09 March 2015

An FA Cup quarterfinal that feels, well, final...

If you can believe it, some among us are wondering whether we should win or lose on Monday or on 16 May when we again visit Old Trafford, as if it’s an either-or proposition or as if we’d be lucky to win just one. Where does this timidity come from? Yes, I know full-well that we haven’t beaten Man U in our last few outings [cough], but unlike the hand-wringers and knickers-twisters, I for one want the challenge of going into the belly of the beast. Enough with the cowering in the corner. There's more than enough quality in this squad to go into Old Trafford and emerge victorious.

A season ago, we saw off Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton, among others, on our way to winning the FA Cup. We’re the cup-holders. There’s some responsibility in that. Diving deeper, there are some who would suggest that the FA Cup is not what it once was. Without dredging up the more-sordid details, there was once a time when this competition carried a certain pageantry and pride. I won’t point fingers, but I will let the circumstances do the talking.

As to the match at hand, we might have relished (or dreaded, as is your wont) a chance to face off against a certain Dutch striker. Sadly (or, again, thankfully),  he won’t be available. Whether this is down to cowardice, diffidence, or other factors is for others to speculate upon. As for me, I would much prefer that van Persie be on the pitch, not for the spite-factor but for the tactics. He’s been openly accused of nicking a living, playing in a very desultory fashion, and I’d go one further to suggest that this has hindered a Man U attack that boasts the likes of Rooney, Falcao, and Di María, among others. Add in van Persie, and on paper, that’s an attack as fearsome as any in Europe. On the pitch, though, they’ve barely been as good as advertised. For all of Van Gaal’s vaunted second-half surges, we haven’t quite seen it—which is not to say we won’t. Then again, we’ve limped along without a fair few players for various stretches, and, without a summer spending-spree that would embarrass the drunkest of sailors, we’re a point above this Man U squad.

However, all bold talk aside, we do still have to go into Old Trafford—where we haven’t won since 2006—and prove our quality. Looking beyond that track-record, the more-pertinent issue is that Man U are surely eyeing up the FA Cup as the only silverware available to them this season. All the more reason to deny them. If nothing else, it would add further relish to defeating them a second time in as many visits in order to deny them a top-four finish. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.

LAST 3
  • Arsenal 1-2 Man U (22.11.2014)
  • Arsenal 0-0 Man  (12.02.2014)
  • Man U 1-0 Arsenal (10.11.2013)

FACTFILE
  • The two clubs first clashed on 13 October 1894—a 3-3 draw.
  • Arsenal have scored at least two goals in eight of their last nine FA Cup matches.
  • Man U have been winning at half time in their last five home-matches against Arsenal.

INJURIES
  • Diaby, Arteta, Debuchy, Wilshere, and Flamini are out; Gabriel is doubtful.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
  • Szczęsny; Gibbs, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Chambers; Coquelin, Cazorla; Alexis, Özil, Ramsey; Giroud.

PREDICTION Man U 1-2 Arsenal

This should be a tense, nervy affair—unless we play to the levels we're capable of playing, in which case, we can book passage the the semifinal.

This post first appeared at goonersphere.com and reappears here by permission.