All Guns Blazing: The stars are aligning for Arsenal, but for how long?
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In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Alex Bellotti ponders what might lie in store for the Gunners in the FA Cup.
Considering Gooners have had to endure a season plagued by injuries, poor form and threadbare squad options, Arsenal now seem to have entered the twilight zone.
There is usually a period like this every season where the stars take mercy and inexplicably align in our favour – usual signs of this include Tomas Rosicky hitting world-beating form, the squad returning to near-full fitness and the team actually pressing and playing with something resembling a plan.
Even so, everything seems to have turned on its head particularly quickly this year. In the wake of the victory over Manchester City, Arsene Wenger suddenly has a plethora of tactical permutations at his disposal and an equal wealth of players to carry them out.
This was clearly evident against Brighton in the FA Cup, where – aside from about three players – we fielded an entirely different squad in a more attacking system to suit Mesut Ozil. The fact that this B-side – if you can call it that – still clicked and dominated for large periods appeared to be just another sign that we are in the midst of our best form for nearly a year.
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With the very enjoyable booting that Chelsea and Man City suffered at the hands of lower-league opponents, defending the FA Cup now seems our best chance of a trophy. While there’s quite rightly concern that we mustn’t underestimate comparative minnows like Middlesbrough – even at home – perhaps an equal reserve of caution should be kept for the quirks of the draw. Should we progress, we could easily be given a trip to Manchester United or Liverpool.
Naturally I was as delighted as the next man at finally getting that elusive win against a top-four team, but there was a sense that, when it did come, it would be against City. Strangely, our track record against them in recent years hasn’t been quite as abysmal as it has against United
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or Chelsea – even this season, we beat them convincingly in the Community Shield and were unlucky not to win at the Emirates.
Things are swinging our way but there’s every chance that another injury or tricky cup tie could upset the applecart. Should we find ourselves against another big team, it’s crucial that we can show the City result wasn’t just a flash in the pan. As Jose Mourinho can testify, the FA Cup has a habit of spoiling even the best-laid plans.
Follow me @AlexBellotti