Should Wenger prioritise the Cup? + A signing, but not the one you’d expect

Anfield loss opens door to the FA Cup final

Liverpool’s hilarious loss to Reading in the FA Cup has left the door wide open for Arsenal to win their first FA Cup (and trophy) since 2005. The 2-1 extra-time loss at Anfield saw Liverpool follow Manchester United to an early FA Cup grave leaving just Chelsea and Arsenal as the only “big four” clubs still in the competition.

There are  strong teams left in the competition – Aston Villa, Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton to name a few – but none (excluding Chelsea) that you wouldn’t expect us to beat and that is quite exciting.

The door is well and truly open and if Arsene Wenger can find the right way to rotate his squad while still including enough players to progress through to the latter stages then an FA Cup final this season is not out of the question. Indeed, he might even feel the opportunity that has opened is too good too pass up and consider putting out his best team to boost our chances of getting through to Wembley.

I’m interested to hear what the readers think he should do – prioritise the FA Cup or maintain the balance?

Cesc, Clichy back for Bolton

With another important game coming up at The Reebok on Sunday afternoon (why, oh why isn’t it on Saturday?) we’ve received a couple of big boosts to our squad.

Cesc Fabregas has been declared fit by the manager while Gael Clichy is also possibility to the squad. Fabregas will undoubtedly start while I do suspect from this comment from Wenger…

“I don’t want to go overboard with Gael because he has been out for a long time but he looks very, very sharp in training.”

… that he will probably be rested until Wednesday when we play the same opponents at home.

Meanwhile Denilson is likely to miss out with the strange abdominal problem he picked up against Everton while Nicklas Bendtner is still two weeks away from returning. In my humble opinion he can’t come back soon and I’m fairly sure a certain bruised and battered Russian forward would agree with me.

A signing, but not the one you’d expect

With the Sol Campbell situation going a bit cold today after yesterday’s heated madness it was good to hear another player has put pen to paper for Arsenal. Craig Eastmond, who has played a couple of games for the first-team this season at defensive-midfield, has signed a new contract extension with the club that will keep him here until 2014.

In truth that’s just a guess – if you haven’t already learnt by now they never reveal contract information at Arsenal – but it is good news nonetheless. He looked a player with real potential in his debut performance and although he hasn’t quite lived up to that in the couple of games that followed, it’s clear Wenger sees that potential in him.

Update: Make that two players. The ever-reliable Young Guns reports that 17-year-old Bolivian winger Samuel Galindo is set to sign for Arsenal after he impressed while training with the first-team squad. Wa-hey!

That’s it for today. Stay tuned for more tomorrow – or earlier if Campbell’s signing goes through.

Have your say on the FA Cup, Bolton, Campbell or Eastmond by leaving a comment.



  1. I actually think Sol is a fantastic backup signing for us. Though I’m a little disappointed about the Senderos issue. I rated him as a decent rotation player and hope we don’t miss him… Having said that… if ever there was a manager who knew of the right time to let go of a player its Arsene!

  2. Arsenal can win cup only If wenger starts fielding major players and stops fielding amateurs.We should also take Mancity and Chelsea seriously.

  3. Happy New Year to you Andrew!

    Good informative post. Sol Campbell is a good back up signing for us . With Clichy and Fab4 back Wenger should start fielding his best in all the remaining competitions so that we can win some trophies.

  4. FA cup is a big honor to win, but in depth, AW has not many options, it comes back to him why he does not strengthen the team. He usually gets challenged in the months of March and April because of the CL, EPL,and FA and for this reason, his spotting does not earn him anything, will it be the case again. AW review your priorities and make us proud. Please!!!

  5. Only if we avoid the “hard sides.” A Chelsea-City tie and an Everton-Spurs tie or a Villa- (fill in the blank) tie would fit us perfectly. We need some easier ties to go deep into the competition.

  6. It is a massive opportunity in the cup now – I can’t remember the last time two of the ‘big four’ fell so early, and for both of them to exit at home to lower league opposition is nothing short of astonishing.

    I have to admit to being a little concerned about the next round – Stoke away with a patched up side will be absolutely no pushover, especially as they’ll be really up for it. I actually think it’s a trickier tie than West Ham.

    I don’t think he needs to prioritise it, but not de-prioritise it, if that makes sense. No resting of stars for future games – treat it like another league game we have to win, for example. If we get a home draw in the next round, maybe make a few changes then, but this tie is too dangerous to mess around with.

    Crikey, imagine being a Liverpool fan right now. Out of the CL, out of the League Cup to our kids, out of the FA Cup at home to a Championship side, and struggling to get back in the top four in the Premiership. Ouch indeed.

  7. The return of cesc is definitely a boosting for us.but who replaces denilson,is diaby.I think diaby is the best option.
    We should go for all the three competition and look to win treble.
    we can do it.

  8. There is not much transfer activity going on this time around. Not only in the epl but most of the other leagues. Must be the sign of times to come that football is operating on a deficit and clubs are not spending money that is not there to begin with. The times of silly money and borrowing is slowly being eradicated.

    Anway Arsenal won’t be buying anyone, I’ll gladly wager a stout on that. Viv anderson was a fine defender just watched a classic fa cup match where he was in ManU colours.

  9. The whole liverpool disaster is down to money, money runs the game now. Rafa has had some money, he spent 95% on it on Torres, hes a wonderful player but you get the feeling that the owners thought that once Rafa had him that would be that, they’d win everything, but thats not how it works. For me, Carragher is past it, the midfield is too slow and the only goal scorer is Torres. Ngog looks out of his depth.

    so now with UTD and Pool out – that leaves the spuds and the chavs – once these 2 are out in the next round i think wenger should make it a high priority

  10. think people need to get a grip about the sol campbell signing – its not the worse move in the world and at least gives us much needed cover at central defence. He is only going to be signed for 6 months NO LONGER – this may sound silly but i see it as a short term fixed as part of a much wider transfer strategy!! The January Transfer window is a mine field – the majority of clubs don’t want to release players and if they do then they will only do so for stupid money!! I wouldn’t be surprised that Sol has been signed because people like Cahill, Richards, Subotic (who could serve as the 3rd centre half)are too expensive at moment and Wenger will wait to summer to make a deal!!! I have no problem with this strategy as you have ALWAYS got better value for money in the summer as there is more time to discuss and work out a deal!! Yes, Sol isn’t the player he once was but i will feel much more happy with him in there then Senderos or silvestre!! Why waste money on a player that costs 5million more now then in the summer when you can get someone with experience and capability on cheap? This has nothing to do with Wenger penny pinching, but in actual fact him attempting to make sure he GETS VALUE FOR MONEY in a transfer market that has been blown way to high by teams like Madrid, Chelsea, Man Utd and Man City!!! This transfer window DOES NOT OFFER VALUE FOR MONEY!!!

  11. In bringing Sol Campbell back Arsene Wenger has done something that I never thought he would ever do and re-signed a former player.

    Wenger is a stubborn man but perhaps this sudden change of policy is the sign of a person who will even go against his own principles to bring back silverware to us. This surely is only a good thing.

    There is mixed reaction about Campbell coming back to us, that is expected, but at least it shows that Arsene is prepared to swallow some pride because he knows that it is best for Arsenal.

    Some people believe that Wenger has an agenda regarding Arsenal and that he refuses to change his ways. Well, the signing of Sol proves that wrong.

    As I’ve said Wenger is stubborn and appeared stuck in his ways but if he is prepared to mellow a little for Arsenal to win things then I think he deserves some credit for doing so.

    Have you ever heard of the saying “The Grass Isn’t Always Greener On The Other Side”? Well, how many former Arsenal players does that ring true with?

    The list is endless.

    I’ve posted about former which former Gunner(s) I’d like Wenger to re-sign in the past and Sol Campbell was top of the list. That’s not entirely true. But a player I’d love to see come back is Mathieu Flamini.

    I know, I know, he’s a money-grabbing little traitor fucker and in the past I’ve even called him Fla-money but if we are ready to forgive Sol Campbell (who’s past misdemeanors could be considered worse than Fla-money’s, sorry Flamini’s) then I’m ready to welcome the Frenchman back with open arms.

    Of course it seems that Mathieu fucked us over. But in truth Arsenal are equally to blame for him leaving. We tried to sell him to Birmingham the summer before he actually left and we let his contract run down.

    There is a slight chance that Flamini didn’t feel wanted in the last year of his contract.

    Having said that Mathieu did say he wanted to stay and the next minute he was swanning off to Italy to sign a contract with his boyhood idol’s AC Milan. I’m sure he did the same to Marseille, so he had previous.

    So really Arsenal and Flamini are both to blame for him leaving under such poxy circumstances.

    What chance is there of being a reconciliation? With Campbell coming back there has to be a chance.

    Who knows how Alex Song will come back from the African Cup of Nations? The man filling his shoes, Denilson, is injured. This injury may be more serious than first thought, especially when you see how the Brazilian went down completely unchallenged.

    Fabregas would love it. Apparently our skipper and Flamini was joined at the hip when together. They certainly gelled and in my opinion could have formed a partnership as good as, if not better, than Vieira and Petit.

    Yes, I really did say that.

    A loan/permanent move for our former hyperactive midfielder would be good for the club. He is unhappy at Milan and we could do with his drive and determination.

    Imagine a midfield of Song, Cesc and Flamini? Pretty solid. Add the likes of Diaby, Ramsey and Denilson . We would have the best midfield options in the league. Proper.

  12. Nice article in the times:

    Moves for old boys such as Patrick Vieira and Sol Campbell no panic measure:

    So, Patrick Vieira is back in the Premier League, with Manchester City, and Sol Campbell could be following suit, with Arsenal. I can see the headlines already: “Dad’s Army”. And I can almost hear that famous refrain of Corporal Jones: “Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring.”

    Not for one minute, though, do I think that these are panic measures. Yes, Vieira and Campbell are into their thirties, their best years are well behind them and, after every error, the vultures will be circling to pick at their carcasses. Too old, too slow. Gone.

    Yet these are just the sort of short-term deals that could benefit City and Arsenal as they chase honours. Legs may be a shade weary, limbs may not be as combative as in the past, but it is what goes on between the ears that is vital. Patrick and Sol still have that in abundance.

    What Roberto Mancini, Arsène Wenger or any manager does not want, when investing in the 30-plus brigade, is twofold: 1) a player who can’t run, whose body has given up, and 2) a bad influence in the dressing room, a know-it-all has-been.

    What they do want is experience — that unquantifiable commodity that can turn a good team into a trophy-winning team. An on-pitch leader is essential in the heat of the battle, when the manager is restricted to the sidelines and unable to make any immediate impact. The “old head” can guide, advise and cajole his team-mates instantly.

    I remember playing for Chelsea against Kevin Moran, who was winding down his career with Blackburn Rovers. He kept fouling me, falling over and winning the free kick. Every time. It was experience and instinct, an absolute art. His time was almost up, perhaps, but he knew exactly what to do. I hardly got a kick.

    In my younger days, I used to learn a lot from my older colleagues. I managed to play on until I was 38 — with Nancy, the French club — so I must have been doing something right. The coach obviously felt I could still make a contribution and it was only my bad right knee that did for me in the end.

    Vieira is a done deal. I’m told he has always been a good influence in the dressing room, which is what Mancini will be looking for, and there is plenty of pace around him in the City team to ease his physical burden.

    The Campbell move could also happen. It’s not the sort of quick-fix remedy that Wenger usually goes for, but Sol would add much-needed nous to an essentially youthful line-up.

    City and Arsenal fans should not cry “We’re doomed” at the arrival of their Dad’s Army recruit. After all, the prediction of Private Frazer, the veteran soldier, rarely proved correct.

  13. Sol Campbell in his prime was without doubt a world class performer. He was a rock, a model of consistency by which all should measure up to. He had the perfect combination of height, power, pace, and reading of the game which all centre-backs desire. Unlike some other top quality players, such as Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, I never recall Campbell making any high profile gaffs which cost his team dearly (well at least not on the field).

    He was equally as vital as anyone in the Invincibles line up that dominated English football like no other. As great as the likes of Vieira and Henry were in that team it could easily be justified that Sol Campbell actually had the hardest job of the lot. Yes Vieira bossed the middle of the park like I have seen no other; yes Henry at times single handedly destroyed teams and won games. But the quality of support these players had was very different to that of Sol Campbell. Henry always had the likes of Pires, and most notably Bergkamp feeding him with the chances to win games in the style in which he did. Vieira always had the likes of Gilberto holding behind him, and the ever industrious Ljungberg working the right flank. Campbell’s role was difference. That back line consisted of Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Sol Campbell and Lauren. Ashley Cole was without doubt a top draw left back (cringe), but at the time a young one and one whose attacking instincts at times left the defence exposed. Kolo Toure’s deficiencies have become all too clear since Campbell left the club, and Lauren although a solid performer, is generally considered just about an above average full back. The question I would ask would be, without Henry, without Vieira, and with different personnel, would we have won the league? Probably not. Without Sol Campbell, would we have? Definitely not.

    The problem many of these true sporting greats have is when to bail out, when to retire and the best way, and often the hardest way to do so is to go out at the top. Go out as a champion. The likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Patrick Vieira are all players who strike me as going out as champions. If they stayed on possibly a season longer, the decline in their performance would have been clear to see and criticism would have been widespread. Other sportsmen simply go on too long, whether out of love for the game, or love of the money that comes with it, an example being Roy Keane whose presence in midfield declined to the point he was often being asked to play at centre back late on in his career, which in the past would have been unthinkable. We are currently seeing this from Gary Neville and Paul Scholes – who I personally believe should have retired last summer. Why carry on when you have nothing to prove is the question often asked of sportsmen that do carry on that little bit too long. This is often a bad decision for legends, whose image is slightly degraded by performances that show signs of decline and fail to show the ability and consistency that we all have become accustomed to.

    Sol Campbell is different, he was a great. However this great still has a point to prove, as he did not go out at the top. He went out having lost a Champions League final, having previously gone AWOL on a very young struggling Arsenal team against West Ham at Highbury in a game Arsenal lost 3-2 (the last defeat at Highbury). This is not the act of an experienced head, a key component for club and country. However this was the act of a man clearly fighting some personal demons. Yes he went on to win an FA Cup for Portsmouth (more than he ever won at Tottenham I would like to add smugly), but a man with Sol Campbell’s ability and stature in the game was never set to go out of the game having played for an average Premiership club, and definitely not playing for a team as far down as League 2. This decision to join Notts County was one of the most bizarre in history, a player whom I am sure many a Premiership club would have desired, joining a team in the same division as Barnet. This decision puzzles me still, the answer at the time given simply as a financial one. If this was the case however, why would he the walk out on this lucrative deal if it wasn’t for footballing reasons and his own personal aspirations?

    This is a man who has a serious point to prove. If he retired now, or went out playing for Notts County in the lower divisions of English football there would always be questions of his temperament, having gone AWOL on Arsenal, questions of his loyalty having left Tottenham on a free to join bitter North London rivalries and walking out on Notts County having made just one appearance after signing a five year contract.

    His ability would never, and has never been in question, but these nagging doubts have always and will always be unless this second stint at Arsenal is a fruitful one. Arsenal, a team lacking depth at the back, lacking a leader, an old head, have signed a legend with a point to prove. This isn’t a decision made by a desperate Wenger, he simply doesn’t make those type of decisions. He would have watched Campbell’s performances very closely over the two months at training with Arsenal, picking through every aspect of Sol Campbell as a footballer, like a man with a toothpick. Wenger does not make rash decisions, he is a highly thoughtful man (sometimes too thoughtful for his own good) and I am sure sees no reason why Campbell cannot contribute to this Arsenal team, just like the likes of Steve Bould, Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Lee Dixon, and Winterburn did in the twilight of their careers. It wouldn’t even surprise me in the slightest if Campbell got another one year contract at the end of the season.

    It all points to a great move by Arsene, whose team and in some ways himself has the same point to prove as that of Sol Campbell. Let’s all hope his influence is a positive one and can help Arsenal on their way to a trophy winning season, the first in the second decade of the 21st century.

    “Heeey, hey Tottenham, Oooh Ahhh. I wanna kno-oooow, where your captain’s gone?”

  14. Some lovely, long comments there lads but methinks they’ve been ripped from other blogs.

    I encourage comments but please don’t do that – it only gets me in legal trouble for having it published on my blog.

    Otherwise, comment away!

  15. Andy, I really feel like we missed an opportunity with the FA Cup last season. I’d like to see Wenger ‘gamble’ on the Cup and put out the strongest possible team. I commented to @arseblog this morning that I still feel it is our best chance of silverware, particularly in light of Man U and Pools exit.

  16. to be honest i think wenger has potentially 3 trophies here. the prem is still worth a punt and the FA cup is also there.

    but the holy grail the champs lge would do me just fine.

  17. Stay the course, play the kids in the FA, keep the rest of the first team as healthy as possible, keep your eye on the real prize, win the League.

    Oh and bring in one more signing. 😛

  18. Gunners wenger must become more strategic now if we are to win any trophy because at the moment it looks possible for us to win any of the three trophies. on that note for me I would rather suggest that wenger must sign a very influencial player upfront, a player of the quality of chamark,dzeko,benzima,eto,tores etc: i mean some one who can surely replace RVP not these funny signings.
    Please dear professor do some thing now to make us also afford a smile this season!

  19. @amar,
    you ‘hope’ that inactivity is this transfer window would be due to a strategic transfer plan in the summer???sorry mate but i think thats something us fans hav been saying for years; ‘he hasnt bought this summer,wel hel surely strengthen in january’, ‘whooops he hasnt bought in january,he obviously has cards up his sleeve for the summer’, and before you know it were 5 years older.
    my friend the market is wot it is if you want quality and you cant say the boss is turned off by the ‘limited’ time on offer to negotiate,its a whole month and if you identify your man and go get him you could hav it wrapped up in a week….am sick of sayin this but i actually think we are among the worst in the world for transfer dealings,we really do make them epic,drawn out affairs ala arshavin
    we are doing great at the mo and the lads are playin out of their skins at times,but fatigue and injuries will catch us up,a prime example wil be alex song who will be burnt out by march and we hav no one to step in and do hafl the job he can
    am not getting ahead of myself on the fa cup either,two teams that hav trounced us already this year still remain,city(2) and chels, but no doubt it is a priority and should merit our strongest side,afterall an injury ravaged west ham almost knocked us out but for the introduction of nasri and diaby.stoke at home will be a stern test also when we play without song,although he may be back sooner than expected with cameroons shock defeat to gabon yesterday

  20. I do not blame wenger for being tight with his cash. Chamakh is not worth the 5m even on a long term deal let alone with 12 months left. Niklas is already twice the player he is.

  21. shambo: Umm so what you think by bringing overpriced players will bring us trophies?

    sorry mate thats rubbish.

    Liverpool the classic example. Spuds another. the only ones who i can say have been genuinely successful are UTD.

    your point about city i will take into consideration when we play them at the emirates

  22. @steve
    alri mate,listen i dont recall mentioning any players so how can you say their overpriced,i agree with you on chamakh, hes not an arsenal type but not all players are overpriced just the same as signing a fella for 5m doesnt always represent good value
    liverpool splashed on torres so i dunno wot ur implying there,they finished wel ahead of us last season but it must be cos their strugglin now u find it easy to use them as an example,as for your point on spurs,i hate to admit but they hav an excellent squad,arguably more cover than us
    i dont like arguing with fellow arsenal fans but city and chels did beat us comprehensively,the fact that i really want us to hammer them at the emirates doesnt change that,i simply am not taking any1 for granted just becos two over rated big sides got knocked out…that seems to be the vibe lately…’wel just beat everton and go 2nd’……’utd and pool are gone,its ours or chelseas to lose!!!!’ come on

  23. i have to laugh,ya know.the boss finally comes to terms with the fact we need a striker,a real clinical goalscorer he admits..he tells us we are in the market,then when it comes time to shit or get off the pot,he retreats and sez we will await big nics return to fitness,the guy he didnt see fit to play central at the start of the season and has hardly scored twice in a row is now gonna come back from a 3mth layoff and score 10-15 goals before the end of season to keep us in touch….now i love nic,defo a big future ahead but u all hav to admit the boss is takin the mick a little at this stage…………..
    wev signed sol and a 17 year old bolivian kid who has to be loaned to spain as he has no permit………….ha ha ha ha ha…..its a riot,if your an 80 year old arsenal fan youd be goin mental cos you might never see the benefits of all these young signings,hell im 26 and i mighten see it!

  24. Am I the only one with fredric wanting the Flamster back? As much as I don’t think it’s gonna happen, I’d like to entertain the thought. His style of play suits the EPL better than Serie A. His partnership with Fab was dynamite. I like Denilson, but think he’s better in a more forward role. But does that leave the team with a glut of midfielders when Song gets back?

  25. Shambo has a point but Steve has a point too, Chamakh is really not that good, I rather we buy Gorcuff. Imagine lads…he on the right, Arshavin on the left and Rvp in the centre, now that would be an absolute riot.

  26. I havent seen the Everton game but when I looked at the comments after the game in here, it looked as if we were really very bad!! i ve just watched a replay of the game and I think that The boys really did well despite of the snowy and bad weather, we really would have won that game and I dont even think that we got lucky to get out with a draw as many has said in here lately, WE DESERVED VICTORY in that game with so much shot on target and ball posession, I think Everton got out lucky with a draw.
    As for Sol camp, i really love the lad, he is the Ugly Tall and Experienced defender we need now, I also wonder what happened to Sanderos.
    This is what I suggest during Song’s abscence and also cos Deni doesnt really look after the Everton Game:

    Sagna-Gallas-Sol Camp-clichy

    This woud be my best line up agst aston Villa and Manu in the two folowing weeks untill Song and Bendy would be back.
    Arshavin said: ” …We’ve never really had the chance to have our best line up together on the pitch so far this season…..””” I totaly agree Arsha and I also feel really bad about it….. but what else can we do????
    FOR THE RECORD: I have recently become a DIABY Fan and being a looong 2 years Anti-Diaby, what about you guyz???

  27. @ radads
    heres ur brother dude hes converted me aswel,u cant but respect the way hes kept his head down and found his form….hats off to him,still not so sure bout nasri tho

  28. just had a quick look at some of the liverpool blogs, jeezuz they are in a right state. startin to feel a bit sorry for them naah feckim anyone for the double.

  29. @ shambo – Wenger saying we are in the market for a striker and buying one are two different things. Yes, it’s disappointing, but Wenger only buys if he thinks a player is worth the money and that’s fine with me.

    Look at his last two buys – Arshavin and Vermaelen. And Nasri before that (I think). Great buys and players that he got good value on too, when you think about it.

  30. further more, niklas near recovery, i doubt wenger will buy striker this january

    for the cup, i think we should try to grab it. who can be sure that cesc or other players will stay if this year we win nothing, and i think Wenger also realize this fact

  31. Well there is a saying that Grab all, miss all. But I would love to encourage the boys to chase both Trophies. Of course I mean Epl and Cl. Happy new yr everyone.

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