Looking ahead to Man City – and back to Cardiff Cup Finals

Assuming Manchester United can grab all 3 points against Queens Park Rangers, Manchester City will have to come away from the Emirates with a win, if they are to have any hope of stopping their rivals from retaining the Premier League title.

QPR go to Old Trafford on Sunday in the lunchtime kick-off and based on current form – and even with QPR’s recent results at home – you’d have to be a mad man to suggest that Mark Hughes’ team will come away with anything.

Nevertheless, if QPR can defy the odds and do end up getting a positive result in Manchester, Roberto Mancini’s side must leave North London with 3 points. If they fail to do so then – for me at least – the league will be all but over.

Despite spending insane amounts of money on players (and Edin Dzeko), it’s likely Man City will go into our game 8 points behind the league leaders – assuming that there are no surprises in Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off.

So after their miserable exits from the Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup, it looks like Man City will – somehow – end up empty-handed once again.

Since their mega-rich owners came in, they’ve won just 1 FA Cup. If this is still the case come May time, then I can’t see Roberto Mancini sticking around for too much longer – not that I think he’ll get a final say.

It would be crazy to think that the owners at Eastlands are satisfied with Mancini, after having invested so much money into a project that’s ultimately proven to be a failure. It’s a long-term project of course, and I have no doubt they’ll win the league within the next few years, but it’s clear that the Italian isn’t steering the club in the right direction – even though, arguably, he’s been given one of the easiest jobs in football.

But with that said, if Mancini were to go, I think that would be a bad thing for the rest of the title chasers. Just imagine what Manchester City could accomplish with a manager who doesn’t possess the characteristics of a high school drama teacher?

Anyway, moving back to Arsenal…

I think everyone went a little over the top after the loss at QPR. It’s a little disappointing to think that some fans change their opinions every single week too When we can win seven Premier League matches in a row, everything is fine – and rightly so. But once we lose one game – just one – we return to being the worst team in the league again.

I know the performance at Loftus Road last Saturday was poor (putting it nicely) but I can’t get my head round when I see certain fans being so bi-polar. If I acted like that at Arsenal each week, I don’t think I could survive.

Anyway… after being fortunate enough to watch the Invincibles side of 2004, maybe our expectations of this current team are too high?

Go back a few years more and take a look at our double winning sides of 1998 and 2002. At times, these teams were absolutely unstoppable. I was born in 1991, so fortunately for me, my first proper years of football-going saw me make it just in time to see the spectacular season of 1997/98.

Of course, I have been going regularly ever since. So like many of you, I’ve been there for the good times and I’ve been there for the bad times.

I was there in Cardiff for the 2001 FA Cup final against Liverpool. After Owen scored his second, I was utterly miserable. I told my dad I don’t want to watch any more. I wanted to get out of the stadium and start the long journey back home. However, he was there at Anfield ’89, so he wasn’t moving anywhere – not that I blamed him. So we ended up staying until the end and clapped the side as they went up to receive their runners-up medals.

As we walked away from the ground and onto our coach, he reminded me that this was my real bad moment in football. I was obviously too young to go to Copenhagen the season before, so this was my first cup final that I had ever seen live – and we lost!

He then also told me that “to appreciate the good, you have to suffer the bad – it can’t be all good times”.

A year later, we went to Cardiff again and won 2-0 against Chelsea. Another year later, we made the trip again and we beat Southampton 1-0. And two years after that, we got totally played off the park by Manchester United, only to go and beat them on penalties.

What my dad told me in 2001 is something that will live on with me forever – not that I knew believed him when he told me. And maybe that’s what some fans are feeling like today, after having so many bad days in recent years?

I just think some fans need to remember just how lucky they were to be there between 1998 and 2004 – especially the younger generation who were fortunate enough to have been brought up into supporting a team that used to win trophies for fun.

Whether you agree with me, I’ll leave that up to you. But considering how my dad saw Tottenham win the league before Arsenal, as well as waiting until SIXTEEN years before he saw Arsenal win a league championship (and another sixteen years after that!!!), I think that we sometimes forget just how lucky we have been.

Looking ahead to Sunday’s game itself, Arsenal have no new injury problems. Francis Coquelin and Abou Diaby are still a week away from fitness, while Per Mertesacker and Jack Wilshere still remain out. For City, Sergio Aguero is expected to return after shaking off a foot injury. Joleon Lescott is back in contention, while Samir Nasri returns and is expected to start against his old club. And despite Roberto Mancini insisting that he will never play for the club again, Carlos Tevez should be on the Man City bench once again.

Come on you gunners!

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