Happy FA Cup third round Saturday folks.

It’s a shame really, because the third round weekend used to be one of the more fun weekends. You used to get yourself a home or away tie against another team you usually don’t play against, there would be tonnes of football on all the time (well, compared to most week’s of the season before the TV companies starting upping the number of matches), it’d be a bit of a novelty. I remember going to watch us play Farnborough at Highbury. Or going with the wife and Dave to Preston away on a foggy Saturday evening. It was different, it was fun, it was a switch up to the norm.

I love that football is more available if you’re not in the ground – I really do – but one of the consequences of that is that when there’s a game on the terrestrial channels like last night, I just wasn’t that fussed about watching it. 25 year’s ago I’d have even stomached 90 minutes of The Scum. But not now. It’s a bit like that song “Oh I wish it could be Christmas everyday” by Wizzard. If it was Christmas every day then it would feel as magical time of the year, you know?

So the fact that we’ve got Liverpool tomorrow at 4pm is a bit ‘meh’ to me. It doesn’t help that it’s one of the hardest ties we could have got and as Arteta admitted in his press conference yesterday and I got the feeling he probably felt the same, because when he was asked about it, he sounded a bit ‘meh’ when he said that we don’t really have a choice and both teams would have expected (and although he didn’t say it out loud, ‘hoped’) for something a little different.

He was asked about fitness updates and as usual we got nothing, but on Zinchenko he did say that there is another training session and the player is ‘progressing well’. I suspect he’ll be back in tomorrow. Then after that game it’ll be off to some warm weather training and then they can work out what to do when Zinny eventually breaks down again. It won’t be to play Tomiyasu as he’s off to the Asia Cup, it won’t be Timber, as he’s still miles away from being fit, but it might be Kiwior, even if that didn’t quite look as sound against Fulham last weekend. My thinking on that, however, is that he has hardly played and I don’t think he’s as bad in a left back role as some make out. He probably just needs game time and although that won’t come this weekend unless Zinchenko doesn’t make it, perhaps there might be some opportunities with Palace and Forest the next two league games after that. Of course I think if Zinchenko is fit then he starts, but as we’ve seen a few times since he joined us, he can’t really be relied on to string together 10 – 15 matches back-to-back, so we need to be ready to have Kiwior able to play and for me that means a fair bit of work on the training ground when the team fly off to Dubai after this weekend.

There have been a few noises on social media about the fact we’re looking for a left back, which I find weird unless Timber is 100% out until May, because it’ll mean when all are fit we have like six options there, but Arteta didn’t really say either way what sort of areas we’re looking at. He said it’s as much a possibility as it is us not signing anybody at all is a possibility. You get the feeling that the club are in a bit of a bind on the transfer front because of the FFP stuff; if it was a case of throwing money at the problem I think we might see some short term options like a Jorginho or a Trossard from last season, but the club can’t do that this time so I’d be interested to see what they come up with. Hopefully something because it feels like there isn’t some returning solutions that will suddenly stock our team up. He didn’t really go in to detail about Partey but I suspect the club are keeping that quite, so having him join up with training in Dubai might be the only boost we can hope for in the coming weeks.

Then, inevitably, came the chatter about the supposed complaint to the PGMOL about the treatment that Saka gets. This is an interesting one I think, because who found out about this and how did they get that info? There’s no way Arsenal would want that released, because they’d know the backlash that it’d get from the “yer da’s” of this world. So I can only assume the PGMOL or somebody that side might have released something – which in itself shouldn’t surprise us at all. It feels like we’re being held up as the bad boys and a high profile test case for them to spin a “look! see! Here’s a moaning club for you against poor, battered, PGMOL. We’re just trying to do our jobs…” campaign. Arteta basically dismissed that we’ve specifically spoken about Saka and I guess even if we did it’s a good move, because effectively whoever leaked that info now needs to front up with evidence of these conversations, otherwise it’s a case of just media waffle and hopefully just gets batted away.

The reality, as we all know, is that Saka certainly does get targeted, gets fouled on a rotational basis and is told by referees to ‘get up’ a lot. There is a narrative that has started to build around him and although it is wrong, Arteta and Arsenal – and Saka himself to be fair – when speaking in the press have just talked about how it’s part of the game. But when the Euro’s come around in the summer and he gets kicked by players in an England shirt, I wonder how many of those opposition fans talking up ‘moaning Arsenal’ will be on the side-lines exasperated at how many times he’s been brought down, eh? Let’s wait and see on that one…

The only other thing I’ll touch on before I toodle off, is when Arteta was asked about whether confidence has been dented after back-to-back defeats. He hesitated before saying that it was ‘momentum’ rather than confidence. That hesitation says to me that I think he was trying to find an alternate word, so I think our confidence has taken a knock. Hopefully a big performance and (fingers crossed) a win tomorrow helps to restore that, because you just worry what another defeat might do for this young team.

Right, I’m done for today – you enjoy your Saturday and I’ll be back tomorrow for a match preview.

Laters peeps.