Tag Archives: FA Cup

A weekend ruined before it has even begun

The plan for the weekend was simple. Cricket.

And then Jason Holder hit 202 not out to give the West Indies a 628 run lead in the first test against England. 2 days still to play, it will be an uphill task.

The deluded optimist in me will be saying “the Windies were 415-6 when they declared. There are still 2 days to go. England have 50-odd on the board with 10 wickets in hand. The pitch has flattened out and the Windies bowling attacking is not great”.

But we all know how it will go. England will get to 80-odd. Lose the first wicket, then a couple more. Root and Butler will put on a battling 150, giving you that bit of hope again, before England lose the final 5 wickets for about 20 runs.

The match finished in 4 days, at least those out there will get an extra day on the beach instead of being in the cricket ground.

Hopefully the second test will be better.

Last nights defeat against Manchester United was certainly deja vu.

Over the last 10 years, under Wenger, Ferguson, Mourinho and more, Arsenal facing Manchester United has often followed the same script.

Arsenal dominate possession, have chances, miss chances, United score a couple on the break and win the game. And that is exactly what happened last night.

The Gunners were not poor yesterday. The statistics show we dominated the game. xG had us winning about 9-0. And that is why statistics are ultimately pointless. The only one that mattered was Manchester United scored 3 to Arsenal’s 1.

Manchester United scored 3 goals from their 4 shots on target. Not only do them seem capable over withstanding our pressure, they also have a habit of scoring goals against us without many chances.

A bit like the defeat against Chelsea earlier in the season, there are plenty of positives to take out of the game.

Despite losing our 2 central defenders, we battled well and matched a rejuvenated Manchester United.

Manchester United certainly have a feeling of the Roberto Di Matteo’s about them.

Di Matteo took over from André Villas-Boas at Chelsea. The senior players, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, John Terry, had downed tools. Made it clear they did not like the manager and got him sacked. Di Matteo came in and their form improved. It was nothing he did, it was just the players decided to start playing again.

They won the Champions League despite him.

The same is happening at Manchester United.

The likes of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez clearly stopped playing under Jose Mourinho. They forced him out. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not made them better players. They were already top draw players. They have just decided to start playing again.

Like Di Matteo, it would not surprise me if Solskjaer  led the team to a trophy, and even top 4. He will then get the job, the shine will rub off and he will be sacked in November. He will return to the manager that was sacked by Cardiff after 9 wins in 30 games.

You have to feel for Unai Emery at the moment. It just does not stop at the moment.

Some will say we have now lost 5 in 10, and he has to shoulder some of the blame for that, but we must stick with him.

It is not Emery’s fault that Sokratis and Laurent Koscielny suffered injuries last night. Koscielny’s was a freak accident. The pair have also had extended time off this season.

You then have Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding – both out for the season.

Shkodran Mustafi, Nacho Monreal and Saed Kolasinac have also spent time in the medical room this season, and Kostadinos Mavropanos has not been seen. Ainsley Maitland-Niles broke his leg in the first game of the season.

The only defender not to suffer an injury this season has been Carl Jenkinson.

To have so many defenders consistently out injured is just unlucky. We went into the season with 5 central defenders, and all 5 have spent time injured. You simply can not legislate for that.

So we have a race for 4th (I still think we will finish above Spurs) and the Europa League  left to look forward to this season.

Two chances to return to the Champions League, one chance to lift a trophy.

Emery will get things right, it will just take a couple more transfer windows.


FA Cup more important than finishing 4th

For a long time now I have not really cared about the top 4.

Yes, I understand the money involved in making (or not making) it, and that some of our financial restrictions at the moment are due to a £30million black hole where the Champions League television money used to be, but I really do not care.

Finishing 4th and trophyless is a nothing season. We did it for it for 8 years between 2006 and 2013. Not winning a trophy each year hurt. It was boring. Top 4 is not a trophy.

It is interesting how things have changed since that barren run for Arsenal.

We were rightly criticised for treating top 4 like a trophy. For celebrating it as one, whilst not actually winning any real trophies. Role forward 5 years from the end of that trophy drought and we see the media treating top 4 very differently.

The likes of Tottenham and Liverpool are now heavily praised for finishing top 4, without a trophy. It has become a barometer of success. Something to strive for.

Since Arsenal’s trophy drought began (2006), the pair have won 2 League Cups between them. Yet that is ignored in the press and their top 4 places are celebrated.

Give me a trophy, whether it is the League Cup, FA Cup or Europa League, over finishing top 4 any day of the week.

And tomorrow we have a chance to progress in the FA Cup against Manchester United.

With the race for top 4 hotting up – 7 points separate 3rd and 6th, it would be easy for Unai Emery to rotate the squad tomorrow and play a B team. He has refrain from doing so an put out the strongest team possible. Progression is key.

We do not play another game until Tuesday, that is a 3 day rest. We play Cardiff at home.

Whilst no games in the Premier League are a “gimmy”, a game at home to Cardiff who have won just once away in the league all season is a much easier fixture than Manchester United in the FA Cup.

If needs be, against Cardiff, rest a couple of players. But do not do it in the FA Cup.

In other news, the “will he won’t he” transfer saga of Denis Suarez rumbles on. Will he sign? Won’t he sign? Do I care?

We also had some glorious clickbait journalism yesterday:

Both articles were about Emiliano Martinez joining Reading on loan for the rest of the season…

Enjoy your Thursday and Up The Arsenal.


Match Report: Blackpool 0 – 3 Arsenal

Blackpool (0) 0 Arsenal (2) 3
FA Cup Third Round
Bloomfield Road, Seasiders Way, Blackpool FY1 6JJ
Saturday, 5th January 2019. Kick-off time: 5.30pm
(4-2-3-1) Čech; Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner, Sokratis, Kolašinac; Ramsey, Elneny; Willock, Maitland-Niles; Iwobi; Nketiah.
Substitutes: Lacazette, Torreira, Martínez, Guendouzi, Medley, Smith-Rowe, Saka.
Scorers: Willock (2), Iwobi
Yellow Cards: Kolašinac
Referee: Mike Dean
Attendance: 8,895
Back to where we were, then. Another meeting with The Seasiders, on this, the second occasion that we have met in nine weeks; of course today we are meeting at Bloomfield Road, the first time that we have played there since our 3-0 victory in the Premier League on 11th April 2011, when goals from Abou Diaby, Emmanuel Eboue and Robin van Persie ensured our win. Let’s hope for a similar result on this freezing cold Lancastrian evening. We fulfilled our ticket allocation of 5,200 supporters for this game, but sadly due to an ongoing dispute between Blackpool fans and the owner, Bloomfield Road was only just over half full for the match tonight.
Still, in the opening stages, the home side were unlucky not to score when an error by Stephan Lichtsteiner almost led to us being punished, and had it not been for Petr Čech, it could have been disastrous. After ten minutes, a superb free-kick by Aaron Ramsey (can this man really be leaving the club?) saw Joe Willock score his second goal of the season when he headed the ball into the net from the rebound that struck the upright, which appeared to calm the nerves somewhat. A few minutes later, Carl Jenkinson was desperately unlucky not to score with a header from a chip by Alex Iwobi after some penetrating moves by our midfielders. The match now started to pep up with Blackpool finding their way through our defence on several occasions. However, just seven minutes before half-time, Carl Jenkinson pushed a long ball to Alex Iwobi, who passed it back to him on the overlap; Carl Jenkinson crossed the ball to Eddie Nketiah who flicked it on across the face of the goal for young Joe Willock to score his second (and Arsenal’s) of the day. And so we went into the break two clear goals ahead.
New half, new challenges. Blackpool started to test Arsenal’s defence and on several occasions were unlucky not to score. Arsenal started to look sluggish until Alexandre Lacazette replaced Eddie Nketiah after 65 minutes, and it almost seemed as if he single-handedly changed the approach and the attitude of the team as soon as he stepped onto the pitch. With one of our two top strikers on the field, we now started to look confident and assertive, something that we hadn’t done a few minutes earlier. Despite all this, Blackpool too had their chances, and should have taken them better under the circumstances. On one of our breakouts (of which there were many) we managed to get behind their defence and score. Ten minutes before the final whistle, Aaron Ramsey’s shot was parried by the Blackpool goalkeeper, only for the ball to fall into the path of Alex Iwobi, who coolly tapped it into the net. Mr. Emery made two more substitutions (Zech Medley and Bukayo Saka for Sead Kolašinac and Alex Iwobi) within minutes of each other, just to rescue tired legs; as soon as they started to get used to the pace of the match, Mike Dean blew the whistle after four minutes of injury time, and we were now in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Thank God that’s over.
Despite our obvious superiority in all areas, we still had the ability (somehow) to look vulnerable, particularly in the defensive area. No disrespect intended to Blackpool, but there were times when we had to count ourselves very lucky that the home side missed their chances, as if we played a top Premiership side, we may not have been so lucky. All the reserves (and our youth players too) played their part well, and everyone looked good. But we still need defenders, desperately. Twenty-six days and counting until the end of the transfer window. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.