Monday, 14 February 2011
The FA determined to destroy the FA Cup, Rooney's goal, Samir back for Barcelona?
I can't believe the plans the FA apparently have for the FA Cup. The old competition has suffered enough in recent years through team's not fielding proper line-ups (Arsenal get plenty of stick for that, but the finger would be better pointed at the lower Premier League sides who treat the Cup with contempt). In recent years we've seen the introduction of penalty shoot-outs after a replay, the abandonment of replays in the semi-final and final, and all semi-finals now being played at Wembley. For me one of the great days out was always FA Cup semi-final day, converging on a neutral ground for the big match (though getting back from Old Trafford after the Spurs game took an eternity - it was just as well we had won the game). The semi-final replay of 1999 was surely one of the most high-quality games of football ever played in this country - the media go on and on about Giggs' over-rated goal (nobody tried to tackle him) but neglect to mention the overall standard of football that night between the best two sides of that era.
The FA are now looking to end the idea of replays in any round, thus taking away a massive potential revenue stream for the lower division club's that might earn a draw with a top side, hoping to get to play at Arsenal, Man Utd or Liverpool. Also in the frame is a move to put the Final back to 5.30pm - I just don't get the idea behind that one at all. Then there is the biggest, and most ridiculous plan of all. The FA are, apparently, considering seeding the competition. This would almost certainly put an end to small clubs getting anywhere in the competition. It would mean that a team like Dover Athletic would never again get an opportunity to get as far as the third round as they would have been drawn to play the highest-placed team from League One in the first round. Similarly we would never again see a Crawley Town playing at Old Trafford, or a Farnborough playing at Highbury. If the FA Cup becomes seeded then the entire fabric of the tournament will have been ripped apart. It would sound the final death-knell for the FA Cup and that would be a travesty.
The TV companies often lament the fall in stature of the Cup, yet they do nothing to alleviate that fall. When I was a child the FA Cup Final was an all-day television event. These days the build-up begins on TV no more than thirty minutes before kick-off. However much people like Arsene Wenger get pilloried for playing "weakened teams" in Cup games (I think Arsenal's record in the Cup under Wenger speaks for itself), the media is failing to play its role in protecting the prestige of the Cup. Perhaps now they will realise the importance of the Cup, and how important it is to stop the FA from making these changes. I hope the media will campaign properly to prevent them.
Sky have been showing back-to-back coverage of "The Wayne Rooney Wonder Goal" (to give it its official name). Talk about over-the-top. Was it a great goal? Yes, of course it was. Was it the goal of the season? I will be amazed if someone scores a better one. Was it the greatest goal ever (as Sky are trying to portray it)? Do me a favour. One of the great goals, yes. The greatest? I remember a bloke called Maradona beating the entire England team on an awful pitch in Mexico in 1986 which would be a more worthy contender. Then there is Dennis Bergkamp versus Newcastle, Dennis Bergkamp versus Leicester, and Dennis Bergkamp versus Argentina (yes, I am biased). I also recall George Weah picking the ball up in his own penalty area at AC Milan and beating, literally, every player in the opposition before scoring. I know Sky are not really given to perspective wherever Manchester United are concerned, but this one is particularly tiresome.
The build-up to Barcelona has begun. Arsene Wenger has put it to the press that Samir Nasri might be fit to play on Wednesday after all. There isn't an Arsenal fan around that wouldn't like to see Nasri playing against Barcelona, but surely not at the risk of further injury. Arsene has said that he will take no risk with Samir, and I hope he is as good as his word. Arsenal need Samir Nasri for the rest of the season, so to risk him in a game where winning would be a pleasant surprise would surely not be a wise decision. I want to see Samir Nasri playing at Wembley in a fortnight, as we go for a trophy, in a Final. If that means he misses the first-leg against Barca then so be it.
I'll post a proper preview of the Barcelona game at some time tomorrow, probably in the early evening.