If you think the FA Cup doesn’t mean anything, just ask a Gunners fan

2012-02-18 00:00

WITH the PSL back in full swing after a break that left many a local football fan bemused, it is the turn of the English Premiership to put its feet up this weekend.

But in England there are very few football-less weekends, and while many clubs will have a welcome break, there are those who are still on the road to Wembley for FA Cup duty.

There was a time not too long ago when the FA Cup was viewed by many managers and pundits as a less than significant competition. It may have been fuelled by the fact that Sir Alex pulled his team out of the competition in 2000 to take part in the World Club Championships, but any such thoughts of the FA Cup not meaning anything have since been extinguished.

In a time where the financially advantaged clubs have found a way to dominate the game, silverware of any kind is welcomed by all clubs.

This year’s FA Cup is left in an interesting position as the country’s two most potent clubs are out. It really is anybody’s trophy at the moment and, based on their league position, Spurs have been labelled as the tournament favourites since the exit of City and then United.

But spare a thought for their north London rivals. If ever you doubted the importance of an FA Cup, you might want to have a chat to an Arsenal fan this weekend. For the Gunners, the FA Cup has never looked so appealing and, more than that, necessary. After their 4-0 humiliation at the hands of AC Milan midweek, Arsene Wenger’s boys are left with very little to play for this year in the way of silverware.

If given the choice, Wenger would choose a top four finish in the league over FA Cup glory. But if Arsenal don’t mount an FA Cup challenge, then this is just another year — and they date back to 2005 — that the former giants of the English game will have to settle for nothing.

It’s almost inconceivable, but next season could see Arsenal out of the Champions League and without a trophy of any kind in seven years. It is for precisely this reason that Wenger will treat today’s tie at Sunderland with the utmost care. But the FA Cup is about more than that. It is about the underdogs and their quest for glory on the highest stage.

The likes of Crawley Town, Stevenage and Milwall will all host Premier League opposition this weekend and don’t be surprised if there is an upset on the cards.

There almost always is on an FA Cup weekend.

• sport@witness.co.za

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