I’m not sure what to make of it to be honest. No disparagement to Brentford FC, players and supporters but I’m genuinely puzzled by the accolade. Wojciech Szczesny left a huge impression at Griffin Park in his six month loan spell, to the extent that he was named their “Goalkeeper of the Decade“.
It’s the level of expectation I have of an Arsenal goalkeeper – of any player – that they should be in contention for that honour. Even so, 28 games is a short time in which to be crowned ‘King of the Hill’ and probably says more about the level of football they were gracing through the first decade of this century than anything else.
No doubt we’ll get a taste of his abilities on Sunday as he returns to the starting line-up for the FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Middlesbrough. His won’t be the only new face but I suspect that Arsène has plenty to ponder given the performances against Tottenham and Leicester. Neither were encouraging although the latter more explicable given the defeat in the former.
His mind will be churning with the injuries suffered. It’s too soon, surely, for Jack Wilshere to start a match and with Aaron Ramsey already labelled ‘doubtful’ for either leg of the Champions League tie against Monaco
Olivier Giroud sighed wistfully as he recalled his time at Tours and the near escape he had when Middlesbrough and Celtic both expressed an interest in his services. And then he offered the usual platitudes about respect and focus to ensure that Arsenal don’t follow Manchester City’s suit into the FA Cup’s waste paper bin. God knows we could do without that this season. It’s been an utter disappointment in the Premier League with last season’s stepping stone built on quicksand. A good run does lift the spirits and this opportunity, coming on the back of last season’s triumph, is a bright spot.
Look, it’s really quiet so time for a trip down memory lane. On this day in 1993, Nottingham Forest arrived at Highbury for an FA Cup Fifth Round tie having waited nearly three weeks to find out who their opponents would be. Ian Wright had made the trip to Yeovil worthwhile, a glorious chip for the third made a long journey to the western edges of this realm worthwhile.
There followed an epic struggle with Leeds; two-down against the defending champions seemed a desperate situation but Ray Parlour and Paul Merson hauled Arsenal back into the competition. Merson’s late curling effort was one of the key moments in the season. The replay at Elland Road was won with a smash-and-grab performance in ninety minutes preceding extra time when Arsenal’s fitness proved vital and Ian Wright once more the difference close to the final whistle.
It set up the match with a Forest side who were struggling to avoid relegation. It wasn’t even glorious failure come May as they had been in the bottom three virtually all season. Arsenal meanwhile were twelfth, having lost seven of the previous eleven Premier League games, winning just one of the other four. The cups were providing light relief.
This match stands out in the memory for Wright’s brace which won the tie. It was a familiar feeling; if Wright didn’t score, you wondered where the goals were coming from. To this point, Arsenal had managed three goals or more just three times in all competitions – Yeovil and Leeds in the FA Cup, Palace in the League Cup- and would do so three more times before the end of the season.
But when Wright was in the mood…