That Friday feeling, topped only by the tingling of matchday. The weekend is here, people and it’s foot…wait. OK, Monday night football doesn’t work for me. It’s not quite as bad as an international break but let’s be honest, it can be almost as brutal.
The Football Association has once again, got it arse about face when it comes to the fixture list. Is QPR’s encounter with Tottenham really the only top-flight game that could be scheduled for the weekend? With Arsenal’s trip to the grim heartlands of the industrial revolution not scheduled until Monday, it strikes me there is more than enough scope for others to play rather than having ten days rest not afforded to cup participants.
For once I’m grateful that #2 son’s match kicks off on Saturday afternoon. I know 1.30pm isn’t 3pm and to be honest, I prefer his games starting at 10am but needs must and this weekend, it fills an Arsenal-sized hole.
English football turns its spittle-fuelled ego toward the FA Cup this weekend with Manchester United’s denial that Johnny Evans was worse than Papiss Cisse making a mockery of the whole process. United are taking a calculated risk, probably confident that their denial won’t constitute a frivolous appeal and lead to an increased ban.
For me, the problem with the six or seven games being bandied around – a punishment prescribed by FIFA – is comparison with more serious offences. John Terry received a shorter ban whilst Suarez just one match more. Whilst the actions of Evans and Cisse were vile, they were nowhere near as heinous as racism.
It’s the imbalance that the FA never address, seemingly out of touch with the court of public opinion. I doubt anyone who views the incident at St James Park dispassionately, would disagree with the predicted sentence of six matches. It isn’t that which is the problem, it’s the unwillingness of the governing body to address other, more serious offences and put in place sterner tariffs.
As is always the case, it’s the inconsistencies which cause the problems.
It’s quiet on the Arsenal front, the players recovering from their exertions on Wednesday night. Gabriel has a bit longer than most, he will be out until April – a sensationalist way of saying the end of the month – with another hamstring-twang. The medical staff no doubt view the Brazilian’s woes in the same way that we do with a small graze. It’s routine stuff, they know what they are doing.
The manager’s mind will be racing through how to win at Old Trafford. Even before Arsène’s reign, we had a poor record at United and whilst there have been some outstanding wins during the past eighteen years, it’s still very much a graveyard of Arsenal dreams.
Some of it is ability. Recent seasons have seen lesser Arsenal sides fall by the wayside in recent years whilst even with the distinctly average Moyes squad, Arsenal still contrived to lose last season. The FA Cup is different for both sides, it’s the only realistic chance of silverware and with Liverpool the only real danger beyond complacency left in the competition, both will believe they are good enough to win the trophy.
Memories of ’79 are evoked whenever this tie occurs. I’d say 2005 but frankly we were so poor that day and the match so distinctly uneventful until Reyes dismissal, there isn’t much to remember. A couple of Lehman saves during the match and then Vieira with his final kick in an Arsenal shirt. Not a bad way to sign out.
It’s that spirit, obduracy – whatever you want to call it – which has so frequently been missing. A re-run of the spirit of 2003 and a touch of the luck we had when Ryan Giggs thundered the crossbar with an open goal at his mercy, is long overdue when you consider the feeble performances witnessed in three of the four cup meetings since.
Win! Win! Win!
This morning, you can win one of these fine Thierry Henry tee-shirt’s courtesy of Art of Football, whose expanding range of exceptional Arsenal clobber can be found here. All you have to do is answer the following question correctly:
Arsenal won the first FA Cup meeting between the two clubs by which scoreline? Was it:
(a) 1 – 0
(b) 2 – 1
(c) 3 – 2
Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org, with a, b or c in the subject line by midnight (GMT) on Thursday, 12th March 2014. Winner announced next weekend.
If you’re just too excited before then, you can get 10% off by using the discount code “Wenger” at the checkout. Arsène would wholeheartedly approve of such a saving…