The magic of the cup, up for the cup, Wemberlee, wearing yellow ribbons â€“ here we are again on third round weekend, and I still love this competition to bits. Wenger Mark I loved it to bits too and was rather good at it â€“ four-times winner of it, and it should have been five given how we were mugged in 2001. But Wenger Mark II, as Goodplaya and Arseblog have pointed out, has a pretty poor record with one semi-final in seven years.
Playing weakened sides in this competition because it pays less than a higher league place, or the Champions League, sums up what I hate most about modern football. Itâ€™s the same argument that leads to Wenger saying that fourth is like a trophy, and if I ran a poll now on the blog asking whether the fans would prefer an FA Cup win or coming fourth, I suspect coming fourth would win â€“ meaning plenty of people agree with him. Where has winning for the glory of it gone?
Given how we blew a presentable chance to get to the semi-final of the Milk Cup, and how we continue to veer from decent to dismal, this yearâ€™s FA Cup has taken on an importance all of its own.
Trouble is, even with a strong side we have no real idea how Arsenal will approach the game, physically or mentally. If even Wenger is now questioning their desire â€“ I am still slack-jawed at that comment, if Iâ€™m honest â€“ then you know that the inconsistency is so ingrained itâ€™s practically tattooed. That it is crucial to the season, and possibly even to Wenger, seems rather clear to me.
In other news, the transfer window has sprung open, and in a classic Wenger bluff, our first moves are not incoming but outgoing. Chamakh has joined West Cham on loan, Djourou looks set for a loan to Hannover, Squillaci has been told he can go (itâ€™ll be a loan, letâ€™s not kid ourselves), and Arshavin is being touted around for a similar arrangement. It weakens the squad in terms of numbers, but not hugely in real terms â€“ those four players have started seven games between them (five in a competition that we are no longer in), and have combined league starts of zero. Thatâ€™s probably not far short of Â£200k, even Â£250k a week going nowhere.
Given how seriously we need to take the FA Cup, they wouldnâ€™t have started in that either, barring a plague of injuries, so freeing up some space in the squad and some money would make sense there, but only assuming that we sign some replacements. Other teams have hit the ground running on the transfer front, long ago identifying needy areas and striking early â€“ but we, characteristically, have hit the ground creeping. Maybe thatâ€™s a bit harsh, I dunno. Itâ€™s only 5th Jan.
Iâ€™m particularly interested to see how Chamakh gets on. Wenger has a long and marvellous history of only selling players when he has got all he can out of them â€“ Vieira, Henry, Overmars, Toure etc â€“ with some obvious exceptions in the shapes of van Persie, Fabregas, Cole. Should Chamakh be equally as poor at West Ham as he has been at Arsenal, nobody would be surprised. But if Allardyce can get something out of him â€“ even 75% of what we saw in late 2010 â€“ then itâ€™s a punt worth taking. My own view is that it depends how much he plays. If you played him ten times in a row, heâ€™d surely get better â€“ something he has not done for years with us (why that is, who knows).
I suspect he is a back-up though, and not much more. Andy Carroll is injured, and Modibo Maiga is off to the ACN, leaving them with Carlton Cole alone (I was reminded â€“ or informed of that by the Times here Â£). Good luck to him though. A decent spell there and we are more likely to be able to move him on in the summer.
Who knows what will happen. Come on you reds (or blues/purples).