I Didn’t Want to Win the FA Cup Anyway

Of course, that is how a child deals with disappointment. In that sense, football makes us all children again in different ways. During moments of absolute glory, we, as supporters, experience a heightened sense of joy that those who do not follow football, or other sports, as intensely as we do will likely never feel. You just don’t get feelings like that in everyday (dare I say “real”) life. And that goes for both highs and lows.Immediately ollowing the FA Cup defeat to Stoke yesterday, I once again felt that childish spiteful disappointment. If you did too, it’s okay. We’re not crazy, we’re just Arsenal supporters (the two not necessarily being mutually exclusive).

After a while to reflect, the child usually forgets his disappointment and moves on. Herein lies the difference. The child doesn’t have to read newspaper articles and blogs about his not getting a new PlayStation game for Christmas. The child doesn’t have to listen to pundits on podcasts, and lesser pundits on television, dissect why he didn’t get the game he wanted or be blamed for it. (Pundit: “I’ve been saying little Timmy was not a good boy for three years now. See, I was right all along.”) But, for us, our disappointment goes straight into the “record books.” There for all to see for eternity, if not longer.

Obviously, it was a hugely frustrating afternoon and it hurts even more to be dumped out of the Cup when a few other serious contenders had already made inauspicious exits. But, it’s over now. And it’s time to get on with the real business… the League. Ahead of the tie, I thought Arsene should rest a good number of first-team players, what with the four crucial league fixtures coming so thick and fast. And, he did. The side he put out should have been good enough to at least win a replay, especially against a Stoke City side that, let’s be honest, did not play their entire first team either, with Beattie and Tuncay on the bench.

Though still, this hardly qualifies as the “shock defeat” so many in the press are calling it. Stoke are a tough side and Arsenal have failed to get results there recently, even with a full-strength side. A shock defeat is United going out to Leeds or Liverpool going out to Reading, not this.

While I’m sure many of you now regret Arsene fielding the weakened side, I don’t. In fact, I only wish he had rested Fabregas as well. Don’t get me wrong… the FA Cup can be a glorious competition. And some of my best moments as an Arsenal supporter have been in the FA Cup (some of the worst too-did someone say 1999?). But, after suffering through another campaign last season where we had no hope of winning the league by the first frost, I can’t see risking our shot at the League for the FA Cup.

Some will say that we need to win ANY trophy at all costs. These are the same people who think Arsene should field our first XI in the Carling Cup. I respect that opinion since it is based on the correct assumption that winning breeds more winning. But I would not be satisfied in the least with a season in which we finished fourth in the league, but won the Carling Cup, or even the FA Cup. And I certainly wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice the League for a Cup competition.

But, I tend to go along with Arsene when he says that the League is always the most important thing because it takes consistency to win the League, not luck. To win a cup competition, even the Champions League, you need luck… But no one wins the league primarily due to luck. Performance in the League over 9 1/2 months and 38 fixtures is true measure of a team’s quality.

Yes, it sucks to go out of the FA Cup in the Fourth Round, but we lasted longer than United and didn’t go out to a Football League side. And, we are now freed up to focus on what really matters… four League matches that will prove more important than every domestic Cup tie we’ve played this season put together… multiplied by 20.

ARSENE WENGER POST-MATCH INTERVIEW