There can be few doubts that Mikel Arteta is a good fit for Arsenal, despite his appointment representing something of a calculated gamble. The North Londoners have famously gambled before on the management front and come up trumps. There is, therefore, no need to get more than medium-sized jitters about the arrival of a man whose profile fits the bill on many levels.
The song lyrics famously remind us that Spurs always win when the year ends in one but, as Mauricio Pochettino’s side face their north London derby rivals at the Emirates this weekend, Arsenal’s lucky nine could carry just as much weight.
The pressure is on Unai Emery to deliver at Arsenal this season. Failure to finish in the top four or win a trophy could signal an abrupt end for Arsene Wenger’s successor at London’s biggest club. Wenger’s early success and general brilliance ultimately afforded him 22 years running football affairs so replacing him was always going to be a challenge despite fortunes waning towards the end of his reign.
Cork have not reached the last eight of the championship since 2014, falling at the fourth-round hurdle each summer since. But irrespective of who Cork are pitted against on this occasion, McCarthy is adamant that his team are well capable of progressing to the Super 8s.
The debate surrounding a succession of contentious decisions will prolong the fallout from the latest North London derby yet while Arsenal left Wembley Stadium convinced they would have been worthy recipients of all three points, it was Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur side who gained most from the stalemate.
It’s easy to believe the FA Cup has lost a bit of its shine after Arsene Wenger lifted the famous trophy three times in four years but still lost his job because it was the ‘only’ thing he won; but that doesn’t mean there aren’t clubs going into this year’s third round desperate to reach Wembley.
Between defeat at Chelsea in their first away game under Emery and mid-December, Arsenal took 14 of a possible 18 points on the road, but face trips to Brighton and Liverpool having been haunted by the ghost of seasons past against Southampton at St Mary’s.
The most-improved player award isn’t always the most coveted of titles, ranking somewhere above ‘clubman of the year’ but well below the more meaningful individual honours; but for two players at Sunday’s North London derby it is a story worth telling.
Unai Emery has set a mean stall out. On Arsenal’s pre-season tour of Singapore, the team coach drove by the hotel from the airport and straight to the training ground. A signal of intent to his new players, perhaps, and certainly an instant contribution to the ‘narrative’.
They’re coming home, they’re coming home, the footballers are coming home… Well, to their home from home at any rate, the heroes and villains, the few triumphant and the many also-rans, all back from a sensational month in Russia and returning to what nobody ever calls the ‘bread and butter’ of the Premier League (#notthegreatestleagueintheworldbutwedontcallitthateither).
Following the traditional ‘slamming shut’ of the transfer window, albeit at the markedly un-traditional time — before a ball has been kicked in anger — attention can now turn to how teams will line up and not to what gaps still need to be filled.
It may seem a little hasty to wring hands and shake heads about the domination of English football’s big six. It is a little over two years since Leicester City secured arguably the most unexpected title victory in football history, and certainly in the history of the English game.
Arsenal’s majority shareholder Stan Kroenke has made an offer to take full ownership of the club in a deal which values the Premier League outfit at £1.8bn (€2bn). The American’s company, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE), currently owns 67% of the Gunners and has offered to purchase the 30% held by Alisher Usmanov’s Red and White Securities firm.