I might as well just wheel out my â€˜I love the FA Cupâ€™ article again, mightnâ€™t I? I do love the FA Cup. Did I ever mention that?
And now weâ€™re approaching the business end of it â€“ win todayâ€™s fifth round and itâ€™s the quarter-finals. That has the word finals in it. Maybe at this point I should throw in a gem of a stat, one that youâ€™ve not heard before. How about: Weâ€™ve not been in a cup final since 2005, which incidentally was the last time we won a trophy! Come back again, youâ€™re welcome.
Not that I have an especially fond memory of the quarter-finals. We lost at that stage rather tamely to Man Utd two seasons ago, 2-0. I just re-read my match report and itâ€™s a model for despondency, so I wonâ€™t link to it. And one of my first (unhappy) memories of the quarter-finals was losing to Watford in 1987. My guess is that we hadnâ€™t been that far for a few years because I was massively giddy about it, but Luther blooming bloody Blissett scored a controversial late winner and that was that.
I also remember a few years later, in 1991, we were taking on Cambridge Utd at the same stage and a whole bunch of us â€“ about ten, because you could do that then â€“ rolled up at about 2.15pm but it was a lock-out and we couldnâ€™t get in. So instead we went ten-pint bowling at Finsbury Park. It was chaos by about the fifth pint.
Anyway, Iâ€™m waffling. This is a big game for us for all the reasons I donâ€™t need to remind you of, but of course it comes just three days before a more prestigious game against Bayern. Like it or not, thatâ€™s the hierarchy and Iâ€™m sure Wengerâ€™s team will reflect that. I wouldnâ€™t risk players who are not 100% fit like Jack Wilshere â€“ especially given his overall importance â€“ but Iâ€™m not sure Iâ€™d rest too many, really. I think we have to go for both but I do accept itâ€™s a balancing act. But the effects of a disjointed performance and a cup exit on the players, the fans, on pretty much everyone, do not bear thinking about. It would undo all the good work of the last few weeks.
Blackburn have a new manager, only their third of the season, and he seems to brought some stability to a club that desperately needs it. Theyâ€™ve not lost since 19th January so we take them lightly at our peril.
The looming presence of the Champions League does worry me though. On the one hand I love it and those nights are always memorable. Youâ€™re on a global stage. But on the other, its shadow looms over the games either side of it.
Focus gents, focus â€“ and come on you rip-roarers.