If you have listened to this week’s Arsecast then you will know that the FA Cup draw has stirred old feelings for me. The moment we got past Swansea I was praying for the God of tickets to smile on me, and luckily he has. You don’t need to tell me how privileged I am. A cursory search on social media platforms will inform you these briefs are much, much rarer than rocking horse droppings.
I haven’t been to Brighton since they decided we had become too much of a nuisance in the North Stand down there and put all of us on the open East Terrace at the old Goldstone Ground. It was an old-school ground but given the location it was always a much-anticipated fixture. From 1979 to 1983 the Seagulls enjoyed a spell in the top flight. Having met them just once prior to then (an FA Cup tie in 1935) we actually played them five times in their first season up and knocked them out of both domestic cup competitions.
Since Brighton were relegated we have drawn them just once more, an FA Cup tie in 1988, when Kevin Richardson and Perry Groves scored to put us through by the best of three. In the years that have followed Brighton have almost gone to the wall and bounced back. The match will also stir memories for Liam Brady, briefly manager on the south coast and instrumental in the beginning of their revival.
We will be without Thomas Vermaelen, injured against West Ham, as well as Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin, but both Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky return to the squad. Word is breaking that Jack Wilshere will have the captain’s armband. Where he features, and who plays alongside him in midfield, could tell us much about our approach to this competition. The proximity of the Liverpool home game may lead to a little more rotation than we might otherwise have expected in the competition that provides our best chance of a trophy this season. Arsene sought to assure in his pre-match press conference.
“It has a big importance to me because it is our next game and we are looking for consistency.”
Of course he said a lot more as the assembled journos pressed him on the transfer market. Those comments are being dissected elsewhere but his message changes from day to day. He could be preparing us for a final week of inaction in the window, but equally he will want to keep the identity of our targets a secret for very good reasons. Remember him famously dismissing the Cazorla rumours before Santi signed on the dotted line?
Back to Brighton, and the ‘holic pound. This isn’t likely to be a stroll. The hosts have knocked Newcastle out of the competition two seasons running. They like to get the ball down, keep possession, and attack. If that is their main focus tomorrow then we may find ourselves able to turn it on as a counter-attacking force. However Gus Poyet seems to be a shrewd tactician and may just instill a little reservation into his charges. It could be in their interest to make the opening phases more physical in order to knock us out of our stride. Watch for Liam Bridcutt breaking play up in front of the back four. If they can deny us space in our attacking third then literally anything could happen.
I have to believe we will match their early endeavours and get our best game going the further the tie progresses. I’m returning to an old favourite, 2-1 to the Arsenal for my wager this weekend. Don’t forget if you are having a bet that every tenner punted on Gunners Gaming gets you a chance in the draw for four executive box seats for the match against Aston Villa, subject to conditions. Click on the banner above for more details. Thanks.
If you are down in Sussex for the game and see an old grey-haired boy, buy him a pint. Four thousand travelling Gooners and an enthusiastic home crowd will make for a fantastic atmosphere. If the God of streams is watching I pray he gives the rest of you a commentary-free opportunity. Turn the volume up and listen to what the FA Cup means to the supporters. It’s so close now I want to be there.
Have a great one, ‘holics.
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