04 January 2015

The FA Cup: Destiny or Distraction?

The third round of the FA Cup kicks off on Sunday, and we've got a reunion on our hands, but the that larger question that looms is just how to make of this match. The symbolism is strong; after all, it was a 3-2 win over Hull back in May that brought a welcome end to our long trophy drought. There was a time when winning the FA Cup meant almost as much as winning the Prem, but those days, like Fergie, are long-gone. Without casting further aspersions on the FA Cup, we at Arsenal do have to ask ourselves just what we're going on about. Will we be content to win this bit of silverware but settle for the annual fight for fourth place? The way things are going so far, this year's answer might have to be none other than a qualified 'yes'.

Why is it that I had to choose an image of a Gunner getting injured?
To be clear, I love the FA Cup. It sets aside the various divisions of English football and throws open the doors for anyone to win it. Even if it's true that a Prem side usually does win it, there's something noble in the idea that a Championship or League 1 squad could win it. It's the world's oldest cup competition, at least in football. True, it's been a while since anyone outside the Prem has won it, but the FA Cup still has something to offer to all comers. Witness our own glory back in May when winning the FA Cup brought a welcome-end to a nearly decade-long drought.  If that's not enough to convince you of just how much the FA Cup still matters, revisit the 2013 FA Cup final, when Wigan, on its way back down to the Championship, defeated Man City, who had just won the Prem a season before (and would again a season later).

This is no mug's game. Sure, Prem titans could win it just by winning as few as six matches, but the democratic feel persists. A year ago, after all, Arsenal faced off against Tottenham in the third round, a high-profile, high-intensity derby that might just exceed the feel of a "regular" NLD.

However, given Arsenal's current form and prospects, this year's FA Cup already offers a mixed feeling. Whereas a season ago we were still flying high in the Prem and could perhaps afford to treat the FA Cup as a bit of a distraction, this time through feels altogether different. Last January, it felt as if we had legimitate designs on winning the Prem. We held a comfortable if not commanding lead, and the FA Cup felt like a bit of luxury, a bit like the icing on the cake (if we could be permitted to count eggs before they hatch...). That our path to the final was paved by the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton, as well as cup-holders Wigan, was invigorating, but it stood in stark contrast to our decline in the Prem, where we fell from first to fourth almost as if it was fated.

That contrast, again, stands out. As it currently stands, winning the FA Cup might very well be our best and only chance at winning silverware. The Prem looks to be out of reach. The Champions League, even given our favorable draw against Monaco, looks to be a fool's errrand. Should we then focus our energies on the FA Cup? This is not an either-or question, as we'd be adding a half-dozen fixtures to the list, but we could put all of our eggs in this basket and still come away empty-handed, whether it be against Hull on Sunday or against, for example, Man City or Leeds in just a few weeks.

Would winning the FA Cup be enough of a salve if we were to fall out of the top four in the Prem? It's hard to foresee us rising any higher than fourth, and on current returns, we'll be in a rabid dogfight for that fourth spot unless at least one or more among Southampton, Tottenham, and West Ham falter. What do we do? Should we set our sights on the FA Cup, hoping to win it and in the process gloss over our failure to make any kind of meaningful headway in the Prem, or will we make a few crucial signings who, joining a squad coming back to full-strength, can launch a stirring charge towards the top of the Prem?

Last season, we sat atop the Prem more than half the season only to "settle" for winning the FA Cup. This time through, we might have to write off the Prem in order to focus on the FA Cup. Should we win that bit of silverware, would it be enough to make the season a success?


  1. Derrick MansfieldSunday, 04 January, 2015

    Looks like the FA Cup is the best we can hope for, but will that be enough to keep Wenger on? Do we want him to stay, that's the question.

  2. Sadly there is very little left to hope for as things stand. Little by little the entire season seems to be eroding before our eyes. Within a few weeks I suspect we will learn that Arsene has determined there are no good players worth buying and, anyway, the team is good enough to compete. By then any quality players will have gone elsewhere and all we might end up with is Kim version 2015. While another FA cup would be great it might only encourage Arsene and the Board to maintain their course even if it means we crash into the iceberg.

    It is sad that we have to hope for a loss in a competition or rather, not winning, in order to improve the team, but then again a complete cleansing is often the only way to start anew. Hopefully Arsenal can maintain the best of their roster when the end comes and that they do not ask to be transfered when they realize the 7 years of famine ( I am getting a bit biblical) have arrived albeit without 7 years of plenty.

  3. What team/player/fan would not want to win the FA cup?Same as what team/player/fan would not want to finish in the PL top 4 every year?.
    Oh yes only when The Arsenal qualify in 4th spot is it ridiculed by the media and turned into a negative and thrown at our club as an insult how dare Arsenal and Wenger do this every year.
    As for the FA cup win, one of the most exciting finals in years yet hardly a ripple of appreciation in the media,the only thing to registerwith the media they could no longer BANTER us with nothing won in 9 years what about all the other teams that had won nothing during the same period.
    As for Wenger out!to be replaced by???? name somebody,yep nobody.
    Wenger picked this club up from going nowhere under Graham and bright young thing Rioch,re built the team and gave us a stadium worthy of any top flight european club,and all financed by The Arsenal,unlike some clubs who have stadiums offered on a plate from taxpayers money are even part financed out of public funds.
    This season has again seen the team ripped apart thru injury the midfield
    decimated and the central defensive postions disjointed by injury(yes we went into the season light in central defence having offloaded TV).
    It is amazing we are still in contention for a top 4 finish at this stage of the season!
    The one thing that club or manager are unable to control is financial doping of football,stand up chelsea and city,how can we compete with these clubs?
    oh yes man united are trying and spent £145million and got where exactly?

    The fact is Mr Wenger will leave the club sooner rather than later and the Wenger out fans(mostly non Arsenal supporters)will get their wish.It will be a sad day indeed and the future who knows could be bleak,yes we could have saked Wenger and gone for david moyes...................


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