It’s nearly here folks, time is almost upon us and although it’s not the FA Cup final but the seminar Wembley, I’m still mega excited. Imagine what I’ll be like tomorrow when it actually comes around to kick off?
We have already had the prologue from Arsène; possibly eager to cocoon the players in a hotel today so that they safe prepared well with him observing, so the pre match presser was bought forward to Thursday just like a normal away game. The good news from yesterday’s media briefing is that – Arteta and The Ox aside – the squad is fully fit, healthy and able ahead of the clash against Reading tomorrow evening. The headache – one I think I’ll ponder more on tomorrow than today – is who will start and what will be the key challenges we face. That’s one Arsène has admitted he hasn’t decided yet, other than Szczesny, but I suspect he’s scribbled down some of his options already despite what he’s been saying to the media.
Arsène was at pains to stress that he has two competitive goalkeepers and that Wojciech had trained hard and needs to be kept fresh by playing in the cup games. I can see what he’s saying and he’s certainly staying consistent to his policy of ‘keepers in cup competitions (bar the Championd League, of course), but it’s fairly obvious how much Szczesny’s stock has fallen since Southampton. Talk of his exit may have been fuel for the fan discussion online, but it’s not something Arsène would entertain and right it’s probably best if it’s parked until the season ends.
Right now the squad needs to prepare for Reading in a way that will see us get through. Again, Arsène was asked about how his team would approach the tie and sensibly enough, he spoke of needing focus, not understimating a Reading side with nothing else to play for and ensuring that they stay focused. The talk is right, the action needs to mirror it, because we have recent history of underperformance in the cup against lower league teams. You only have to look at last season’s FA Cup semi to see a case in point.
But we’re in a better shape mentally this season, in terms of league standing, confidence and playing staff. Arsène will have the pick of the litter tomorrow and he has admitted that it will be tough choosing, talking about the confidence and ‘luxury’ that a winning run gives all of the players, with that the hardest thing in football to maintain. He’s right and he’s also right when he says how quickly that can be broken. Defeat tomorrow – not beyond the realms of possibility – and the season may just feel like a laughing gas balloon full has just popped. I don’t even want to countenance that just yet. I’d rather focus on the hope of an Arsenal win, Villa win, then Arsenal cup final win. Yep, I’ll have that thanks, if you’ll please.
I was also hoping to read on the official site, a tactical breakdown of Reading from Le Coq, who played against them for Charlton during his loan spell. Unfortunately, like most footballers who have had all personality media-trained out of them, we got little else but a few generic sound bites (“in the FA Cup you never know”, etc etc), so there’s not really much more to gleam from what’s on the official site at the moment. Now we just have to play the waiting game…
…Are we there yet?