It has become quite a cruel pastime to taunt Arsenal fans about their lack of trophy success (and no, Monsieur Wenger, I’m not counting Champions League qualification) but I’m quite a cruel chap, really, so it is worth reminding everyone the Gunners’ hopes of winning something this season rests on the FA Cup alone.
Disgraced in the Capital One Cup at Bradford City, miles behind in the Premier league and certain to get knocked out by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the grand old cup competition – the last thing Arsenal lifted in 2005 – is their only realistic hope of ending an eight-year trophy drought.
Quite how it has come to this is a debate that we could have all week and in fact, it is a debate that is dividing the Arsenal fanbase on a daily basis.
But the truth is Arsenal look further away from winning a significant trophy as they have done at any time under Arsene Wenger’s 16-and-a-half year tenure in north London and the natives are definitely getting restless.
Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Manchester City was inevitable as soon as Laurent Koscielny did his best Hulk Hogan impression on Edin Dzeko after just nine minutes, but you didn’t find too many Gunners fans blaming referee Mike Dean for the defeat.
Of more concern was the meek surrender, even with a man disadvantage, and when even Wenger refuses to criticise the official and look at his own team’s failings you know things were far from good.
Every other match there seems to be a fundamental lack of passion from Arsenal players and Wenger must be able to see it, even if he doesn’t see much that happens on the pitch.
Too often over the last few years, and certainly too often this campaign, the moral fibre of the team has been questioned – and that’s before we even get to the quality – and there is no way I am backing them at 1/2 to beat Swansea in the third-round replay at the Emirates.
Why would you be doing that? Swansea have shown twice in recent weeks that they have the measure of Arsenal and the 333/100 on the draw and 9/2 on a Swans win are far more tempting at the odds.
Michael Laudrup’s side deservedly went to the Emirates and won 2-0 in the Premier League in December and even without star man Michu for an hour, they more than held their own in the 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium that brought about this rematch. So why will Wednesday be any different?
The Swans are on a great run of just two defeats in their last 17 games in all competitions, which as well as those two games against Arsenal also counts matches against Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Liverpool (twice).
And buoyed by their Capital One Cup run, I fancy the Swans to get another result against the Gunners and I’ll be on the 29/20 Swansea avoid defeat after 90 minutes.
Wenger’s men have won just four of their last 12 games and I hardly trust them to beat anyone at the moment, certainly not with some key men out (Koscielny and Mikel Arteta the most notable) and definitely not at such short odds.
Tiredness may be an issue for Swansea, but with a fully-fit squad Laudrup can freshen up his team. Arsenal have been busy themselves over recent weeks and playing for so long with ten men on Sunday will bring about some heavy legs for the home side as well.
So I’m not too concerned about Swansea’s hectic schedule for this one – when you are playing well and not losing matches, it’s amazing how fatigue doesn’t become an issue.
I would worry more for Arsenal, who will fear Michu and this three goals against the Gunners already this season. They have become a team to oppose most of the time and at 29/20, I’ll be opposing them again on Wednesday.
Top bet: Swansea to avoid defeat in 90 minutes @ 29/20