Craig Bellamy barely contained his glee; Manchester City face Burton Albion for a place at Wemberlee. A flustered host quickly cut in; the draw takes place tonight. Too late. Tin foil hats catapulted into the night sky, a hot air burst of “It’s a fix!” fuelling their ascent. EFL archers arced the Arrows of Integrity with the Flames of Truth charring the hats to give a metallic ticker tape for the crowd below.
Bellamy’s outburst left the EFL in a pretty pickle. Social media inquests will follow if Manchester City draw Burton Albion, with the stain of corruption never fully removed no matter how many wash cycles it goes through. Which leaves them with one option: make sure Burton Albion don’t draw Manchester City.
In other words, to stop cries of fix, they must indeed fix the draw…
The real world sees Arsenal face Tottenham in a quarter-final match that half the fanbase doesn’t think worthy of the name. But this is Tottenham; it’s a North London Derby, the 127th North London Derby to be precise.
Of course, the two sides met more frequently than that but the first 50 or so were just Arsenal versus Tottenham. The Swamp Dwellers love to call us interlopers but history puts them on the wrong side of the argument; we arrived in North London 51 years before them. To that point, Tottenham were just a Middlesex pub side.
And you lot try to convince me this match doesn’t matter…
The Premier League meeting a fortnight or so returned to the news with the moron who threw a banana onto the pitch fined £500 and banned from football grounds for four years. Not much of a deterrent for a racist lifestyle. Add a nought to the fine and a lifetime football ban for deterrence.
And So The Match Preview Begins…
Whatever your views on the occasion, both managers called for respect. Pochettino, the manager of a club whose fan threw a banana onto the Emirates turf, demanded that Arsenal show Tottenham respect.
Meanwhile, in reality and not the cloud city Pochettino inhabits, Emery points out the line-up we field shows respect to their opponents. He selects a team to win the match. The players, in theory, play to win the match although Sunday tests that belief.
The Spaniard put the boot into the Pochettino to Manchester United argument:
They are also in a better position in the Premier League than Manchester United
Unai is catching on to this English football manager malarkey quickly. And quite nicely, too.
He further underlined that assertion by taking a pop at the Swamp Dwellers:
Tomorrow is different because it’s Carabao Cup and we want also to show them we can come with a big performance and can win. They will come with a very big ambition too because after the first derby they need to show us and their supporters a big performance.
In other words, they were a bit sh*t in the Premier League match.
He then turned his attention to those who want to win the trophy with kids:
I think is a very good match for the supporters, a very big match for the players and a very big match for us, the coaches.
We can use some young players because we think with a big performance, they can help us win.
So, expect the likes of Sokratis, Koscielny, Lichtsteiner and other miscreants to play. I do think we’ll see some of the youngsters but it’s match he wants to win and recognises that kids probably won’t do so on their own.
With Sunday’s defeat still fresh in the mind, Emery will be looking for a reaction to that. A win dusts those cobwebs away while providing evidence of the mental strength the manager believes (publicly) we possess.
Burnley proved obstinate against Tottenham last weekend and Emery will have half an eye on their visit to the Emirates on Saturday lunchtime. I can’t for example see Lucas Torreira playing tonight nor Mustafi, Sokratis and Koscielny although two of them is entirely possible.
Up front, Alexandre Lacazette rather than Eddie Nketiah to lead the line makes more sense. It keeps the Frenchman’s match sharpness in a way substitute appearances never can.
Which leaves the line-up:
Cech; Lichtsteiner, Koscielny, Sokratis, Jenkinson; Ramsey, Xhaka; Saka, Ozil, Iwobi; Lacazette
Three at the back seems unlikely but if that’s the case, Koscielny drops out and Mkhitaryan comes into midfield.
We shall see. Whatever the case, winning is all that matters so, gentlemen, if you please…
Elsewhere, Manchester United appointed an interim manager to succeed the hapless Mourinho. And there’s me thinking they were going to appoint Zidane or Blanc, both of whom are unemployed so there’s no need for an interim if they are on the case.
What it does point to is that Arsenal got it right in the manner of managing Wenger’s departure. Ivan, for all his schmoozing faults, for once walked the talk and he deserves credit for that.