With the Cup final being the only remaining top flight game of the season, it’s no surprise that all eyes are turning towards it, and the club themselves are no different from anyone else in that regard, yesterday releasing a lovely looking infographic which outlines some interesting facts about Arsenal and the FA Cup. Apparently we’ve won six of ot the last ten FA Cups along with that lot, so whilst it’s hard to argue our overall history, theirs is equally strong in this competition too, which doesn’t exactly fill me with any more confidence than before I looked at the infographic.
I don’t know why I do it you know; looking at statistics to find some kind of cosmic football karma that should guarantee me, you and us happiness come eight o’clock on Saturday evening. Quite simply, there is nothing in historical data that you can look at which gives you that insight and even though I wrote a proper piece yesterday about being terrified that football karma is coming back to bite us from 2002, I know that it’s a load of old tosh really. There is certainly only one player on both teams who was even on the books (Terry) back in 2002 and the only other consistent is Arsène from our side, so there really should be no link you can draw. But I’m an irrational football fan and worse than that, I’m a pessimistic one too, because in my head I think that by somehow always thinking the worst the fates will smile on me and cut me a break.
Of course we know it doesn’t work like that and we know that what we say and do has no impact on how the players perform on the pitch. We’re totally powerless to impact on an individual level and so all we can do is sit, watch and hope that the chips fall in our favour on big occasions like tomorrow.
We’ve already had the team news from both sides and as if it wouldn’t have been hard enough with our strongest XI, I read a piece yesterday which said Chelski have absolutely no concerns in their whole squad. Imagine the novelty of that, eh? I don’t think we’ve had a fully fit squad since 2005. But here we are on the verge of a cup final wondering if the manager can even field a formation of players that he wants to, because quite simply we might not have enough bodies.
I don’t know if the players will be training today or whether Arsène will have told them all to spend the day relaxing, preparing their bodies for tomorrow and not undertaking any strenuous activities, but if they are training I hope somebody snaps Mustafi and Gibbs alive and well today, because right now some good news on that front would be an absolute touch. We could do with both being available because it at least gives Wenger the option for three at the back if both can play. I’m sure both will want to play, but right now they’re doubts and with the GRTP for head injuries and the club needing to be responsible for player wellbeing, they need to think about player health before any personal assertions from either suggesting that they are fit and available for tomorrow.
I suspect Arsène will leave it until the last minute on Mustafi. With Gibbs I feel like we can survive without providing Mustafi is fit, because we can have a back three of Mustafi, Holding and Mertesacker, which would give Monreal the chance to continue his excellent form at wing back. But if Mustafi is out it means Monreal will certainly have to play at centre half and that would mean somebody coming in at full back as a square peg in a round hole. That’s when Arsène might go back in to 4-2-3-1 and whilst it worked earlier in the season, my worry is that the players may have lost their own confidence when playing there. They took some beatings towards the end of that formations life and having heard a few of the players talking about how this new formation is something they’ve all bought in to, I can’t see a return to four at the back being a good one, which is ironic given that it is with that formation that we had our best run of the season in being undefeated for 19 games.
I guess it just goes to show you the impact of psychology in football. The players are reacting to a new formation and feel it’s a reason for their good form. So naturally they feel more confident. So taking that away from them in a formation change – whilst eminently logical if you don’t have the players for the formation – has consequences for their overall belief and if you’re starting off a game on that footing, then it’s really not the basis for success in a cup final.
So from my perspective I have a desparate hope that some kind of ‘Mustafi ok, Gibbs looking also fine for the final’ Tweet by one of the club’s media mouthpieces, would be grand.
We’re gonna need all the help we can get.
Righto, off for another day, as work and sleep are the only things standing in my way from a date with Wembley.
Catch you all tomorrow.