Last night’s League Cup games passed off without too much incident, with United, City and those Tiny Totts progressing, to set up a series of mouthwatering reserve games between most of the bigger clubs left in the competition.
Except us. We’ve got Reading at home, which you’d expect us to win and if the tickets are like they usually are, I might book myself in for that one. I don’t normally go to those games, on the personal justification that Arsenal is already an expensive obsession, so adding an additional layer of cost in these cup games isn’t something I’ve previously been bothered with.
It’s changed in the last year or so though, because suddenly lots of teams are only playing one or two kids, with the rest of the team brick prising those who will realistically get at least a dozen to 20 games a season. It makes the competition a little more interesting to the average attendee and although it’s fun to see what the next generation of kids are that come through, when that team is almost entirely populated with youngsters it never quite has the same vibe for me.
There’s also the whole debate about whether playing all the kids together does them any good. I think Tuesday night’s display against Forest shows that you’re far better picking a small selection of youth players and then letting them experience life with a selection of the first team squad, than chucking them all together to play against seasoned pros.
So a win against Reading In October and we’ll be in the hat for the quarter final. I’m not going as far as to say this is a foregone conclusion, but when you see Spuds against Liverpool, Chelski against West Ham and United versus City, on paper our route to the next round looks a lot easier than any of those guys. I was listening to the radio yesterday and the betting chap on there said Arsenal were sixth or seventh favourites, but a quick check on a couple of sites today seemed to suggest we were now second favourites. It shows that betting can be seen as a mugs game, but always look at the odds as some sort of mini comfort blanket, because the purpose of bookies is to minimise risk and right now they think that we’ve got a decent chance.
We’ll ignore the fact that we haven’t won it since the early 90s though!
That was before the time of Arsène and for many young fans, they’ll have never seen us do it, but I remember it well. It would be good to lift it again. Just to get to Wembley again would be grand.
But all of that takes a back seat today, as we celebrate 20 years of Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager and whether you like, love, loathe him as of right now, there’s no way you can’t appreciate what he has delivered to Arsenal during his reign. The man has won us leagues, cups and delivered consistency and this piece by Amy Lawrence is a must read, I think.
For me, it doesn’t matter how much he has frustrated me in recent years, or how much I think it probably is time for a new chapter at Arsenal, I will always be grateful to the man. He’s delivered us so much and helped me to some happy memories, so when he does call time, I’ll remember those more than the angst and irritation.
It’s funny actually, because I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but for me I always remember the negative stuff more when I think about the present and what’s happening this season, but when I think back on my life supporting Arsenal, it’s the good memories that burn brightest. I remember being at uni in 2002 and coming back from a Uni bar having just seen us beat United at Old Trafford to win the league. I was in Lancaster and I had my Arsenal scarf around my shoulders and I remember thinking that nothing could bring me down from the high.
It was only the stinking hangover the next day that got close. But that memory will be with me forever, walking back from that pub to my room, singing as many Arsenal songs as I can remember.
Those are the types of memories that Arsène has helped to provide me, and I am certainly thankful of that.
So even if you don’t like him, don’t want him as a manager and class yourself as a devout ‘Wenger Out’-ist, try to use today as a bit of reflection on the great history that we’ve had. Then hopefully you’ll smile.
Catch you tomorrow.