it was a quiet one for us last night but Chelsea v United was another cracking cup tie. Although this game might have lacked the utter hypocrisy and steward flinging that was such a big part of the league game on Sunday it was pretty entertaining. United were leading 3-2 until the final seconds of injury time, then gave away a penalty which Chelsea scored bringing it to extra time.
Then Daniel Sturridge scored so I turned off because I refuse to acknowledge the fact that I live in a world in which Daniel Sturridge is considered a footballer. I know he’s not the worst in the world but there’s just something about his head that repulses me the very fibre of my being. I can cope when he misses but when he shows flashes of talent and ability it’s too disconcerting for me. Anyway, United’s fringe players also did 120 minutes in midweek ahead of our showdown this weekend. More on that game over the next couple of days.
Our reward for the remarkable Reading comeback is a trip to Bradford to play … er … Bradford. Which is nice, not just because they’re a lower league side making it an ostensibly more easy task, but because it’s another chance to rotate and use the squad and give a team a four goal head-start just as a challenge, you know yourself. The other quarter-finals are Leeds v Chelsea, Swansea v Boro and Norwich v Aston Villa so it’s all set up for Leeds to smash Chelsea, us to beat Boro in the semi-final before Grant Holt inflicts another cup final defeat on us with a display as wondrous and magical as any produced by the games greats like Maradona, Johan Cruyff or Mickey Quinn. Fun times ahead, folks, fun times.
Going back to Tuesday night and understandably pretty much everyone involved is trying to accentuate the positives. And I get that. I mean, it doesn’t mean that things weren’t hopelessly and ridiculously terrible for the best part of the first half but acceptance of that, rather than dwelling on it, would seem to be the best course of action.
We can be inspired by this. We need that spirit, that never-give-up attitude for the next two games. It is a great experience to see that we didn’t give up and came back with a positive performance
I think we showed spirit, because you can’t come back from 4-0 down if you don’t have spirit. Nobody believed we could come back. And we did it.
And this is what’s so confusing about this Arsenal team. It’s not unreasonable to level accusations of lack of spirit and heart at a team that’s 4-0 down inside half an hour, but those accusations simply don’t work when the same team comes back to win 7-5. I heard a lot of people suggest that the early part of the performance was due to the fact that the manager has categorised this as the least important of the competitions we take part in. “If the manager doesn’t care about why would the players?”
To my mind that’s lazy, soundbite thinking. He never said he doesn’t care about it but can anyone argue that it’s not the least prestigious competition of the season? And doesn’t the fact that we’ve made the quarter-finals for 10 years running suggest that this isn’t a tournament in which a manager who doesn’t give a fish’s tit sends out teams who can’t be arsed? The fact is the League Cup, in all its iterations, provides a chance for players to show what they can do, not that they don’t care.
Youngsters want to impress the manager and catch his eye. More senior guys who aren’t playing as regularly as they would like want to get back into the first team and this competition gives them the chance to remind the manager of their qualities. Arsene will have been happy with what Theo Walcott produced, for example, and I suspect he’s going to start against United on Saturday. On this I have to give credit to the manager for the way he’s stage-managed the contract situation. It could easily have become a much uglier thing, and there are reasons why Walcott found himself frozen out at the start of the campaign, but Arsene is a smart man, he played it well in the media meaning that the player hasn’t really suffered the backlash others in this situation have, and he’s reaped the benefits of it.
He’ll also have looked at the fact that Andrei Arshavin played for 120 minutes and was able to sprint in the 119th of them and think ‘Well, maybe his mercuriality could be useful from the bench again’. And given our current lightness in the striker department, would we prefer a Marouane Chamakh somewhat re-invigorated by a couple of very well taken goals or one who looks like a depressed camel who hasn’t scored for 14 months? Which isn’t to say he’s the answer to all our attacking problems, far from it, but if we need him, and chances are we will at some stage before we can improve our options, it’s better all round if he’s feeling better about himself and more confident in front of goal.
So, serious questions need to be asked (and I’m sure they will be on the training ground) about the first half and the way we conceded the goals we did, but that doesn’t preclude the fact we can take positives from the game and hopefully benefit from them in the fixtures to come. You can be sure the players aren’t necessarily thinking too far beyond ‘What a great comeback that was’, and if that bolsters spirit and confidence then all the better.
Right, that’s that for this morning, back tomorrow with an Arsecast and all the usual waffle. Till then.