11 January 2023

Guardiola "FRIGHTENED" of facing Arsenal!

After learning that Man City will have to face Arsenal in the FA Cup, a visibly concerned Pep Guardiola was quoted thusly: 

Arsenal frighten me...If you're not at your best, Arsenal overrun you. It should be a fantastic game because we are two very similar sides. They are a very bold, daring team, a side that forces you to defend very well. 

Okay, so that was him speaking after Barcelona drew Arsenal way back in the 2010 Champions League. Sorry to have deceived you there. Let's get to the actual preview.

Once the fourth round draw was announced, there was, of course, a lot of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing among the Gooner faithful, and for good reason. Although we lead Pep's rag-tag band of cast-offs and misfits by five points, there's this nagging sense that it's only a matter of time before eash side reverts to form, with us slipping on every banana skin and them crushing everyone like so many peeled grapes. However, we do have a decent history against City in this competition, having beat them 2-1 on our way to winning it all in 2017 and again 2-0...on our way to winning it all in 2020. It's a pity we don't have a chance at facing Chelsea in the final, come to think of it. There's always a fly in the ointment.

On the other hand, Prem results have offered somewhat less encouragement, but we'll leave that alone. We now know that we'll have three encounters with Pep's side, and this one may serve as an interesting laboratory in which to test things out. I'm not suggesting for a minute that we send out some young lambs to the slaughter in order to crash out and save our resources for the Prem and Europa League—far from it. Winning the FA Cup is a high priority, and it's a commitment to just six matches. We've played one, and the final comes after the Prem season has ended (although it does come just a few days before the Europa League final, complicating somewhat the treble we'll inevitably be winning.

There are some who wish we could have gotten a more-favourable draw against a smaller side, say Stevenage or Accrington Stanley or Tottenham. However, we ourselves know full well that pup art of the magic of the FA Cup comes through the David & Goliath match-ups that allow David to slay (or at least knock out) his Philistine foe. One of two ways of looking at this draw is to see ourselves as that David, and why not? History shows us that we've done it before.

The other way, of course, is to remind ourselves that sheen from the FA Cup trophy shines all the brighter for the foes you despatched on your way to winning it. Our path to winning those last two FA Cups took us past Man City and Chelsea (remember when they were relevant? Crazy days). That wondrous 2014 FA Cup, the one that ended our trophy drought, we had to get past Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton (back when they were relevant...ish) before facing somewhat-less large but no less tenacious Wigan and Hull. 2015 felt a little more like a cakewalk by contrast, with many fans having to look up some of our opponents (is it Reading like "feeding" or like "bedding"? Why do we say "Boro" when you're meant to say "Middes-bruh"? There are two clubs from Manchester?" and so on...). We've been through 2017 and 2020.

So we'll have get through Man City if we're going to get to the final. So be it. Arteta has shown that he has enough nous and cojones to go toe-to-toe with Guardiola in the past. In the past, he didn't have the squad he'll have for this clash. Pep himself has spoken glowingly of his former coneman's achievements, and that may reflect Pep's own narcissistic pride at creating this prodigy, but it may also betray a smidge of concern. We'll find out in a few weeks whether the student can defeat the master and, if we don't, we'll get another crack at that soon enough in the Prem.

On a last note, you may not have noticed, but this l'il blog of mine has put on its big-boy pants and moved to a proper domain. No more amateurish "blogspot" in the URL. I figured it was about time to take that step. Be proud of me.

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