Football, Greavsie said, was a funny old game back in the day and it remains so today. Take Antonio Conte. The Italian claimed Chelsea were skint and couldn’t match the wages offered to Alexis. This presumably isn’t the same Chelsea who are about to thrown close to £1bn redeveloping Stamford Bridge? Or would if it wasn’t going to block out someone’s light.
Meanwhile, Robin van Persie celebrated his return to Feyenoord by proclaiming Arsène Wenger as “the best manager in the world”. This presumably isn’t the same van Persie who left Arsenal under a cloud to go and win trophies elsewhere.
Of course, he qualified his declaration. Wenger was the best for his career. It’s incredible that so many ex-players believe Wenger is the best thing since sliced bread yet so many of them took a look around in their prime and decided “Nah, we won’t win anything”.
But winning things is something we have been doing in recent years, particularly domestic cups. Tonight we fight for the right to fill the only domestic gap on Arsène’s CV. Last season’s champions and this season’s champions-elect stand in our way with lightning needing to strike twice if we’re to lift the cup.
It’s not an important cup per se; we know that and so does Arsène but winning it buys him a little time. A bit of breathing space from the unending round of criticism which he mostly brings upon himself. Just the small matter of winning tonight to give himself that chance.
Departures and arrivals impact on the side. Fortunately, Olivier Giroud is injured otherwise we’d probably see him dropped because his head isn’t in the right place what with the Dortmund move on the cards. £50m is the latest bid according to the press.
I Think I Got Away With It
And none from the manager. After last week’s innocuous comments sent the Germans into a tizzy, goodness knows what they will think with Wenger telling the world the current state of play. It’s the football equivalent of Fawlty Towers; “Don’t mention Aubameyang. I did once but I think I got away with it…what’s the next Aubameyang, sorry, question.”
Anyway, enough of the prawn Gazidis, sorry, press questions; on with tonight’s match.
A goal, a goal, my Wembley kingdom for a goal. We need to score; Henrikh can’t do it, having appeared as a sub already in the competition for United. We once more rely on the attacking prowess of Nacho Monreal. The Spaniard trained yesterday so looks like he will be playing tonight.
Chelsea boosted their chances of doing scoring by making sure Alvaro Morata isn’t fit. The question for Wenger is whether he changes Saturday’s line-up and if so, who makes way for Aaron Ramsey? My guess is that Granit Xhaka will slip back into the Elneny role or at a push, Iwobi drops out.
The prospect of an unchanged line-up strikes me as slim, particularly since Dave will be primed to take over from Petr Cech as per usual. With a handsome 20-minute spell like Saturday’s the temptation is to think why worry about changing a winning formula? True, especially with a six-day rest before the next game.
We shouldn’t be blind to the poverty of Crystal Palace’s performance in the first half. We weren’t flattered by the 4 – 0 interval lead, but nor should it be the case we think this will be as easy.
I’ll be surprised if Ramsey starts tonight with the prospect of extra-time making caution the by-word. With a fourth substitute available for the final 30 minutes if needed, will that change Arsène’s thinking?
VARiety is the Spice of Life
The VAR once again rears its ugly head.
The change this evening is that incidents referred to Stockley Park will be relayed across the big screens. Ostensibly, it’s so the crowd know what’s going on. I’d say it’s also for the referee’s benefit; he can see his cock-up immediately and change his mind. Apparently not. It’s going to be some kind of graphic which says, “Referred to the VAR but we can’t show you it because it’s a controversial incident and you’re all football hooligans who will go on the rampage if you see it.”
Not that the VAR covered itself with glory last time around. Teething problems, they called it. I say it because they have a Premier League referee watching the action. The same ineptitude off the pitch as on it.
A new generation of specialist VAR’s is needed. No need for secrecy over identities – who is that masked man? – but qualified referees who are completely detached from the Premier League, who never officiate at the grounds. They don’t need that experience to watch a television screen to see whether or not a foul has been committed. Millions of us do it every night of the week.
We know it’s an obvious error if the match official refers it to the VAR. Their mindset is, “Oooh, that’s a bit dodgy; let someone else take the flak for not giving that decision” and that’s how it is working out.
Anyway, hopefully, we’ll win by 3 – 0 without the need for VAR.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.