THE GAMBLE THAT FAILED

The final whistle went and Arsenal had become winners of the FA Cup for a record time – Arsene Wenger had just become the most successful manager in the history of the competition and the parade barriers were getting ready in North London.

It was a fantastic performance, full of heart. Welbeck ran his heart out and was outstanding, Mertesacker and Holding had their best game of the season with Per even being nominated as Man of the Match, it was a glorious day.

The FA Cup means something and those belittling it last summer and in three of the past four seasons will no doubt be using yesterdays exit in Nottingham as more flames to add to the ever growing fire.

When Arsenal lose a game, I’m usually disappointed but yesterday, saw anger, I was angry at the lack of performance, lack of heart but more so, the lack of depth on the bench.

Since Arsenal started playing regularly in the Champions League they had six group games (sometimes an additional two games to qualify) and the established players would have played the majority of those games. This season, playing the Europa League has meant, those players have played six / eight games less than they usually would. With the Premier League the main priority, the FA Cup in my opinion should be the next priority or at least until the later stages of the Europa League, when winning it becomes closer. I say that because at no stage, should Arsenal not be able to get into one of the top four places. This club should be going for titles so the top four should be a no-brainer, as it was for many years. We have a bigger financial potential (using an Arsene Wenger line) than Spurs and Liverpool and therefore should be just behind the Manchester teams and Chelsea, in theory anyway.

Even when Arsenal were going for league titles and trying to win the Champions League, I can’t recall a bench as weak as we saw at Forrest. I remember a game in the FA Cup years ago which was a bit tight and Arsene thought it was a good idea to freshen it up and called on two chaps named Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to come on. It was unfortunate to lose Giroud for this period but there should be more than enough non jaded bodies of quality to be in the bench to act as an insurance policy.

When people say the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be, I tend to smile because for me it’s the best domestic cup competition in the world and I’m very proud to have the name of the team I support on top of the list of winners. Going out has truly devastated me. I had the chance to speak to David Seaman earlier this season who confirmed the love for the FA Cup from when he was playing. It complimented the league nicely and winning the double was one of the best things any player could dream about.

The League Cup represents an opportunity to get back on track against a top team. I think Arsene Wenger’s hand may be forced and we’ll see a fairly strong, if not full strength, subject to availability, team especially with the sudden gaps in the calendar with no FA Cup football. The Europa League shouldn’t, on paper, cause any issues so our month of February is generally very light (you would expect Man City to beat Bristol City so even if we do not get through vs Chelsea, we may not have a game on the cup final weekend) with the potential of only four games, with two of them being in the Europa League in February. That goes to five if we get to the final but two still remain in the Europa League. The semi-final will not hide the disappointment of going out the FA Cup but represents an opportunity to move on and get to another Wembley final and I hope the club know how important that is.

This club is far too big to be out of both domestic cup competitions along with the title race and only having the Europa League to play for, isn’t it?

Akhil Vyas

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