I do like FA Cup weekend. Especially when a load of teams I would traditionally ‘fear’ have been knocked out in the previous round. Now, if only Preston and Palace can do me a big flavour and do the business against United and Liverpool respectively, then the FA Cup will become super awesome.
Of course, we still have to navigate Middlesborough and they will be very tough to break down, as well as full of confidence and fancying an upset. But at this moment in time, before a game is kicked, we are apparently favourites and I like that. I like that because on paper – again, at this moment in time – there is nobody that I would fear us playing either home or away in the competition. Obviously United or Liverpool away will be two of the toughest games, but hopefully we won’t have to face them if we can knock out Boro *touches wood for Boro win and not facing the aforementioned teams away*
Yesterday Arsène faced the media and thankfully, after hearing that Karanka has said that Boro won’t be a surprise, he was equally expressive in assuring the assembled hacks that we won’t be taking the Teesiders likely. There’ll be more on thoughts of how we’ll line up tomorrow, but with injury news confirmed today as Alexis, Ramsey, Ox, Diaby (!?!), Arteta and Debuchy still the major absentees, I think we’ll see Arsène not take too many chances with the first XI tomorrow. He did confirm that Gabriel was close to his debut and one would expect that to be tomorrow too.
What I did think was interesting yesterday, was the way in which Arsène talked up Szczesny, confirming he’d start tomorrow. Of course, you’re you always expect him to be uber positive about his players, but he seemed to my untrained eyes to be especially so with the Pole. I can’t give you any real insight other than gut feel, but I just wonder if this little spell out of the side has been Wenger’s way of motivating Wojciech again like he did with Fabianski previously, which will inevitably lead to Szczesny’s return to the side. The only probably Woj has, however, is that if tomorrow’s game goes how we all want it to go, he won’t have very much to do, so he won’t be able to force himself back into the first team. That said, I think Ospina will be one fatal mistake away from losing his place in the side, where as I think Szczesny would need a couple before being given the boot. Many will argue the Southampton game showed otherwise (he was good against West Ham only a few days earlier), but I think that omission from the team had more to do with his puffing than his ‘keeping.
So he might have to wait a little longer before he gets his chance again after this weekend methinks.
The other major talking point from the presser yesterday was the bumper TV deal. Arsène rightly said that it will improve the strength of the league because teams will be able to pay more to players, as the Premier League passes on the most of the revenue hike on to the clubs. But whilst I can agree with the manager that it will increase the global brand of the competition, as well as the desire of players to play in this league, I can never see such massive figures as a good thing for the long term future of the game.
This deal feels like it has nothing but bad omens about it. For one thing, the TV companies are not going to pay such vast sums for the rights to show football, only to absorb those extra costs and not pass them on to the consumer. It’s just not going to happen. There might be a price freeze for a year, but that will be an exercise in PR, rather than a genuine desire to keep the cost of watching football so low.
It means that as a season ticket holder, I’ll probably be paying upwards of £2,500 per year for a combination of Sky, BT and my season ticket. That’s a massive chunk of my disposable income and means I have to make sacrifices in other parts of my life just to be able to watch my team. The alternative is streaming, which I haven’t done to date because I have the world’s worst personal laptop, but it will probably become something I have to consider more and more as time goes on.
Should some of the cash be passed on to consumers in the form of reducing Matchday ticket prices? Of course. But whilst the clubs already have customers paying for tickets at the moment, why would they reduce them? The answer is of course that they wouldn’t. So the Matchday experience will remain an expensive day out. I dread to think what it would be if I had a couple of sons who had season tickets.
Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about this any more, because it’s depressing me. Let’s hope Palace can cheer me up later today. Cheerio folks.