Finish 7th in the league or win the FA Cup? There is only one correct answer…

Tuesday’s defeat was predictable.

From the highs of Manchester City, it was always going to be tough to get the lads back up for another big game.

Arsenal looked like a team that was mentally and physically drained.

It is interesting that of the 4 FA Cup semi-finalists, just one side won – Manchester City.

Arsenal lost away to Aston Villa, Chelsea away to Liverpool and Manchester United drew at home to West Ham.

Looking specifically at Aston Villa, they last played last Thursday, so had 4 clear days between their draw against Everton and the match against Arsenal.

Arsenal meanwhile played that FA Cup semi-final Saturday evening, leaving just 2 days recovery between the two games.

Tuesday was Arsenal’s 11th game in 35 days.

Due to the postponed fixture against Manchester City prior to the suspension of football, and Arsenal’s success in the FA Cup, only Man City have played the same amount of games as Arsenal during that period.

Manchester United and Chelsea have both played 1 less game. Whilst every other team has played 2-3 games last. That is the difference between playing once every 3 days and once every 4 days.

People might say “they are professional athletes, they should be able to play every 3 days”. And you are right. But only right if playing every 3 days is over a short period – not over a 5 week period.

The body takes a while to recover from physical activity. Anyone that has ever been to the gym for the first time in a while we know that for the next few days your body is wrecked. You might not be able to lift your arms over the hand.

Of course, professional athletes will recover a lot quicker. But that does not mean they will recover to 100%.

Lets say they played the first game at 100%. With a short time between games, they had only recovered to 95%. By the 3rd game it was 90% and so on. Eventually the cumulative fatigue of playing every 3 days catches up with you. Mental fatigue is also a huge factor.

So Arsenal now have no chance of top 7. Qualification of Europe through the league. The FA Cup is now more important than the weekends game against Watford.

Following a cool down session tomorrow, the club should send the majority of the first team squad away for 2 or 3 days. To turn off physically and mentally.

Other than those who not physiotherapy, senior players should not be seen at London Colney today, Friday or Saturday. They should return on Sunday for a light training session before preparation for the FA Cup Finals.

Against Watford, play Cedric, play Sokratis, play Dan Ballard, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah. Those players who have not played much recently.

Give Matt Macey a run out, Matt Smith. It might be worthwhile give Bukayo Saka a run out. The teenager has not played much recently. Was Tuesday poor performance due to fatigue or a lack of sharpness?

If we win the FA Cup, no one will really remember us finishing 10th in the league.

Ultimately there is little difference between being 10th in the league – 43 points off top, and 6th, 37 points off top. You are still a long way off of top.

Winning the FA Cup will be another trophy in the bag. Our 4th FA Cup in 6 years. Give me trophies over league position other than 1st any day of the week.

OK, so Spurs have finished above us for the 4th time in a row. There fans are celebrating. Bloggers are trying to come up with names for their own St Totteringham’s Day.

4 in a row, fair play to them. But they have some way to go for 21 in a row.

In the last 29 years, Spurs have finished above Arsenal 6 times. Each time they finished above Arsenal, Arsenal made a final:

1993: FA Cup & League Cup
1995: ECWC
2017: FA Cup
2018: League Cup
2019: Europa League
2020: FA Cup

In 1993 and 2019, Tottenham finished less than 3 points ahead of Arsenal. Had we not rested played for club finals, it is likely we would have finished above them.

Likewise this season, with the 3 extra games we have played than Spurs, chances are we would have finished above Spurs.

The defeat against Brighton came a couple of days after the opening game post-suspension against Manchester City.

Brighton had been able to concentrate since the return on Arsenal. Arsenal were distracted.

Likewise the game against Villa. Arsenal would have likely won had they not been in the FA Cup semi-final.

Competing in the FA Cup often does affect league form, and vice versa. It is tough to be competitive in both, which is highlighted by just how few teams win the double.

Especially as the season turns to March, games come thick and fast. It is hard to get the team ready for a game every 3 days. Eventually the fatigue will hit and you will fall away in one or two competitions.

This season is actually similar to last.

We sacrificed a top 4 finish last season resting players for the Europe League final against Chelsea. The result was Arsenal just missed out on top 4, and lost the Europa League final.

This season we have sacrificed a top 7 finish resting players for the FA Cup. We play Chelsea in the final. The result is Arsenal have just missed out on top 7. Hopefully this time round we lift the trophy, which clinches our place in Europe and potentially leaves Tottenham with nothing (if they finish 7th).

So let’s play the youth against Watford. Concentrate on the FA Cup. And create a memory.

Keenos

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