Portsmouth v Arsenal - at last, a cup tie for the Fratton faithful to get excited about
At last! An FA Cup draw that didn’t disappoint Pompey fans.
I can’t remember the last one that didn’t. When Cup draws come round I like to warn that they’re always highly anticipated, and almost always disappointing.
Not this time. As the fifth round draw went on, the chances of being paired with a big or biggish club increased, and sure enough we were paired with Bournemouth or Arsenal.
The Cherries wouldn’t have been bad opposition – I reckon we could have picked them off (pun intended) on their present form - but I was glad it was Arsenal who won the prize of a trip to floodlit Fratton.
It will be a proper FA Cup tie – the sort we have not had for years. Some may point to Chelsea away in the third round in 2012 but when you’re small fry (as we were then and, relatively, still are), you’d much rather face a giant on your own patch.
We did okay that day, holding Chelsea to 1-0 for more than 80 minutes before letting in another three.
This time, I think we may fare better, and I think we may pull off a shock.
I admit Arsenal – despite the struggle they’ve faced to find new post-Wenger identity – are still a good side and, on their day, capable of winning 5-1 at Fratton like the Gunners did in the 2004 sixth round.
But I also think they’re vulnerable, and not over-blessed with players who will have any idea of the atmosphere or surroundings they will face when they head south.
Mikel Arteta may even rest a few, preferring to concentrate on the PL or Europa League campaigns.
Let him, I say – whatever gives us the best chance of progress. I can’t wait for what should be a grand occasion, and this time I won’t quibble if the Blues charge me £24 to get in.