Good morning from a – you guessed it – grey London. Where is the sun? Seriously, where is it?
As usual, Wenger had plenty to say yesterday ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup game against Huddersfield. The most interesting – usual deflected stuff about buying a defender aside – was what he said about our goalkeepers.
“At the moment Wojciech is No 1. He’s done nothing for me to take him out”.
Of course, in typical Wenger way he added some ambiguity by saying “at the moment”, which could mean, ‘while Fabianski is injured’, in which case it’s rather less revelatory. But my guess is he meant it at face value, and it’s well merited too. I was chatting to Goodplaya yesterday and he pointed out we’ve now had three first-choice keepers this season. Incredible, really, but in the end Wenger has settled on the right one of the three.
Despite the history attached to this tie, my guess is we won’t be seeing a completely full Grove tomorrow, even if the official attendance isn’t far off. It looks like there are still tickets available to buy, and I’ve certainly seen more than you’d normally see bandied about on Twitter. It’s not hard to guess why this might be: it’s winter, money is tight, we’ve played a lot at home recently, we’re playing again on Tuesday, the match is at midday and is against lower league opponents. My view on the old jug has never changed: it’s a fantastic competition, in which you can draw anyone anytime, you can be taken to a replay, and as a knockout it provides you with the typical lickety-split on-pitch tempo. Compare and contrast, from an excitement point of view, with the Champions League group stages.
Having said that, compared to some sides, attendances for the FA Cup have held up fantastically at Arsenal in recent years, and it won’t be too far short tomorrow. It’s easy to take for granted the fact we get nearly or over 60,000 for all our home games, but it wasn’t ever thus. From the mid 80s when I started going to Arsenal, I can remember only 3 or 4 matches where there were over 50,000 packed in, and crowds of 25,000 were not unusual. The lowest we’ve ever had at the Emirates, I think, is 53,136 (thanks, Twitter!) That is pretty amazing.
More interesting is the number of away fans that are coming to the Emirates generally. There can’t have been more than about 250 Wigan fans here, and plenty of other sides have not taken up the full 3,000 allocation. Far fewer away fans are coming this season than in previous years, I would guess, though I have no empirical proof.
All the same – I can’t wait. There’ll be a good away crowd this time, and probably some balloons. Balloons are important. (Digression: It’d be nice to see a return to blow up terrace extras. Back in the 80s they were all the rage – I remember Grimsby fans with their Harry Haddocks. There are few things as surreal as thousands of blow-up haddocks fizzing around in unison).
Well, that’s about the size of it.