Drawn against Oxford United away looked a cracker of an FA Cup tie.
A team who we had not travelled to since 1988 in the old Division One. A side we had not played since 2003. And less than an hours train journey from Paddington.
The buzz was real, but I also foresaw the future, turning to a mate and saying “bet we will be Monday 8pm”.
And as predicted, it was moved.
Instead of it being a cracking away day, it quickly became a a horror show.
Oxford’s Grenoble Road stadium is one of those built next to a roundabout in an industrial park outside the city. Think Reading and Stoke.
It is 4 and a half miles from the station – a 90 minute walk or a bus journey back.
Under these circumstances, we would usually find a pub local to the stadium, let the crowd die down before jumping in a taxi. But with the evening kick off, that is not really an option.
That last train I can get back to mine from Paddington (I live on the London / Essex borders) is 00:17. I would need to get the 22:32 from Oxford and hope there are no delays.
So rather than it being a decent away day – if it happened lunch time or mid-afternoon on the Saturday or Sunday – it is now a horror show. And once again shows that TV companies do not care about travelling fans (and the criticism of the Super League was just content for them!).
With Manchester City away in the next round (if we get through), I would expect a 4:30 Sunday kick off. Will struggle to get a train back from Manchester with that time.
The opening games of the season have already proved a lot of frustration for travelling fans.
With no title in 20 years, the FA Cup has been Arsenal’s safe space.
Since we last lifted the league, we have won 5 FA Cups, including 4 of the last 9 trophies.
But with us sitting top of the league, and inching ourselves towards the “favourite” tag, are we right to now put the FA Cup on the back burner?
The League Cup has often been a place to play a second team. Whilst we are top of the league, the FA Cup should be sacrificed.
The 3rd round tie against Oxford is sandwiched between the home game against Newcastle and next weekends big London derby.
Even a second team should be able to get us through Oxford – the League One outfit sit 13th in England’s 3rd tier.
I expect Matt Turner to be given a run out. He was fantastic at the World Cup and needs to get consistent game time incase something happens to Aaron Ramsdale.
Right back will be Takehiro Tomiyasu. The Japanese international has struggled with injury since joining and lost his starting place to Ben White.
At left back, it will be whoever Mikel Arteta is not playing against Tottenham. Kieran Tierney will probably get the nod for Oxford.
Rob Holding will start. I think he will be partnered by William Saliba.
The Frenchman has made a few mistakes recently and is suffering from a bit of a World Cup hangover. I think that is due to losing a bit of sharpness from not playing. I would start him so that he can continue blowing away those cobwebs.
Thomas Partey is out most important player right now. We need to manage his playing time. Keeping him fit for the Premier League is the priority. Mo Elneny will start in midfield.
Fabio Vieira will also come in for Martin Odegaard.
I actually feel sorry for the Portuguese midfielder. He has become a victim of Arsenal’s success and has barely had a sniff. Some are labelling him a flop, or “jury’s out”, but it is not his fault.
Albert Sambi Lokonga will also start, replacing Granit Xhaka.
If fit, Emile Smith Rowe will come in on the left. He could be an important player in the second half of the season.
The other two attacking positions are up for grabs.
Reiss Nelson is out injured, and surely Arteta will want to give Gabriel Martinelli, Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah a weekend off.
If he decides to play none of the 3, that will mean Marquinhos comes in on the right and potentially Kido Taylor-Hart up front.
I can see a case for playing Nketiah, who has not played much. But Arsenal can not afford for him to pick up an injury with Jesus out.
The other option could be to give Martinelli an hour down the middle.
We should get through Oxford with the team above. And then it will be interesting to see how we manage work loads as the FA Cup continues (4th round weekend of 28/1) and Europa League restarts (in March).
If we are continue topping the league, both the cups will be pushed aside.
Tomiyasu Holding Saliba Tierney
Marquinhos Vieira Lokonga SmithRowe
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