly he would not mind selling Lukaku to us? That kid could become well good under the right manager..

  23. @C

    No question that is was great to see the goals from players we and need to see scoring. I was disappointed a little with Bendtner’s effort tonight. We were very ragged at times, especially the 12 minutes after the half but then again after the easy of the first half perhaps it was to be expected. I think Coventry felt they had lost the game for the initial whistle blew.

    Of the younger lads on display, I think Jenks played very well and created good over laps and used his pace to great advantage. He should have had an assist had Podolski scored in the 8/9th minute or so. Zelalem as I said earlier was tidy, but he didn’t stand out which I guess is both good and bad. The hype wasn’t demonstrated, but it was a solid if unspectacular debut. Not Gnabry’s best game, not his worst. I think in conclusion they played pretty much to the standard around them, which was mostly tidy but not hugely impressive. I don’t think we got out of first gear at times, and could have been punished a couple of times on the counter from the left hand side.

  24. @MA

    This is very good to see Podolski doing well and Bendtner was poor from what I saw not to mention his effort was classic Bendtner even when we were pressing. This both showed us we need a striker while also not completely trusting Bendtner.

    Podolski and Gibbs looked good playing on the left flank and combining with Ozil is as was expected with the German connection.

  25. @C

    I was impressed with the work rate of Ozil today.

    No question in my mind that Podolski offers a considerable threat going forward, and I could see a tandem of him and Giroud if the opportunity ever presented itself. In your line up earlier concerning the front 4, I would probably agree but I might be temped to use Santi in the and Ozil from the right. Santi simply looks a much better player when playing been the width of the 18 yard box. I enjoyed the interchange on the right today between Ozil, Jenks and Ox at times… though there was a little to much over elaboration at times as well. Still, 4-0 not a lot to complain about and the lads certainly played well within themselves.

  26. BT Sports saying rumours from trusted sources are that Arsenal have agreed a deal with Schalke for Draxler.

    Pinch of salt.

    Will believe it when i see it on a more trusted website.

  27. Manuel Pellegrini has jumped on the Arsene bandwagon with regards to the Mata transfer. I really wish they would just leave it all alone, it is really no ones business but the parties involved in the transfer. I do agree with Arsene that this move also smacks some what of the FFP rules which are now in force.

  28. @MA

    The thing with Ozil abd Santi is that they will interchange and neither will ever actually have and be told to stay in place. We are set with that front 4 especially since Podolski is a purer finisher than anybody.

  29. MA

    Unfortunately not an article mate. They mentioned it on air before they interviewed Wenger.

    Wenger had a wry smile when he was asked about those reports coming out.

  30. I need a lot more convincing to go the Draxler route. It is not his potential but our blantant need for a striker that worries me. We are so well stocked in the middle it just seems like we are pointlessly collecting more when we have enough… damn, sounds like the Dallas Cowboys!

  31. Don’t get me wrong, Draxler is an immense talent and a player that adds depth on the left and middle but at that price I would have loved a striker. This on the basis there is any truth to these reports.

  32. I want a striker ad well and no doubt Draxler would be a massive get.

    Just a thought, maybe Arsene will use Podolski more centally with Draxler on the left if reports of his get are true. I think Arsene desperately wants another “immense talent” that he can mold into a World Class striker and while Theo has the potential I think Arsene loves love’s love’s him on the right.

  33. Miami Arsenal

    I disagree with you for once 🙂 i thought Jenks was really poor. He looks scared most of the time when he get’s a pass and the amount of times if he’d just make a confident pass instead of backwards or sideways we’d have been in. It’s odd. because when he was starting last season, he was beating his man and crossing every time, and he’s got some cross on him!! Just seems to have lost that.

    Fjortoft, it’s worth noting, was the first person who called Ozil to Arsenal a day before it happened and his source is 9/10. But who knows, we’ve seen these 1000000 times.

  34. MA

    I’m not convinced with the Draxler thing, i mean unless he is being molded into a striker or Arsene is playing him on the wing then i don’t see why we need him.

    By the way, apparently it is from Bein Sports are running with it. And alot of twitter uses as well. Not the most reliable sources! 😀

    But i still don’t think Arsene will spend that kind of money twice in a season. It just won’t happen i don’t reckon.

  35. Moe

    Your underestimating Draxler a tad here, whilst i agree a Martinez or Suarez would be ideal given our current situation, Draxler can play LW, RW, ST, CM, ACM…And he’s only 20. It could be argued he doesn’t chip in with that many goals, but in a team that creates as many chances as Arsenal i reckon he could. Look at Santi…First season and broke his record for goals in a season

  36. C MIAMI.

    We can’t just have Cazorla and Ozil swap positions willy nilly. We need someone whose primary position is out wide because he has to cover the flank defensively. Cazorla seems to be very adept at knowing when to move centrally into shooting positions but he is still be able to cover the flank defensively. May be I underestimate Ozil but I doubt that he will be able to do that.

  37. CFP

    Fair enough, but do you really think he is worth 37mil? And if so ,will Arsene pay that kind of cash twice in a row?

    I personally don’t think so but Arsene has surprised me before!

  38. Where is Draxler going to play. Is he better then Walcott, Cazorla, Ozil Ramsey or wilshere. He is certainly a long way from being a striker at this point. He sounds like excellent talent and adds depth if he can play RW LW CAM or central mid, but usually you don’t spend 35M on someone who adds depth. Depth is obviously important but rotating with the bench and a bunch of different position nice but it’s not really the sort of impact you expect from 35M. Arsene must have a position other then build it yourself striker over the next couple years in mind

  39. Moe

    In todays market, if Lamela is worth 30million, Torres £50,000,000, Carroll a combined £45million then i’d say he’s worth it. People can say it’s not what we need, but neither was Ozil..And who would go back at stop that from happening now.

    I personally don’t believe it will happen in January, but if i did, a combined CF on loan and Draxler could really add to the squad. I FULLY believe that unless we get him first week of summer transfer window, Chelsea etc will end up bidding for him and it will start a bidding war.

    Can never trust Arsene, ever since his Carzola comments you can just never tell. Would he pay that type of cash twice in a row? If it’s available to him, yes i think he would. He will have seen the effect of Ozil more than anyone. Draxler isn’t like Ozil either, Ozil has never been a “game changer”, he’s the guy who’ll pop up in in space with the killer pass when needed, the number 10 who you want it to drop too in space when attacking kind of player but he’ll never dictate a game for 90 mins, it’s not his style. Draxler is well..I suppose best comparison would be Ramsey and Cazola mixed into one, he’s a non stop worker, he defends and he doesn’t have a preferred foot, he is as comfortable on his left as he is his right whilst he’s able to pick a pass. He’s defiantly got the energy to play up top and his work rate is phenomenal. You don’t start as many games as he has for a team in Germany without being good.

  40. Bill

    I agree, but as stated we never needed Ozil and look at the effect he’s had..We need to face the possibility that either Jack, Arron, Flamini, Arteta and Ozil will be either injured or tired and with Mikel, Rosicky and Flamini at the age they are i’m not surprised another mid could come in, and why not now, when everyone is playing as they are. Learn the team now, so when Mikel etc move on, there’s no transition. Ozil, Ramsey, Jack, Draxler as a midfield. Mouth watering. Wenger doesn’t like the traditional CDM, i know it’s occupied by Flamini right now. but containing as a unit seems to be working for us so far this season.

    But it’s all speculation now anyway! No point in losing sleep over it anyway!

  41. Nice to stick 4 goals away, but this playing within ourselves nonsense is starting to get a bit frustrating. Cruising at 2-0 and we suddenly decide to let Coventry back in the game by standing off them and giving them loads of space. Bringing Cazorla on got the team moving again and it was good to see the team lift their game when he came on the pitch.
    Bendtner was a real disappointment and I’m not convinced that the injury is really much of an excuse. He wasn’t out for very long, so I can’t see that he can be that rusty. For me Wenger should be looking for a new number two striker at the moment. If we were so happy to let a Bendy go if we could get someone else in in the summer, why are we so reluctant to bring in a replacement for him now?
    Zalelem had on nice little run out and his passing was always very neat. He slotted one delightful ball into the middle late on which showed his potential class. I wonder what role he is going to take on when he claims his first team spot? His passing qualities seem to mark him out for the holding role, but I don’t think he is as good at the tackling bit. He doesn’t look like a ball carrier at the moment, so it will be interesting to see what role really suits him. Such a talent, so I’m looking forward to seeing further run outs for him.

  42. bleu you can bet your house on the fact that when United meet us they will have Rooney, RvP and Mata fresh and ready… typical… they will probably all three have hit top form at the same time too…

  43. MLF

    I thought Ox was scheduled to move into midfield. Is Draxler better then Ox? Most players don’t really turn into world class rotating between 4-5 positions. Man city and may be Chelsea are the only teams that can afford to spend 35M on depth, I thought.

  44. MLF.

    I am surprised to hear you say Ozil is not a game changer. Correct me if I am wrong but he is the most expensive chance creator in the history of world football. Goal scorers like Torres and Ronaldo have sold for more but never a passing central mid fielder. I hope he turns out to be a game changer or we over spent. No?

  45. Bill

    Apologies, i’m not disregarding Ozil’s ability, not one bit! But he’s not really a mdfield driving engine, he’s the class and flair! Draxler is that! Your correct about Ox though, that’s a valid point. He was very central tonight! I’d say he was better than Ox though at this point in time but Ox does have a lot of potential. And Draxlers end position would be CF leaving OX behind him

  46. good win yesterday..
    professional performance against a banana skin team..
    4 goals clean sheet job done..

    podolski needs to start more games

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