Friday, February 15, 2008

How Hard Will Arsene & Sir Alex Try Tomorrow?

FA Cup 5th Round {round of 32}

Bristol Rovers-Southampton
Carfiff City-Wolverhampton
Coventry-West Brom
Chel$ea-Huddersfield Town
Sheffield United-Middlesbrough
Preston North End-Portsmouth

Unlike seeded tournaments such as NCAA March Madness and tennis, in the FA Cup, after each round is completed, every surviving team is thrown back into the hat and a new draw is made for the following round {in each round the draw sees a match played at one team's ground, but if that match results in a draw then there is a "replay", or another match, at the other team's ground. If it is still tied after the replay, then it goes to extra time and then penalties to determine the winner}. As a result, you get shit like Manchester United-Arsenal in the 5th round {round of 32}, whereas in any seeded tournament they would be placed such that they could not possibly meet until damn near the end.

Is this good/bad/better/worse/fair/unfair? Dunno, but it is kind of exciting, cool, and quirky, and I kind of dig it. That is, until your fave team gets selected to play Man United at Old Trafford while Liverpool draw Barnsley at home and Chel$ea draw something called Huddersfield Town at home. Them's the breaks. But fuck it, if you are going to win a big competition then you are going to have to slay giants at some point, so bring it on I say.

Both teams are battling for the EPL title, with Arsenal 5 points ahead with 12 games remaining in the season. Even more pressing is that the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 is Tue/Wed. So as important, historical, prestigious as the FA Cup is, how much are Arsene and SAF going to try tomorrow? They both would love to win the FA Cup obviously, but that being said it still probably comes 3rd right about now for each team/manager, after the Champions League and Premiership title {in whatever order you prefer, but both are most likely more important than the FA Cup these days}.

So will Wenger rest Fabregas/Adebayor/Gallas/Hleb? Will he start Walcott & Bendtner? Will SAF rest some of his key players as well?

We'll have to wait to find out, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some key stars on both sides on the bench tomorrow, at least to begin with.

The winner tomorrow will have the spoils of victory and still have a great chance to win multiple titles this season, but they will also pick up some serious fixture congestion in the next two months, where the Premiership will be decided. The loser on the other hand, will be relieved of such additional fixtures and can focus on the Premiership Title race and the Champions League, which may be significant, especially in the race for the Premiership. Just look at money grubbing ManUtd, who during their 5 day break 2 weeks ago traveled to Dubai to play a match in exchange for 1 million pounds instead of resting their players before a set of midweek internationals. Their next two Premiership matches? A 1-1 draw at Tottenham where they scraped a point by scoring on the last kick of the match, and a 1-2 home defeat to local rivals Man Citeh. With Arsenal winning both weeks, just like that ManUtd went from tied on points and +5 on goal difference to 5 points behind and their goal difference eliminated. Was the whoring side trip to Dubai directly responsible? Of course not, but surely it played a part, and at this point of the season every bit of rest helps. Of course, that didn't stop ManUtd #2 Carlos Quieroz running his mouth to the press about how the midweek international schedule is unfair and was the direct cause of them losing to Citeh, nevermind that Citeh has a bunch of international players themselves and oh, yeah: you went to Dubai to pimp yourselves out for 1 million quid while everyone else was resting, you fucking douche.

Of course, if they draw tomorrow then there will be a replay at The Emirates next week, in which case it's rinse and repeat everything I just wrote.


beast in 'bama said...

I think they throw everything at this game - both of them - without being reckless, of course.

Ferguson has referred to this team as "special" all season, and they're showing signs of cracking. He's looking to get the psychological edge down the stretch - and a quick pick-me-up for now. They need it.

Wenger's DNA just doesn't allow him to let up under any circumstances. He won't be foolish and play anyone that's not match fit, but he'll throw everything he can at this because he knows this team is special.

This is a setup game, IMO. If it's a draw, the replay will be a total letdown - whoever gets the short straw has to play more FA Cup. That's why I think they'll get after it tomorrow - shoot their wad, so to speak.

And of course I'm left to look forward to the 'Pool vs. Inter (which could be really good) and hope for more lucky FA Cup draws.

What happened? Everyone said we needed to start well. Check. Then we just draw ourselves right out of contention. Torres has been incredible - and consistent - which I really didn't expect. But aside from the Golden Boy and Stevie G, we've got nothing!

Kanu said...

Interesting take- I feel the opposite. I think both managers see Tue/Wed CL matches as more important, and they would rather be cautious here and stronger there then shoot their wad and take a tired team into Europe. I think there will be omissions on both sides, as each manager will try to get away with it, and then adjust as the game goes- if they need to then the'll bring a few dudes on at halftime or for the last 30 minutes. Just a hunch.

Actually Wenger does have a history of doing what I described. The Iinvincibles of 2004 lost the FA Cup semifinal to ManUtd in a very similar circumstance to this- he did not play his strongest team and got knocked out of the cup because he had a CL QF 48 hours later, leaving us to think if playing his strongest team that day might have made enough of a difference as to give the Invincibles a chance for a double {and Arsenal a chance to win 3 FA Cups in a row, which then would have been 4 FA Cups in a row after they won it again in 2005}.

And Myles of ANR believes that more than anything SAF wants a 2nd CL title to cement his legend/standing in history, as that would be more than Busby and put him way up in the clouds of coaching accomplishments, whereas he already has won tons of EPLs and FA Cups, so one more isn't quite as important for him.

Agreed that neither coach wants a replay tomorrow at Old Trafford, so I think it will be caution and holding back, and then if they think it can make a difference then bring on some of the big guns to run their asses off for 20-30 minutes, which should still leave them fairly fresh for Tue/Wed.

We'll see in about 9 hours I suppose...

As far as The Pool, I don;t watch them week in and week out, but I see them a fair amount and see FSC highlights and read about them occasionally online. My personal take is that Rafa seems to buy overvalued players who are good but not great, and then the world is expected of them and they disappoint {he also spends shitloads of money, and then when his team still sucks he complains that he needs more money- weak sauce}. And there's the constant tinkering. I don't know.

Agreed that Stevie G and Torres are the stars, and I would throw Mascherano in there too. Those three are all pretty badass. Maybe even Carrachger {sp?} too. The rest are like I said good not great and overvalued players- never been convinced by Kuyt, and Pennant seems more interested in living the selfish arrogant baller lifestyle than becoming world class, always has since his time in the Arsenal youth and reserve teams.

But when you're playing Barnsley, who cares? ;) Well, from your perspective, 1) as we all know anything can happen in a cup competition, an although they have their troubles on their day Liverpool can knock off any of the other big 3, and 2) after tomorrow only 2 of the other big 3 will be left, and if the draw is kind and those 2 get each other, then you may get a nice wide, smooth road to the final.

We'll see how it all shakes out. Good luck tomorrow, not that you'll need it. Although shit, now that I think about it, The Pool did go 0-1 and 1-2 down to Waterlooville ;) BUt you'll be fine.

CL round of 16 should be GREAT. Looking forward to it...