When he saw the fixtures back in June, Jim White knew January’s Deadline Day would be quiet. A full Premier League programme tonight and tomorrow meant none of the movers and shakers would be signing anyone as the window closed. And with that knowledge, he went to the corner of the room, slumped to the floor, crossed his legs and brought them into his chest, and rocked back and forth, simpering, “At least they haven’t ruined August…you’ll never rob me of August”, over and again.
Arsenal did their bit yesterday. Chuba Akpom headed to the seaside, to Brighton on loan. He’ll do well to force himself into the side which is already at the top of the Championship table but he and the club must be confident in his abilities to take on the loan spell.
What of Carl Jenkinson or Mathieu Debuchy? The former’s move to Crystal Palace is off after failing to agree personal terms. We either pay too much or Palace low-balled; I know which one my money is on. No offers for the other one so more months of training and kicking his heels seem in order.
Neither of the players is likely to feature much in the coming months. Wenger made it clear that Gabriel is his preferred option as ‘deputy’ right back when needed while Maitland-Niles did a decent job at Preston in the Cup. Debuchy is fast running out of career so it’s surprising his Mr20% hasn’t found him at least a loan deal while Jenkinson has to take stock over the next few months.
The magic of the FA Cup
The FA Cup draw gave Sutton United the dream; a big Premier League club at home. Competition rules may yet rain on their parade and the iniquitous FA stance is that if the police order the game to be moved to the ‘nearest’ suitable venue, any revenues in excess of those the club might have received, go into the ‘central’ pool. So as well as losing home advantage, the ‘home’ club loses any financial windfall after being ordered to move the game? The FA rules stopped the practice of switching ties for financial gain for non-league clubs, to the benefit of the FA.
I hope Arsenal go to Gander Green Lane. It will do the players the world of good to have a genuine fight on their hands, against a team determined to make history. You’ve all probably seen the clip of Sutton United’s fans after the FA Cup draw last night; that’s what the FA Cup is about. Dreams, not weakened sides and a shrug of the shoulders at defeat.
That was the main thing which struck me about Brighton, Newcastle, Liverpool and Watford. They brushed off the FA Cup shock with no shame or humiliation. We all understand the pressures which league football places on managers, especially the former pair who are chasing promotion, but a good cup run can bolster confidence as much as defeat can damage it.
Yea Gods, I need to lie down. Shearer was right…
The use of ‘it’s a squad game’ is pathetic. Even to the untrained eye, fielding an XI which has never played together before is a policy which is going to blow up in your face at some point. For once, Alan Shearer was on the right track at the weekend when he criticised clubs for their policies, especially the clubs outside of the top four. Wolves, Lincoln and Sutton showed what is possible and with the top four only bringing out the big guns at Wembley, there’s every chance that the FA Cup is there for the taking.
But in years gone by – and I’m thinking, Walsall, York and Wrexham off the top of my head – there was a massive embarrassment in being a cup ‘shock’, no matter the competition. Sheffield Wednesday was a prime example; once the anger subsided, I don’t remember any sense of prolonged embarrassment about losing, just the usual lightning rod of anger at Arsène.
And that for me is how money has ruined the game. The FA don’t help themselves and moving this match will be a sizeable chunk of the ‘magic of the cup’ hit squarely with a sledgehammer.
The usual suspects are back in contention tonight. Arsène has as full a squad to choose from, as far the pre-existing injury and suspension lists allow. Danny Welbeck, he conceded, probably wouldn’t start this evening, with the club keen to manage his return from injury. Welbeck’s scoring return keeps Olivier Giroud motivated and the motivated Giroud is a far better player than the unmotivated version. He’ll have the chance to prove the point this evening.
There’s a danger of taking this fixture lightly on our part. Last season’s FA Cup exit hands us the warning of complacency; thrashing them three weeks later only served to underline the wasted opportunity. I’m still scarred by the FA Cup defeat to them in 1987. We compounded that by losing at Vicarage Road a fortnight later in a poisonous atmosphere
While we look ahead to the weekend – and hope Liverpool win tonight – the players are focussed on this one. Watford are in dire form at the moment. Two wins in ten, and involved in one of the worst matches of the season at The Den. Will they come out and fight? I doubt it; that means taking us on and leaving space to exploit, which never happens unless we’re facing top notch opposition. A comfortable win would be a good tune up for a vital match on Saturday, a genuine ‘must-win encounter already.
I expect the line-up tonight to be along the lines of:
Cech; Gabriel, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Ramsey; Iwobi, Özil, Sanchez; Giroud
With the Chelsea match on the horizon, Arsène will probably exercise caution with Bellerin and Walcott, keeping their return from injury as much in mind as Welbeck’s.
A new set of tunes, Twelve Inches of Pure Pleasure – ‘it’s a right old Carry On’ – is here.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.