Leeds United arrive at The Emirates for the FA Cup Third Round tie, the spoils for the victors being a home tie against Aston Villa at the end of this month. Seeing the draw for the fourth round before this match is nothing new but surely I am not the only one who remembers the rush from huddling round a transistor to listen to Sports Report on Radio 2, live from Soho Square on the Monday lunchtime after each of the rounds was completed?
This evening sees the return of one Thierry Henry, surely starting from the bench given the oft-stated lack of match fitness. That has not got in the way of the rumours that Arsenal will look to sign him permanently if this loan works well. These stories accompanied Beckham when he was in Milan and came to nought; as such, they should be treated the same for Henry and Arsenal – I just cannot see it happening. From the media reports, you could be forgiven for believing that he is taking on Leeds United single-handedly but there will be others donning the red and white shirt this evening.
For the short-term health of some careers and the long-term good of the club, it is vital that they relish this opportunity to appear in the first team. Who knows, for some it might be the stepping stone into the manager’s thinking for a starting place more often. That is taking a big leap; let’s make sure that they exist first and that we have not been subjected to some sort of halucinogenic drug experiment.
Up front it would be no surprise to see Chamakh accompanied by Park and Oxlade-Chamberlain. There is a case for Arshavin’s inclusion but that would most likely come at the expense of Park and to be honest, if the Korean cannot get into a makeshift FA Cup side, Arsenal would be better served by selling him now. I do not think that is going to be the case and with Gervinho now on international duty, Arshavin is most likely to get a run in the Premier League starting line-up.
Defensively Wenger has few options but a back four of Coquelin, Squillaci, Koscielny and Miquel in front of Almunia would be of no surprise. Yennaris on the right is another option and at some point the youngsters have to come into the full back positions. To do so though puts pressure on the midfield. Frimpong’s loan to Wolves means that Song and Coquelin are the only dedicated defensive midfielders with the youngster’s inexperience in that position probably ruling out the main holding role at this moment in time.
He will no doubt have experience alongside him with Rosicky and Benayoun completing the trio. It is a strong line-up but one that needs to operate at the highest of its abilities to prevail comfortably. Whilst a replay is historically most likely, we could do without it and getting the necessary win tonight is the priority.
Unless of course you are taking on the wider perspective. Arsène has once more offered the opinion that whilst a cup is a nice to have, the must have accessory is a top four finish. Constantly we are told that qualifying for Europe’s premier tournament is not a financial necessity, Arsenal’s business model dictates that a continued absence from the Champions League will be detrimental.
With more clubs becoming challengers for the top four spots, the past decade or so of continued participation is going to be harder to continue. It is for this reason that Wenger is focussing on the Premier League campaign,
The basis of our life at the top level is dictated by the championship. If we can add on top of that the FA Cup it is fantastic.
Everybody is entitled to view it differently but you can’t compare winning the Carling Cup to every year qualifying for the Champions League
There will undoubtedly be those who hang the manager for the words but they are the truth of the Premier League era. And with the growing power of clubs through the ECA, the game is going to become more focussed on European competition. For many years, the threat of a European Super League has been raised when the clubs do not get their own way. With the weakness of Fifa, that spectre is taking on a more solid form.
Anyway, that is a thought for another day. The last thing today is to welcome a sister blog to A Cultured Left Foot. Arsenal On This Day is going to trawl through newspaper archives and bring to life the club’s (in)glorious past.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.