9am kickoff

Lots of team news today as I am left playing catch-up due to yesterday’s bloviating on the topic of a 39th game. Which, according to FIFA is deader than making love to Paris Hilton. Sepp Blatter basically reminded the FA (edit: it’s not the FA that wants the 39th game, it’s the Premier League.  The FA has come out against the 39th game.  Jesus, you Brits and your dizzying array of bureaucracies!)  that they are the world governing body and are the only organization allowed to make money off the international game. Add in that we now have a few teams saying that they weren’t really behind the idea and it’s clearly starting to unravel. Good. I now return you to your regularly scheduled English Football program.

Tomorrow is an FA Cup match at Old Trafford against the Men United. If you were to look at the history, the place in the league, and the general animosity between what amounts to the two biggest clubs in England you might think this would shape up to be a great match. But I won’t be surprised if Arsenal are handed a pretty spectacular defeat. Why?

Well, United are fielding their first team and Arsenal are missing 10 men: Johan Djourou (groin), Robin van Persie (thigh), Abou Diaby (calf), Manuel Almunia (sick), Denilson (hamstring), Tomas Rosicky (hamstring), Walcott (thigh), Clichy (hamstring), Sagna (personal reasons) and Senderos (knee/thigh). Which leads the boss to say that the squad “will be as strong as possible so we have a good chance to win the game without putting the rest of the season into jeopardy by risking injuries.” Clearly Wenger sees the FA Cup as less important than winning the “Two Leagues.”

Wenger goes on to reveal that there are only 14 players fit for the tie and so all of them will travel and the starting XI will be selected by the “who’s less likely to suffer major injury method.” Well, that seals it then, Arsenal have to be major underdogs in this match and maybe we can see a player like Bendtner or Hoyte really blossom.

This match has a lot of history and at one level I’m disappointed that so many players are injured. I’d love nothing more than to see Arsenal shove this match down Sir Whiskey Face’s throat and follow it up with a few slices of pizza. But at another level I have to admit, winning the Champions League and getting the Premiership trophy back would be so much sweeter. Especially given the writing off that so many of us gave Arsenal at the start of the season. Plus, at another level, with so many injuries and so few expectations, we might just see a classic tomorrow — you know “the day Hoyte shut down Ronaldo” kind of thing. Like last year when Eboue shut him down. Now that would be cool.

As for where you can watch the match; it’s on PPV here in America so check your local cable listings. My cable company (Click! — the city owned cable company in Tacoma) has the match live for $16, the other option is to go to a pub that has a contract with Setanta and pay the publican to see the match. Doyle’s is showing the match for $10. I’ll be ordering the match in tomorrow because my old lady and her daughter want to watch it. So, no Doyle’s for me.

That’s pretty much it. There’s a revelation that Cesc is re-negotiating his contract to add another two years (which will see him at the club until 2016) and another £30,000/wk to his annual wages — this just means that he will be worth even more when Arsenal sell him in 2010. And of course Gael Clichy reveals that he’s an ambitious young fellow who is concentrating on hard work in order to achieve his dreams. There was a player with Arsenal recently who moaned about not getting into the first team but didn’t want to put in the hard work and dedication necessary, if only I could remember his name… oh well, anyway, that person could learn a lesson from Clichy.

Until tomorrow, keep kicking.

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