In all the excitement and analysis of the Everton game yesterday, one thing which flew under the radar was the FA Cup 3rd round draw.
The way this season has been going it always felt like it was going to be somebody. It’s always fun to play a lower league side, whilst aknowledging we’ve had our moments against them in the past, but we’ll just have to settle for a lower in the league side as Sp*rs come to visit.
The last time we played them in the FA Cup was in the 2000-1 season when an Old Trafford semi-final saw goals from Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira do for a Tott*nham team that contained a certain Sol Campbell. He went off injured, if I recall correctly.
Sadly, beating them was as good as it got for us in the competition that year. In the final commentating dullard Michael Owen scored two late goals to win it for the Mugsmashers after their goalkeeper, Stephane Henchoz, had the game of his life making save after save. It was tough to take but coming back the next year and doing the double showed that Arsenal team were often fired by injustice and a desire to make better their mistakes.
The following season, with the league about to be wrapped up, we faced Chelsea. It was the final of the ‘Oh, it’s only Ray Parlour‘ comment from Tim Lovejoy, a man so footballistically and intellectually wretched that he makes Michael Owen seem like Brian Glanville (and if there’s any excuse needed to post this, then there it is).
It also contained a goal that’s very near the top of my favourite FA Cup goals ever. Down the years there have been many to choose from, but Freddie Ljungberg pushing the ball past John Terry, scampering through, throwing a shoulder into the Chelsea defender, leaving him on the deck with a mouthful of dirt trying to think of something racist to say about Swedish people, before curling it into the top corner … well, oooof, as a certain podcast host might say.
Anyway, fun FA Cup memories and no doubt 9000 Sp*rs fans descending on our place after a day drinking their own fermented piss and huffing glue from brown paper bags will make for a fantastic atmosphere when the game kicks off at 5.15pm. That’s some sensible scheduling right there all right. The game takes place on Saturday January 4th.
Back to here and now and we travel to Napoli today and I guess it’ll more or less the same squad that faced Everton at the weekend. In the immediate aftermath of the game the manager confirmed there were no new injuries, so hopefully that’s still the case. I suspect there’ll be a pre-flight briefing then a press conference later in which we’ll get more detailed team information and, perhaps, a hint or two about some changes.
I think it’s inevitable that he’ll tinker with the side. I don’t mean wholesale changes, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see starts for Theo Walcott, Tomas Rosicky, Mathieu Flamini and Nacho Monreal. Players who can come in, slot in, and perform without making any real changes to the spine of the team. Hopefully, if the result is going our way, he can do a bit more in the second half as we get ready to face Man City at the weekend.
Mathieu Flamini and Carl Jenkinson are singing the party line about staying focused and taking things on a game by game basis. Flamini:
Five points clear is positive but it’s only the beginning of the championship. There are lot of games to come and it’s important to win games, not concede goals and work hard. We have to stay focused.
We are just trying to take one game at a time and if we do that well then our league position will take care of itself. We look at every game as an opportunity to improve our position in the league.
I’m digging the one-game-at-a-timeism that we’ve got going on. It must be easy to be distracted, to start thinking, dreaming of the title, but there’s such a long way to go. There’s a great story about how, in the Invicibles season, when we’d score the team would celebrate and repeat the word ‘together’ as part of their routine and self-motivation. Maybe this time around ‘One game at a time’ could be the mantra to see us through.
And in other news, Abou Diaby (remember him? He’s Yaya Sanogo’s carer), says he’d like to be the surprise of 2014 by making a comeback and, hopefully, the French World Cup squad. He said:
If I can be the surprise of 2014, why not? A World Cup in Brazil is the type of thing you dream about. For now, I have to come back with my club and normally that would be late February or early March.
To say it’s a long-shot is something of an understatement given the fact he’s knackered his cruciate, and had to have another surgery recently to put things right. That said, if he’s using that as a way of keeping focused and keeping his spirits up during a time which must be very difficult indeed, then fair enough.
What’s clear is that Arsenal now have a midfield that doesn’t miss him the way it did in the past. If he got fit and could contribute he’d be a lovely extra option for the manager. Kind of like the decoration on top of the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. He’s no longer part of the sponge.
Finally, another plug for the Robert Pires print which is still available for all your Christmas present needs right here. Do it!
Right, that’s your lot for this morning. News throughout the day on Arseblog News, including the latest from Naples when we get it.