Tag Archives: FA Cup

I LOVE the FA Cup (just a pity foreign managers are trying to destroy it)

I love the FA Cup.

For me it will always be the greatest cup competition on earth.

I grew up in the 90s (was born mid-80s) in a working class family in North-East London. We did not have the money for Sky TV. That meant the only football I got to watch was the FA Cup.

It was actually the FA Cup that made me fall in love with The Arsenal.

Watching the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Tottenham in 1991 as a 6-year-old, I had decided to support whoever loses (I grew up in a family with little interest in football). 6-year-old me’s favourite colour was also red, so I was hoping Arsenal would lose so that I could support them.

I do not remember the game but Arsenal lost, and from that moment I became an Arsenal fan.

My next real memory of Arsenal was the 1993 FA Cup Final.

Back in those days the FA Cup Final was an all day event. The BBC would start off in the teams hotel for breakfast, live broadcast the coaches going into the stadium players on the pitch and so on.

I remember being in my kit, going out to the garden to kick a balloon pretending I played for Arsenal – no player in particular. At this point in my life the only connection I had with Arsenal was the kits I was bought. From memory I had never watched another game on TV since 1991, and did not know the players.

It finished 1-1. I do not remember watching the replay. It was past my bedtime.

The 1994 European Cup Winners Cup followed and that was it, I was hooked. But it all came from the FA Cup.

My love affair with the competition leads me to being extremely offended with the way managers, the media and the FA themselves treat the competition.

For as long as I can remember, people have questioned “the magic of the cup” and talked about its decline. But clubs, TV companies and the authorities are killing it themselves.

Tonight we play Bournemouth away. We will get some obnoxious pundit talking about the demise of the cup, whilst ignoring the fact that playing a game on a Monday night is part of the problem.

In recent years we have seen more games then ever be played on a Friday night, Saturday lunch time and Saturday afternoon.

3rd round FA Cup day used to be a day out. Sit in the pub with a huge accumulator watching the 3o’clock kick offs come in. With them now spread out over 4 days, it just is not the same.

The FA have removed the European place for the runners-up (if the winners had already qualified through the league). No longer will you get Millwall having a favourable run and going on a European tour.

A place in Europe was a well deserved prize for a lesser club if they had made it through to the final only to face and lose to one of the big boys.

The change happened from 2016, which denied Crystal Palace fans a European tour. Likewise Watford last year; thrashed in the final, no European football to help drown their sorrows.

For clubs like Palace and Watford, a cup run was their best chance of European football. Hull City, Stoke City, Cardiff City & Southampton have all qualified for Europe in recent years having finished runners-up in the cup. By removing the chance of getting into Europe as losing finalists, the FA enforce the view that survival in the Premier League is more important.

We then have the clubs themselves.

I have no issues with managers but out changed XIs in the cup. They have a squad of 25 players. It is there job to shuffle the pack and use them how they see fit. And with the top 6 especially, they have a wage bill of hundreds of millions and a squad filled with internationals.

What I can not stand is the (usual foreign) managers moaning about the cup.

We have Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola recently moaning about replays. About how England should scrap either the League Cup or FA Cup.

I am sorry, but these are foreign men who simply do not get English football. They want to come here, be paid millions, but then change the things that the fans love. If they do not want replays, if they do not want 2 domestic cups, maybe stick to managing in Spain?

Klopp yesterday talked about how in the replay against Shrewsbury Town he will be putting out the U23 team and Neil Critchley, the U23 manager will be taking charge.

Liverpool have a squad that is paid £264million. It contains over 20 players capped by their country.

Klopp put out a team that contained experience centre backs Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren; behind them was Adrian in goal. Fabinho, Takumi Minamino & Divock Origi were also in the team.

An experienced team, they were 2-0 up against Shrewsbury Town – 16th in League One. They drew 2-2. Mo Salah, Firminho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all bought on to try and grab a winner.

Instead of deflecting and moaning about replays, Klopp should be calling out the performance of his own players who let a 2-0 lead slip.

Shrewsbury Town’s wage bill is just £3.5million. That is less than what most Liverpool players earn. The youngsters who started for the Scousers will also be on more money than any Shrewsbury Town player.

Liverpool might have already played 37 games this season; but Shrewsbury Town have played 36.

Whichever way you look at it, Klopp has no excuses over his side drawing against Shrewsbury. And his post-game comments shows that he just does not get the magic of the cup. It is no wonder that Liverpool have never made it past the 5th round under Klopp with his attitude.

And it is an awful attitude.

My problem with the likes of Klopp and Guardiola is these are not men who going to spend decades in the English game. Both will soon move on to their new paymasters. But whilst they are here, they are determined to wreck the greatest cup competition on earth. It just is not right.

If you can not respect the country you are living in, its customs, then maybe you should find another country.

Scrapping replays, letting the U23 manager take change, it is damaging in the long term.

The FA Cup is why I fell in love with football. It builds greater bonds for the children of Shrewsbury, Oxford and Exeter to their local club. Taking them out of the grasp of those super clubs that are hundreds of miles away.

A replay against Liverpool at Anfield will earn Shrewsbury Town in the region of £1million. It will mean a new training ground, or a new stand. It will transform the club. Transform the town.

But Klopp is sitting there in his ivory tower earning himself more money than Shrewsbury’s annual turnover, commenting about English football and English competitions. It shows he just does not understand.

Liverpool fans should call out Klopp. Make it clear that they do not agree with his stance. Likewise if Guardiola, Mikel Arteta or Jose Mourinho make disparaging comments, fans of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea should make it clear that they disagree.

The FA Cup is the fans competition. From non-league to Premier League. If you do not understand its importance in English football, then you do not understand English football.

Yesterday we were informed that Yogis Warrior had sadly passed away. Stuart wrote A Cultured Left Foot. He was one of the best bloggers out there and inspired many others to “pick up a pen”. He wrote for years because he loved Arsenal. RIP, thoughts with his family.

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.