Hope you had a good weekend. Let’s start this morning with the draw for 5th round of the FA Cup and our reward for knocking out Coventry is a home tie against Liverpool.
It comes the weekend after we go to Anfield in the league and sandwiched between that is the visit of Manchester United to the Emirates. So the schedule looks something like this:
Sat 8th Feb – Liverpool (A)
Wed 12th Feb – Man Utd (H)
The following weekend is the FA Cup and although the fixtures have yet to be decided by TV, the likelihood is that we’ll play on the Sunday, and to top it all off on Wednesday the 19th we entertain Bayern Munich in the Champions League. As I mentioned on Twitter, that’s reasonably challenging.
But what can you do other than get on with it? Progression in the FA Cup increased the chances of facing a good team and so it proved. The league and Champions League fixtures were set in stone anyway, and it’s just another game we have to prepare for and deal with. Of course, with more lowly teams in the draw, we might have been given a chance to rest a few during a hectic period, but it’s not to be.
So, a double dose of the Mugsmashers should make for some fun. If I had to prioritise I’d take the league game at the expense of the cup, but the fun thing about football is that it’s not an either/or situation. At least this time there won’t be endless replays like in 1980. I remember to this day listening to those games on the radio as the teams met 4 times in the semi-finals.
Of course that can’t happen these days, but it was pretty epic back then.
Although there wasn’t the distraction of Europe (Ignore me: I forgot Juventus), I recall us being not too far off the pace in the league, and the squads were much, much smaller. In the end Brian Talbot put us through in replay 4 with the only goal of the game, and we were off to Wembley. Then Trevor Brooking, with his stupid big head, ruined the final and won it for 2nd division West Ham.
Ugh, all that replaying for nothing. Still, if nothing else it leaves indelible memories, and success the previous year, when Alan Sunderland’s goal won it for us against United, remains one of my favourite things to ever happen in football. Anyway, it won’t be quite as epic as four-game series, but the way the two teams are playing this season, it’s sure to be a fun game.
Meanwhile, as you’ll probably have seen by now, Arsenal are holding a media briefing this afternoon in which it is expected that the new kit deal with Puma will be announced. It’s not a coincidence that pictures have been leaking out onto the web in recent weeks, and details about the colours of the kit have become known too. For those slightly worried about the previous link, the lime green is the trim, rather than the colour of the shirt itself.
The deal is allegedly worth £150m over 5 years, which is a substantial increase over the Nike income. That deal was done with the very pressing need of a new stadium to put in place, and although there was a small increase a few seasons back, it was nothing compared to the kit deals done by other clubs.
This certainly moves us forward in terms of commercial income – something that has been notably hampering our progress when they make those rich lists – and on top of the Emirates sponsorship announced last year, it’s a major financial boost to the club. We’ve already seen some willingness to use those financial resources with the purchase of Mesut Ozil, and ultimately income should be used to make a more competitive team, so there’s likely to be more pressure on the club to improve our options this month.
Yet it also comes at a time when a 3% rise in ticket prices for next season has been announced and, due to the vagaries of the FA Cup draw, it means that the Bayern Munich game now falls outside the remit of the cup games included in season tickets. It’s a category A fixture, the most expensive tickets we have, and in the wider context of increased commercial income and higher prices next season, it will certainly spark some debate this week.
There have already been suggestions that the Liverpool game in the cup be made a category B match to soften the financial blow, but I suspect this is an issue on which there’ll be little movement from the club. In a way the timing couldn’t be worse for them: announce a record sponsorship deal and then have an issue like this come up, but there’s been an intractability regarding ticket prices that really doesn’t augur well for a generous outcome. We shall see.
Right, that’s about that, but I will be embarking on something new, and possibly exciting, with @Gunnerblog this morning. Keep an eye on Twitter for more info, because we’ll be looking to get people involved in it as we make it happen. Details around, or a little before, 11am this morning.
In the meantime, have a good Monday.