FA Cup – Stoke City Next

After our 4-2 win at the Grove against Bolton Wanderers hast Wednesday night propelled us to the top of the Premier League on goal difference, albeit with second-place Chelsea now having a game in hand due to bad weather postponements, we now need to turn our attention to the FA Cup.
It seems no round of the famous old trophy is complete these days without a discussion of the continued relevance or status of the FA Cup. I’m probably in a small minority amongst Gooners but I still love the old dear. I imagine that Arsčne’s team selection will in part be conditioned by the fact that the game has been moved to Sunday to suit ITV who are showing the game live. This gives the players a day’s less rest before a critical League match away at Villa Park.
I accept that the FA Cup will always be third in our priorities whenever we’re in the Champions League. The question is how far back in third should it be? I think it should be very close behind the Premier League and Champions League. I don’t ever want to see the sort of supine surrender we saw at Old Trafford in the FA Cup a few seasons ago when nine thousand travelling members of the Gooner Nation had money taken off them under false pretences.
Arsčne has already announced that Abou Diaby and Bacary Sagna will take no part in the game on Sunday. The ever-persistent injury gremlins have hit Diaby who is apparently out for both Sunday and the visit to Villa Park. Sagna is carrying a shoulder injury. That Yoda-like little gremlin is still up in the roof of the Grove cackling, “Continue to be hit by persistent injuries you will be! Yes!” 
Arsčne put out a stronger side at the Boleyn Ground in the last round than I was expecting. A pleasant surprise. With all the injuries and the mega-month we have in front of us in the League and Europe it’s an open question what side he will pick on Sunday. I can see either Sol Campbell playing with Big Bad Bill Gallas pushing out to full-back or Mikaël Silvestre at full-back, given that Emmanuel Eboué is still in Angola with the Ivory Coast team at the African Cup of Nations. They play Algeria in the quarter-finals in Cabinda (site of the machine-gun assault on the Togo team) on Sunday. Likewise Alex Song will be in the Cameroon squad to face Egypt on Monday in Benguela.
If either or both teams go through to the semi-finals then they won’t return until after the final and bronze medal matches to be played next weekend 30-31 January.  If we draw on Sunday the replay against Stoke City would take place during that week and we face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge the following Sunday in a monster match in the League.
Whatever team we put out on Sunday I hope we’re either through or at least still in the competition come the final whistle. I’m not one of those who’d rather go out than face a replay. Much as we need to keep an eye on forthcoming fixtures I’ve always thought the way to build a successful season is by complete focus on the next game. On the injury front we’re facing even more bad news with Kieran Gibbs needing surgery on his metatarsal. We never seem to catch a break do we? We can only hope to keep ourselves in contention until at least some of the injured players return. It was good see Gaël Clichy back in the side last Wednesday night. He returned slightly quicker from injury than I had expected.
I expect to see Lukasz Fabiański in goal on Sunday. He’s certainly earned another Cup appearance with his faultless display against the ‘Appy ‘Ammers in the third round, including two fine saves. Manuel Almunia again looked far too tentative on a couple of occasions against the Trotters last Wednesday, although he did make a fine diving save right down low in the corner from a Bolton free-kick in the first half. I’m not sure that Fabiański is the permanent answer for us but he must be knocking hard on the door for Almunia’s spot at the moment.
Last Wednesday proved yet again that we’re far too vulnerable to giving silly goals away. The first goal for Bolton was pub team defending yet again. I’ve absolutely no idea what was going through Denilson’s mind for the foul which led to the penalty for the Trotters’ second goal. A definite and very stupid penalty. We’ll have a better idea whether we’ll still be in contention for the League post our massive run of games against Manchester United and Liverpool at home and Aston Villa and Chelsea away. Survive that lot and still be in contention and we’ll be in with a shout. Assuming that is we don’t pick up many more injuries. If we do it won’t be long before the Gunnersaurus is in contention for a game!
I happen to think we’re still not quite good or consistent enough to win the League, although we’re a better side than we were last season. I fervently hope I’m wrong. For the moment though, let’s concentrate on the FA Cup on Sunday.

Have something to tell us about this article?
Let us know