For football fans of my generation there is no denying that the FA Cup has a special place in our hearts. For most of my youth and for millions of others the final was the only life club game on television each year and FA Cup Final day was a the type of TV extravaganza these days reserved only for Royal weddings.
Many will argue that varying factors have taken away from just how important and special this trophy is to football fans:
– The emergence of the Champions League and the ‘4th place trophy.’
– Ridiculous TV scheduling of matches over 4 days, Friday to Monday.
– The demise of the neutral stadium semi finals and the use of Wembley to recoup funds.
– The fact that Man United were allowed to opt out as holders to compete in a lucrative Mickey Mouse tournament.
– The traditional Monday FA Cup draw being moved to Sunday when matches at being played or yet to be played.
– Top sides, as well as sides fighting relegation playing weakened sides.
– The TV rights being divided between 2 broadcasters one of which is not free to view. This certainly makes enjoying the competition harder for those without BY Sport, like me for example.
All of the above have an influence not only on us the supporter over time and most definitely on the clubs with varying degrees. Add to this the fact that so much of Arsenal or many other top sides fans are non UK based. Many conversations I have with Gunners from around the world leave me in no doubt that some Global Supporters see the FA Cup as a poor relation competition wise.
For me none of the above are factors and the FA Cup is still a major trophy and I crave a Wembley, or indeed a Wembley Semi Final. Arsenal have a fine tradition in this competition and our failure to truly compete since 2005 had given me some of my true low points as an Arsenal fan, just as Wenger’s early success gave us all such giddy highs.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on our recent track record in the world’s oldest club cup competition. I have a Winners medal from 1898, which reminds me of the incredible tradition of this great tournament. A beautiful carved gold medallion with ‘English Cup Winners 1898’ engraved on the rear.
FA Cup – The Wenger Years
|1998/99||Semi||Man United||1-2 aet replay|
|2004/5||Winners||Man United||Penalties aet|
|2006/7||Round 5||Blackburn||Replay 0-1|
|2007/8||Round 5||Man United||0-4|
|2010/11||Round 5||Man United||0-2|
The above tells us that much of Wenger’s footballing legacy at Arsenal was built on the FA Cup winning the competition 4 times in his first 8 full seasons. Add to that 2 semi final and being runners up in the Owen final and the record is impressive.
However the record of Wenger and Arsenal since the 05 Final which in truth Arsenal had no right to win there has been little to cheer, with only 1 semi final appearance in the last 9 competitions.
Have we just been unlucky or is there a common theme?
2006 Bolton Away – Rested Henry, Gilberto and Lehman .
2007 Blackburn Away – Rested Fabregas, Clichy, Toure, Henry and played Baptista and Aliadiere up top.
2008 Man United Away – Rested both fullbacks, Sagna and Clichy, Flamini, Hleb and Adebayor.
2009 Chelsea Semi – Rested Sagna and played Eboue and left out record signings Nasri and Arshavin (who scored 4 at Anfield 3 days later.)
2010 Stoke Away – Played a virtually total reserve team with Traore, Coquelin and fullback and Campbell and Silvestre at centre backs, resting Sagna, Clichy, Gallas and Vermaelen. Eastmond and Vela also played!!!! In fact only Fabregas played from the 11 who started the league game 4 days earlier. Only Cesc and Denilson from the FA Cup team played in the next league game. A total low-point for this supporter!
2011 Man United Away – Full strength side fielder and just not good enough
2012 Sunderland Away – Inexplicable resting of Koscielny and Gibbs, playing Djourou in middle and Coquelin at left back. In addition he rested an on fire Walcott to bring in Gervinho.
2013 Blackburn Home – Left Walcott, Podolski, Wilshere and Cazorla, at that point our 4 top performers on the bench, as well as Sagna.
Now I am aware that some feel I have an anti Wenger agenda, which is not entirely true. I defend him vociferously in many instances and I can just about stomach and accept the way he has used the League Cup to give youth its head. I cannot however support our playing weakened sides in the later stages of the world’s greatest club cup competition, particularly when the club are nearly 9 years into a barren run. Call me old fashioned but if wanting the FA Cup and my day out at Wembley is out of fashion, then I am about as untrendy as an Arsenal fan can get.
It is not that I expect us to win or think we are a big club and therefore deserve to win and I certainly have no issue with long periods without silverware. I have been there from 71 to 79 and from 79 to 87 stood and then sat and sang my heart out regardless, as I still do. I do however take issue when I feel that we have not given ourselves the chance to win when it was entirely attainable and I have that feeling about the FA Cup in recent years.
I am not stretching the facts above and I could in some instances have made further examples of players being rested than I in fact did. Of course it is down to priorities and I think that is where I have perhaps differed from my fellow supporters in the past. For example many did not understand my anger last February when Wenger rested so many players on the Saturday in the FA Cup versus Blackburn as they like Wenger saw the Bayern fixture on the Tuesday as far more important. Well I am a great believer in momentum and the fixture prior to Blackburn the team had pulled together to cone through an incredibly tough game away at Sunderland, largely with 10 men victorious. Half that team was then rested and we lost to Blackburn and then to Bayern.
I could select other examples but perhaps I will just rest on 2010 as I feel this is the most poignant. A head of our FA Cup tie away at Stoke on the 24th of January, Arsenal were on a 10 game unbeaten run in domestic football. A run that had taken the Gunners from 4th position in the Premier League, 11 points off the top side in early December, to 2nd in the league only 2 points behind the leaders Man United. After fielding a heavily weakened side versus and losing we lost our momentum and gained 1 point for the ensuing 3 matches, which included defeats to our rivals United and Chelsea. So from the 24th January to the 7th February were found ourselves out of the cup and low on confidence having been high on confidence. Worse still having been 2 points of top spot in 2nd, in just over 2 weeks after the FA Cup battering at the Britannia, in 3rd, 9 points off the lead and any title aspirations had vanished.
So if we combine my desire for us to truly take the FA Cup seriously and my belief in momentum, given the forthcoming run of fixtures, now is not the time to mess around with team selection. Now is the time for Arsene to select the team he genuinely feels riis at present is his strongest and if they overcome Everton them to stick with that team. Last March he did so against Bayern away and went on a long run of successful results. Forget the personalities, forget the favourites, his or fans, forget the price tags and select on the players form, their desire to succeed and how hard they work this week in training after Saturday’s disappointment.
2014 is Arsenal’s year for the FA Cup, if we take it seriously and if the team selected win and win well versus Everton that is the 11 who play against Spurs at White Hart Lane. If you really must rest or rotate Arsene do so on Tuesday as that is the least significant of the 3 games. Progressing to the FA Cup Semi Final is vital to the Arsenal supporters and now a win in the Seven Sisters Road is crucial not just to stay in the title race but to keep the gap between top 4 and 5th.
Momentum is the key as I am sure any player or ex-player will agree. Liverpool, Chelsea and after yesterday at Wembley, now Man City again have it. Arsenal it seems do not and they need to find their mojo again swiftly. Tipsontits.co.uk have unsurprisingly made City favourites for the domestic cup double and we all know the first team team in history to achieve that unique feat. Let’s keep it that way shall we?
Come on Arsene time to put your Magic Hat back on and take us back to Wembley – You can do it!
Come on guys tell me this is not want we all want to be singing in May – She wore………
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