With our own comparatively trifling nine-year sojourn in the silverware-starved wilderness interrupted by the euphoria of successive, memorable May day outings to Wembley, this adds a certain spice to the recommencement of a journey that many seem to feel is now destined to always culminate in another end-of-season trophy party. But then it’s been so long since we last lost an FA Cup encounter, that I guess it’s inevitable that we’ve become somewhat blasé. Folk seem to forget that every cup run requires a large slice of good fortune.
In spite of the incremental efforts to sabotage one of the highlights of the football calendar, I’ve always adored this unique FA Cup third round convergence of clubs from contrasting tiers of the football cake. The increased allocation of tickets for away fans will often result in a stonking atmosphere. Yet there’s simply no accounting for the incompetence involved in Sunderland returning around half of their tickets, too late, apparently for them to go back on sale to us Gooners. The FA badly need to address the fact that there were far too many empty seats all over the shop this weekend.
A good start would be for clubs to acquiesce to the “Twenty’s Plenty” campaign. Instead of Black Cats’ bums on seats prior to Saturday’s KO, there was a large banner draped across the empty section, promoting this effort to limit costs for the travelling fans to 20 quid.
Unlike Manchester United, we might not have taken a tedious 70 minutes to produce a shot on goal, but with five players on the park with alleged attacking instincts, it was particularly disappointing that we failed to put the prosaic Black Cats under the cosh.
After Sunderland took the lead, some suggested that they’d rather see us lose than risk blowing vital Premier League points against Chelsea, as a result of a midweek replay. Mercifully we didn’t have to wait long for Campbell’s retort and while this performance might’ve been far from the Gunners at our scintillating best, there was cause for optimism that this goal and the two subsequent peaches were all straight out of the “football made easy” book, as extremely pleasing on the eye, slick, passing moves.
Our cup might’ve runneth over and out if Sunderland hadn’t fluffed two great chances following the break, but after Ramsey came on and snaffled our second, there seemed little fight left in the relegation-threatened Wearside visitors. I was hoping that the Ox would grab his recent opportunity of some proper game-time, but he and Gibbs both failed to impress.
I was also disappointed Jeff Reine-Adelaide only enjoyed a cameo late run-out, with the game already won. This elegant teenage midfielder covers the ground with the sort of effortless grace that’s reminiscent of the panther-like Henry on the prowl and we’re all impatiently waiting to see if he can truly cut the top flight mustard.
The consensus is that Bellerin was man of the match, but I think Campbell shaded it. It must be unsettling knowing he’ll be sidelined as soon as Alexis returns, but after so many seasons in the shadows, it would be foolish to let Joel fly the coop just right now.
With Klopp struggling to muster a team from his decimated squad, Wednesday’s trip to Anfield is looking less daunting. Should the unknown Elneny be our only guaranteed acquisition, with crucial matches coming thick and fast, surely Jeff will be let off the leash before long?