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July 2021

The Preview – FA Cup version. Arsenal-Villa.

A run of three straight defeats in the league suggest the FA Cup could well be a welcome diversion for Arsenal this weekend. With Manchester United crashing out to a last minute winner from Dirk Kuyt, one highly credible winner of the Cup has been eliminated. Considering City are also watching on from the sidelines, the biggest contenders for the Cup this year are an inconsistent Liverpool side, a fairly topsy-turvy Chelsea team and some motley crew from another bit of  north London. This could well be a year to focus in on the FA Cup…

The injury situation going into this game is certainly more positive than it has been recently. Sagna is back in full training, so he’s available to play unless he’s severely lacking in match fitness. It’d be great to give him a start and see how he gets on – if he can’t last the ninety, he can always be substituted. Sagna’s return makes life considerably easier considering Johan Djourou is ruled out of this tie with a hamstring injury.  Also back in the squad is Coquelin, who will certainly be involved to give Song a breather. Arteta and Henry are both nearly back with the squad training, so will probably be involved in our next fixture. Fears of an injury to Chamberlain have also been allayed, with the youngster only suffering from fatigue, so certain to be involved against Villa.  Kieran Gibbs has been ruled out of this match.


Sagna Squillaci Mertesacker Miquel


Rosicky Benayoun

Chamberlain Park Arshavin


There’s certainly an element of guesswork to this line-up. In goal we’ll probably have Szcznesy given Mannone’s loan and Fabianski’s injury. The defence will probably be shuffled to allow a rest for one of Koscielny and Mertesacker, with Squillaci coming in. While Vermaelen is fit for leftback duties, I imagine he’ll be rested with the Bolton away game in mind. Sagna’s return at right back will allow a natural replacement with Djourou out injured, though Nico Yennaris could start with Sagna coming off the bench to gain fitness.

Further forward, Coquelin’s return to fitness allows Song to get a breather, while Rosicky and Benayoun come into midfield to give Ramsey a breather. Chamberlain continues on the flank, though I’ve put him on the right to give Walcott a breather, and allow Arshavin to play on the left. Park starts to give Van Persie a breather.

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Such a high number of changes represent a bit of a gamble: we’re weakening our side against Premier League opposition. That said, while silverware would be fantastic, top four is the be-all and end-all for the club, and gambling with players’ fitness and/or risking those on the injury threshold isn’t wise with Bolton away looming. That said there are plenty of first choice players in there – Sagna, Mertesacker, Szcznesy – alongside strong incoming players such as Chamberlain, Coquelin and Rosicky. The likes of Vermaelen and Koscielny can be on the bench to shore up the defence if we’re leading as the clock ticks down, whilst Theo and Van Persie can come in if we’re making a meal out of winning the game.

Overall, given the number of changes I fully expect this one to be a bit of a nail biter, and we’ll probably nick it by the odd goal. I’d love to say we’re going to win it with a solid performance and a comfortable 2-0 score line, but given low confidence and a potentially mix and match line-up, a narrow 2-1 victory seems best to bet on. Hopefully I don’t miss any goals – the game kicks off in the UK at 4pm, and I’m refereeing a game that should kick off at 2pm, so most likely I’ll have to roll into the pub in a slightly dishevelled fashion in full Lancashire FA refereeing gear having missed the first fifteen minutes. Enjoy the game though!


75 comments to The Preview – FA Cup version. Arsenal-Villa.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Well Phil if it is any comfort for you I will be facing the same situation as my game ends 45 minutes before the kick off. As I am expecting someone to check on my performance who will give his first impressions after the game and then have to take a meal at the club I will have to wait even longer before I can leave. Well but my hard disk will record the game so I will be able to see it in full when I come home.

    Lets hope for a win. Any win in this case will do for me.

  • Toby

    Any of you guys seen this website:

    Wonderfully simple approach and certainly validation of all the tremendous efforts put in on this website….

  • WalterBroeckx

    Yes Toby I have seen it and check it and compare it a bit with the results we do over here.

    The biggest difference is that they only focus on the main decisions and use match highlights of MOTD I have been told. We over here do the whole games to get the bigger picture.

    But he most important thing is that the final conclusion in general is the same.

    What I don’t like over there however is the fact that they base some of their decisions on the words ‘it was difficult to see”. I know it sometimes is difficult to see for the ref but we over here mention this in the comment but we base our decision on the fact if the call on the field was correct or not. Difficult to see is fine to excuse a refs decisions or lack of it but for us it isn’t an excuse to call a wrong call as correct or the other way round

  • nicky

    Talk about bravery. In a Northern pub,in ref’s gear, supporting Arsenal. All I hope is, if we lose to Villa via a dodgy ref decision, you are the only Gooner present.

  • Phil – where is Lancashire do you referee? I used to be a member of Preston Referees (20 odd years ago!) – I am refereeing at 2 tomorrow but a youth game, so will be back home to watch by 3.30pm

  • Ha cheers Nicky. No doubt I’m a dead man!

    Paul – I qualified through Lancashire FA, a couple of years ago but have only really got going with it very recently due to a couple of long term injuries. It was Lancashire FA because I’m from Lancaster, so when I graduate I’ll probably be back in that neck of the woods, but for the moment I’m reffing via a league run by my university to shake the rust off.

  • RedGooner

    Talking about Referees, Did anyone see the penalty Chelsea got today against QPR, If that was against Arsenal I would throw the TV out the window with frustration.
    Its a pure disgrace the standards we put up with in such an entertaining league.

  • Arun

    @ RedGooner, definitely media won’t tell you this as he is an england player but he definitely DIVED.

  • Ugandan Goon

    i wonder if the the bright sparks at the fa disciplinary committee in their wisdom might see the logical inconsistency of punishing players/ teams for cheating retroactively but ignoring cheating by diving, we know the ref dealt with it on the pitch at the time wrongly, surely that makes the crime even more heinous, the perp is good at what he does, hence the need for punitive measures to assist the ref who hasn’t the benefit of review at the time!

  • Mahdain

    no matter what the lineup is just no squillaci please…

  • Good luck for your review Walter!

    Mahdain – worse would be overworking Koscielny/Mertesacker and having Squillaci in for a run of games. Plus he’s not tooo bad when he has a good partner next to him.

  • Shard


    A bit of an off topic question but something I would like to know. What is the way referees get promoted etc. I mean Phil just said he qualified through the Lancashire FA. Also that he refs university matches. Correct? How would you progress up the ladder to become a Premier league referee? Also, Walter, how is it different (if it is) in Europe? Sorry to throw this at you, but I’m a little unclear as to how the structure is when it comes to referees, and I’ve been trying to find out.

  • Rhys Jaggar


    Actually, Matt Holland Steve Claridge DID highlight on Final Score that D. Sturridge dived and that, as we call foreigners who do it not very nice things, perhaps it would be a good thing if English guys didn’t do it as well…………

  • Mandy Dodd

    Jesus, this is getting worse, Wenger really has to sort this out

  • dan

    We witnessing the END!!!

    As much as we can say this is not Wenger’s fault he is in the firing line, the board will simply wash their hands of him once fans decide to hit the finances. Wenger should come out and state if he did have money or not being a yes man will not help anyone.

  • RedGooner

    Mandy I think we cant keep playing with 1 striker upfront we are not dangerous enough. But then again we only have one sadly.

  • akasuna

    I think it will be a hard year for us. Crashing out of FA Cup? Crashing out of Champions League (s00n..) and not finishing top is quite sad really..

  • Arun

    When did we get two penalties in te same game last time ???????

  • walter

    I told you before (last season) the refs in the FA cup have a different set of rules. As if they can do their job in a proper way without “instructions”

    By the way two clear penalties and Dunne should have been sent off for the first one (at least a second yellow card)

  • Arvind

    The AAA must be bitterly bitterly disappointed. All those nice ‘Wenger has lost it’ stories also go into the dustbin. So much nice paper…all wasted…

  • Anne


    My thoughts exactly 🙂

  • Mandy Dodd

    And sort it out Wenger did! Must have been a bit of a half time team talk. Credit to him and the players in the second half.
    Lets hope they can use this as a turning point and build on it.

    You do know what you’re doing!

  • Arun

    That’s why you KEEP THE FAITH :D:D:D

  • dan


    I don’t think we have, not in last 15yrs.
    Great response but we’ve been lethargic in he 1st half recently, praying this kick starts our boyz.

  • Arvind

    Also watch the number of comments “not go up suddenly” if you know what I mean :). You won’t if you’re part of the AAA don’t bother trying.

  • Arun

    @ Walter, must agree with you even ESPN mentioned that he must have been sent off : ‘anyday and everyday’ he said.

  • Anne

    And it was so great to see Sagna back!

  • dan

    I’m supporting the Borough in the 10 days time, I think we all will be.

  • Sammy The Snake

    That was close, good win. Great second half. Great Gunners!

  • dan

    Coquelin/Sagna/Arteta back

    Who else are we waiting on?

  • dan

    So when are Wiltshire/Disby/Santos/Gibbs due to return?

  • Yessssssssss! Great turn around – an exit or a replay avoided. Great stuff.

    Shard – refs are assessed for promotion in England. You qualify as a level 10, and progress upwards as you get good feedback from periodic assessments. Some refs, such as Attwell, rise the ranks very quickly – possibly merit, possibly certain referees promotion being “guided”. Either way, there is a lack of transparency in regards to the quality assessment.

    I myself would ref in an official FA league, but work via my University as I also coach in a sister league. I coach in the saturday league, and ref in the Wednesday and Sunday leagues, the winners of which have a playoff for an overall title. So they’re nominally separate.

    I could ref in a typical FA league locally, but simply preferred to shake the rust off for a few months in a University league. From the summer, I’ll be able to start working my way up the ranks hopefully!

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Perhaps A. Wenger should try an experiment of saying whatever he said at half-time fifteen minutes before kick-off?!

  • Mahdain

    this win qill surely drive the AAA mad..they were having a field day at HT calling for wenger`s head saying that he doesnt know what he is doing..fantastic 2nd half perfromance whatever words wenger used at HT he should use them more often… and is it only me who is suprised that we were awarded a penalty? two of them is even more suprising..well played mike jones though im afraid this means one thing… no more penalties for us this season

  • Anne



  • Rhys Jaggar

    I don’t think 2 penalties is very common for most teams in any game, so I wouldn’t be invoking conspiracy theories about that…..

  • bjtgooner

    This was an excellent come back and good result. The ESPN commentators were preaching doom and gloom for Wenger at half time, it was doubly nice to win and leave them no option but to eat their words.

    I think the team showed great character and their perfromance was at last rewarded.

  • Anne


    I caught that too about the commentators 🙂

    1st half: “Arsene is too stubborn about changing his strategy!”

    Second half: “Arsene should be commended for fighting the detractors and sticking with his strategy!”

  • DC

    Just heading back from the Ems; great come-back performance in the first 15 mins of the second half and wonderful atmosphere!
    Could have massacred Villa if the lads played like that the whole match!
    Very nervous first half, as against ManU but the boys showed plenty of energy and drive in the second – very encouraging!
    All played good in the second half but Ramsey was immense! Wonderful to see Arteta and Sagna back too! This’ll certainly build the confidence cos Villa are a good side! Come on you Gunners!
    Incidentally, we all thought that the young ref had a good game?! However, surely Dunne should have gone with a second yellow?

  • Arvind

    @Anne,All: I’ve found that watching the game on mute calms me down and helps me analyze the ‘real game’ much much better. Unlike the cliche ridden trash that most commentators/pundits/experts speak. So the next time you .. just push the mute button. The next time’ll do it at the start and then thou shall attain football nirvana… 😀

    And I’ve not even seen the game yet thanks to a delayed telecast here in India …meh

  • Arvind

    Oh and lastly…yes of course we would beat more teams if we played “that” way (I haven’t yet seen the game). Surely though, we don’t set out trying to play lethargically from Minutes 1-45..go 2 goals down and then start playing. Just makes no sense.

    A more rational explanation is:
    a) We planned to play a certain way and the execution of those plans failed
    b) The opposition played in a way that neutralized us
    c) We got injuries in certain places, which made us more cautious
    d) Maybe we can’t play like a 100mph train all 90″

    Saying that the players or AW are fools/ for not playing that way the whole game OR playing halves selectively make no sense.

    Also watch out for the referee being taken to task next time and give us no penalties at all.

  • Anne


    Note that, even though today was far from our best performance, we still won because the ref did his job with some semblance of fairness.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Only one team in the EPL has been awarded, and scored, two penalties in the 220 games this season – Fulham at home to Newcastle.

    As I said, it doesn’t happen very often, does it??

  • Mahdain

    you gotta love the Arsene..made all the AAA look like complete tools and not for the first time should read what they were saying at half time..pathetic

  • DC

    Come on mate, don’t be too simplistic & naive in your assessment?! Arsene in the main hasn’t been to blame for the poor performances; it’s been the players! Many are no longer little babies and need to take responsibility in a more dynamic manner rather than waiting for the boss to tell them! It’s called being a leader on the pitch with fight and desire; and that’s what we all saw in the first 25 minutes of the 2nd half! That’s why many wrongly see the same players as lazy at crucial times!

  • dan

    No Arshavin, was last week the end of him?

  • DC

    Yes the ref did his job well but the boys won the game alone with their desire, drive and commitment; which was plainly lacking in the first half!

  • Adam

    My poor old heart can’t take games like that anymore, Call me selfish but can I please have 3-0 score lines after 5 minutes back.
    I also watched the game on ESPN and thought the commentators especially one in particular was very anti Arsenal, calling for RVP to be sent off yet defending Dunne.
    Anyone out there know the odds at half time of an Arsenal come back.

  • Strus

    Adam-> The odds where like 8:1

  • Anne


    Yes, I certainly wasn’t trying to take anything away from the team with that comment.

  • Shard


    So does that mean the university football doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the FA but Sunday League (and saturday and Wednesday leagues) does? Is there any set period for promotion? Can a referee go from Level 10 to level 5 in one year? Can a referee go straight from Level 10 to level 3? At what level would a referee be eligible to ref the U-18 and reserve leagues?

    Sorry again..but this is something that would be of some help.

  • Arun

    @ Adam, I think you should only read scores at the end :D.You might want to live until arsenal wins FA Cup this year .

  • Shard

    What a match huh? There are two ways to look at it I suppose, but either way, you have to acknowledge that the team showed plenty of fight to win that game. For the rest, it just shows what we miss in terms of results. A bit of luck and the referee doing his job. We got lucky with Walcott’s goal, and the referee rightly awarded us those penalty kicks. If we had some luck and even more importantly, fair decisions, we would be near the top of the league let alone fighting for 4th..

    However, today also showed what we lack. We can’t seem to score against an opposition who sit deep and deny us space, and hope to play us on the counter or get a set piece. We do need to be more effecient because we miss the few chances that we do create.

    I guess.. I am delighted by the result. I still think we need to do better. A referee won’t give us a penalty, let alone two, every match, no matter how much we deserve them. We also need to defend better. I was disappointed especially by the first goal. But all in all, I am proud of the team..and I think Koscielny and Rosicky were my favourite performers on the day. Well done boys.. Lets keep that winning feeling going.

  • Shard – this unviersity league used to be under the jurisdiction of the local FA in regards to getting officials, but because it was such a low priority it rarely got officials, so the organisers (it is a commercial thing run by the uni sports centre) decided to appeal for their own pool of refs.

    As to your more specific questions – I don’t know! I presume that if person X was an outstanding ref and consistently performed, they would get promoted very quickly, as quickly as they got reviewed for each level, potentially. How often you can get reviewed I don’t know – check out some FA websites, I’m sure the info is there.

    As an aside – were Walter decide to ref in the UK, he would have to start at the very bottom, despite being qualified to a much higher standard than that in Belgium. It is a very strange rule, one which I don’t think would stand a legal challenge – think EU freedom of movement of labour laws. Imagine a French Chief Exec moving to take over a role in an English company – they wouldn’t have to start at the very bottom and work up, their experience and quality would allow them to get a top job, regardless of geographical borders.

    Allowing for differences in language and culture, I think allowing foreign refs to work in the UK would be fantastic – if the best ref in the world is born in Austria, they will only ever earn X, versus a much higher amount in the UK at the very top of the game £100,000 , give or take! Greater competition would boost standards as well as financially reward those who deserve it!

  • Shard


    Thanks for that..And a GREAT point there.

  • bob

    And on the mash-media front, it’s so very good to see stenographers like the Guardian Sports desk’s snarky Jacob Steinberg – their in-game blogger for our FA match – have to admit, at the very end, that “a phenomenal 15-minute period at the start of the second half turned the match in their favour.” After slating TH for having “Arseneled up” his last chance on the ball, Snarkmeister Steinberg concedes this much to us – yes he had to type the word “phenomenal.” And it would have to appear directly underneath their nastiest accompanying photo; chosen to set the tone at the outset of the match by showing our last match’s unpopular changeover from Ox to Andrei with Arsene standing in the background as the boos came down. But Le Prof & Cie turned the tables, we did! And while Steinberg and the Manchester Guardians (the original name of the paper, btw) tried to have this photo define the match blog to be, our brilliant comeback ruined the keyboard-warriors’ Kool Aid party. Living well, mates, is the best revenge. Go Gunners!

  • DC

    Well said; that’s what makes the come-back and performance all the more sweeter! Get in there you Gunners and Gooners!

  • Mandy Dodd

    this is a bit worrying

    Eck does not like us very much does he, and unfortunately he has friends in high places. If the FA can ignore Taraabt on Arsh, they can ignore anything!

    Mcleish, you are out of the cup, you are a shit manager stuck in the English dinosaur era, you cannot play anything beyond kick and rush, and once more, you are a serial relegationist. Get over it!
    On another note, how easy have the Spuds draws in this competition been this year, even tho they nearly messed up against Watford!

  • Johnny Deigh

    How about Koscielny taking the ball from his CB position in his own half, taking the ball down the pitch, and drawing the penalty in the area for Robin to score the game winner? Great comeback by the Arsenal!

  • DC

    Mandy Dodd,
    If the FA did nothing against Lescott for his forearm smash against the Spuds, then i don’t see them doing anything against Robin. That inconsistency will be grounds for immediate appeal. Besides, was it obvious that Robin meant to do it?

  • Johnny Deigh

    I remember Rooney getting away with far far worse:

  • DC

    @Johnny Deigh,
    Precisely; nice link.
    It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the English players get away with alot more dirty stuff on the pitch whilst “Johnny Foreigner” get’s punished during or after the match!
    Incidentally, big rumour going around the Ems today that Hazard will sign for Arsenal this summer! Finish in the top 4 and it’s a done deal regardless of what Chel$ki want! Happy days!

  • dan


    Why would we need to sign Hazard? We many young players coming through in the same position!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Do not think he meant anything DC, just used the way such things work against us, VP banned for three games may help some of the chosen.
    Hope nothing happens but we are Arsenal, we know what can happen! But as has been posted, others have got away with far worse…but…..we are Arsenal….

  • bjtgooner

    @ Mandy Dodd/DC

    My feeling was that VP did not strike out at Cuellar, it was nothing more than a collision; compared to the Lescott incident it was minor.

    McLeish really is full of poison! He didn’t say too much when his teams in past kicked the c**p out of us!

    The ESPN team made a meal out of today’s incident.

  • DC

    Possibly, but a talent like that could develop into something very special for the club under Arsene. Just look at Messi for Barca! We don’t currently have many players like that or clearly in the offing, although Ox will certainly come close to that too!
    Additionally, he can play anywhere in the front line.

  • DC

    @Mandy Dodd & bjtgooner,
    I certainly hope that Eck gets what he deserves for his bulls**t!

  • Arvind

    @DC: Regarding your comment on the last page. Yes, of course its up to the team to dynamically pick themselves up. I just meant that surely they know that too? And should play the way they ‘should’ play all the time? Which to an extent is dictated by the manager?

    So for e.g. Say we’re leading 2-1 on aggregate with a home tie against Milan..AW would tell the guys to set up in a 4-5-1 and play more on the counter rather than say after 2-0 at halftime today. So in that case, the players would, in a way, seem slow and lethargic where its anything but that. My point being…its largely down to the manager deciding ‘how we play’. If that doesn’t happen..i.e AW says something but we do something else on the pitch… its one of those 4 reasons that I gave earlier.

    Hope that clarifies my stance.

  • Arvind

    On RVP though… I’ve seen a red card given for those btw. He’s looked at the defender and gone and backed in to him. It’s not a vicious swipe..yes. But it is an elbow. So yeah…seen them given. The ref was right there though and saw it and didn’t give it. So going by past incidents.. where the ref has ‘consciously decided’ against a card..RVP shouldn’t get a retrospetive ban.

    However, as I be honest, I’ve seen reds for less.. like the red card a Wigan player got against ManU a month or so ago for just backing into a defender(Evans I think). That was hilarious. So ..for me..while I’d need to see it again..and considering Arsenal’s overall luck…I think RVP got away with one. Your thoughts Walter and the other refs?

  • DC

    I agree with your point but I would rather that the boys played like Barcelona throughout and do not allow teams to retain the ball with ease which invariably happens once we alter our strategy to a more defensive and stand-off-ish one. Movement and ball-retention should be a given for the team regardless of formation.
    The excellent performance at the start of the second-half was due to an increase in intensity and desire and there wasn’t a change in formation – that was the same thing that occurred in the second-half of the ManU match. Unfortunately however, unlike Barcelona, when our team reduces their attacking and midfield intensity (whether that’s due to wanting to hold-on to the ball, conserve energy, avoid unnecessary injuries, etc) that’s when we begin to have difficulties. Witness the 2nd part of the second-half when Villa regained a more attacking threat. Granted, Villa made a change in formation but our side’s nervousness kicked in again! It’s up to the players then to recognise that and step-up once more; and we now usually see Kos and Verm doing that from defence when they break-forward! That’s great to see and really helps us regain the impetus!

  • Michael "the Gooner"

    Great result,Great 2nd half.ESPN were sick at the end of it.Many scripts were torn up and re written.What a totally crap,f..k… crap station that is.They hate us.I heard John Collins the ex Fulham,Celtic and Monaco player giving a interview today.Music to my ears.He throught Mourino can only win one way, but said AW was a class act!

  • Anne

    @Johnny Deigh:

    I’m a little late getting back to the thread, but that was a great link.


    Glad that you liked the link as well, but I’m not sure if the implication of the link was that anti-foreign bias caused the ref to do what he did.

    With the hug, the hand signals, and the various weird circumstances described below the video, I was under the impression that the implication was that something more nefarious might have been going on there.

  • DC

    Clattenburg probably “did not see it” but knew something had happened with Rooney and, since he’s an English superstar player, whatever it was it “must have been an accident”! Alan Shearer used to do these things many a times in his career and how many times was he punished for it?! His legend status within the EPL should clearly tell everyone the answer to that!

  • DaVinci

    I was the only one in the pub that remained hopeful, and unlike RVP, I was sent off by some irate fans. I watched the rest of the match in another pub that had nothing to do with football, and the screen would have done better with a few square inches. All the same, happy ending!

  • Laundryender

    Regarding the RVP incident the tactics of Big Eck were to distract attention from his sides poor second half performance, and not to try to get RVP retrospectively banned. It was a classic diversion tactic that the media fall for every time.

    Robin was a bit naughty, and it was probably worth a foul to Villa and a caution at worst.