After the talk of Arsène’s future, it’s nice – and a relief – to have a match to look forward to this evening. With nearly a fortnight to go until the trip to Liverpool, there’s plenty of space to be filled in that respect. It’s a subject that isn’t going to go, the elephant tapping its feet in the corner of the room impatiently.
Tonight is about making sure we avoid the humiliation suffered by Burnley. With that gap to the next game, the last thing anyone wants is the vitriol which will undoubtedly surface in that circumstance. Even with that backdrop, I can’t contemplate any circumstances where I would want Arsenal to lose a game, even the most meaningless of friendlies, let alone a competitive match in a competition which is our last realistic chance of silverware. If you think that changing the manager justifies wanting a defeat, have a word with yourself and question whether you’re wanting the best for Arsenal Football Club or your ego.
And we’re being given a bloody good chance of winning this competition. The footballing gods did their bit; Sutton away with the winners facing Lincoln at home. OK, the semi-final will see four of the top six competing (probably) for a place in the final but you do occasionally have to beat a good team or two to win the cup. That’s to get ahead of myself; we haven’t even got through this one yet.
Even after Munich, I fail to see how we would be satisfied with anything but a resounding victory. A scrappy one-nil to The Arsenal will suffice for progress but it won’t instil any confidence in the players, something they are in desperate need of. I’m not sure that this match is even the occasion to do that; Arsène would probably prefer a fortnight’s training ahead of the Anfield trip.
Back to footballing basics
But he hasn’t got it; the FA Cup takes us to the grassroots. For many of us, it’s a return to yesteryear as I’m sure we’ve all watched plenty of non-league games. The Arsenal players all know about the facilities here as well; maybe it will make them more appreciative of being at Arsenal, as well as aware of the responsibilities they have in that respect. All of them will have seen dressing rooms like Sutton’s and worse. And more to the point, football isn’t played in the dressing rooms.
The usual cup side is expected to take the field at kick-off, with plenty of changes from Munich, even though I’d argue that we will get more from playing the same XI and making them work through their failings.
Danny Welbeck won’t feature; the pitch at Sutton is the reason for his appearance with the U-23’s yesterday, as he tweeted last night.
Glad to get 70 minutes today to build up my match fitness. Plastic pitch at Sutton isn’t the best idea at the moment. #COYG
— Danny Welbeck (@DannyWelbeck) February 19, 2017
Presumably the same applies to Per Mertesacker. The German’s injury is different but nonetheless, Laurent Koscielny’s injury may require that the BFG’s return is delayed. In any case, I have little problem with Gabriel and Rob Holding playing this evening; they are capable of containing the Sutton forwards. Interestingly, Mathieu Debuchy is being suggested as right back rather than Carl Jenkinson or a repeat of Preston where Ainsley Maitland-Niles featured.
We shall see; I’m not even guessing the line-up this evening. I’ve mentioned earlier that mine would be as strong as possible; Arsène has his own ideas on that.
Cup of Joy floweth over in Sutton tonight
The night is Sutton’s cup final, and I mean that in a non-condescending or patronising way. They aren’t there just to enjoy themselves but playing against Arsenal isn’t something they thought would happen. Dreamt of, certainly but a competitive fixture? When the younger lads in their squad think about Cohen Bramall’s journey to north London, I am sure they will see opportunities to follow his path to the professional game.
In that sense, I hope Wenger does go with a strong XI, offering Sutton the chance to shine and know that whatever the outcome, they went toe-to-toe with the best. Sentimental old fool, I know.
More than anything I want a convincing performance and victory. Is it too much to ask?
Finally, we’ve reached 1992 in Times of our Lives. Catch the playlist here–.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.