Philip Cornwall saw enough to be hopeful at Wembley, but equally enough to concern. After all, who doesn't need a bit of luck when it comes to the World Cup...?
After three years of suffering under Venkys, Blackburn fans finally have a team in which to believe again. Under Gary Bowyer, there are flashes of light at the end of a long tunnel...
Both Arsene Wenger and Per Mertesacker were quick to draw comparisons between Arsenal's response to being battered 6-3 at the Etihad and being shafted 5-1 at Anfield. On both occasions the instinct was to buckle down, stay tight and become pretty much unbreachable defensively. It doesn't make for excellent entertainment, or indeed any entertainment at all, but it serves a purpose - confidence is restored in at least one area of the pitch. In the 427th tedious weather-related analogy you will read this week, re-building a house destroyed by tornado has to begin with the foundations.
So for Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0, read Arsenal 0 Manchester United 0. Rotten for those of us watching but apparently essential for steadying a rocking catamaran.
Alas, that only works as a comparison if the Gunners now go on a run of seven consecutive victories. But while the re-fortified Gunners of two months ago followed that Chelsea draw with a visit to West Ham with Theo Walcott and Aaron Ramsey, this Arsenal will face last week's 5-1 tormentors with no Walcott, no Ramsey and a tired-looking attacking axis of Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil. Such is the difference in their recent fortunes that fourth-placed Liverpool are now shorter odds for the title (8/1) than second-placed Arsenal (9/1).
Regular readers of Football365 will know what we pay little more than lip service to the FA Cup - it's the adverts in the middle of our
Emmerdale Breaking Bad, it's the glass of water we sip from between gulps of wine. There's no Big Weekend, there's no Winners and Losers, there's rarely a 16 Conclusions. But this weekend is different because this is probably Arsenal's biggest game of the season so far. Cue the 'duh-duh-duh'.
In many of the last eight seasons, Arsenal's fifth-round FA Cup clash may have been the biggest game of the season because it represented their last remaining chance of silverware. This season is different. Beating Liverpool is not about getting a step closer to Wembley, but about making a statement, about putting down a marker, about proving that the league table does not lie - that they are better than Liverpool, that they are still in the title race, that the naysayers should stop with all that naysaying, that a heavy defeat to an astonishingly good Liverpool side was just the third and last of three pretty big blips this season.
There are massive obstacles looming in March (Munich, Tottenham, Chelsea, Man City) but they will look a great deal more surmountable if Arsenal can learn from what happened at Anfield. Alarm bells rang before that game when Wenger said Arsenal "must control possession" - has he worked out in the last week that trying to control possession plays right into a devastatingly effective counter-attacking side's hands? Wenger has to find a way to contain and outscore by Sunday afternoon or he will struggle to convince fans or players that there could be a third recovery.
It's not controlling possession that makes you vulnerable to counter attacks, it's playing a high line and committing too many players ahead of the ball. In fact, controlling possession would mitigate against a teams ability to counter attack as they'd have fewer opportunities to do so. I expect Arsenal to play deeper and more conservatively today and whilst I think it'll be tight, they'll probably prevail.- bernsteinforpm