It’s no secret that I love the FA Cup. Where others see a devalued competition that many clubs treat as a mere distraction, I see the opportunity for some journeyman players to take on their illustrious counterparts and occasionally triumph on the biggest day of their sporting lives. You only have to see the delight and excitement at full time to see that the old competition still retains a great deal of magic.
Of course, there are some that seek to cast it aside, United-Spurs later will be a battle of reserve teams, for example, and we deprioritised it last season at Old Trafford, a decision I disagree with to this day. But third round Saturday is still my favourite day of the footballing calender, and today’s fourth round is not far behind, especially as the potential for upsets is far higher.
Many seem to be assuming we can take ourselves out of that bracket, because a win over Cardiff tomorrow should be a formality. It is, after all, well documented that until Burnley beat the kids earlier this season, no Wenger side had lost to a team outside the top flight. But Cardiff reached the final last season, and are going well in the Championship, currently sitting in the playoffs after a ten match unbeaten run. Their defence is their strength, and any team fancies their chances of scoring against ours.
So it will be a tricky tie, and we shouldn’t just assume progress. Team selection will be very interesting indeed, especially with a big game against Everton coming just three days later.
On to transfer news, and the inevitable continuing of the Arshavin saga. Right now, it really feels like there is a lot of posturing going on. We are refusing to buckle to what we see as unreasonable demands, as it would send out the signal that other clubs can treat us the same way, Zenit are claiming that our offer is below the value of the player and are issuing time ultimatums, while the player is begging to leave having made his position at the club fairly untenable.
Realistically, we will not budge. Arshavin would take some time to adapt to the Premiership, and cannot play in Europe this season, so signing him now or in the summer would not make the greatest of differences. It would help, certainly, but it isn’t make or break for our season. By the time the summer rolls around, Zenit will have only one more transfer window to sell their star man before he can leave on a free, so they will hold even less cards than they do now.
And they know it. If they were refusing offers because they felt them underpriced, they would have just quietly rejected them. Instead, they know they have to sell in the coming months so are shouting from the rooftops, practically begging anyone else to get involved and raise the stakes. So far, it hasn’t worked, and if that continues they will be left with two choices: a) back down and accept our final offer, £12m plus up to £3m in clauses, or b) risk everything on getting a better deal in the summer.
To those who think we should cave to their demands, consider that they will become increasingly desperate as the year progresses, a fact that plays beautifully into our hands. We always run the risk of being usurped, but the player himself wants to join, and no-one else is playing Zenit’s game.
So they can issue all the ultimatums they like, but we won’t bite. And we shouldn’t.