Opponent blog: The Scratching Shed
FA Cup third round v Arsenal – feels like we’ve been here before, right?
A trip to the Emirates in the FA Cup would probably be a big deal for most teams, but there’s not much of a fuss being made in Leeds with the league our only priority this season. After three seasons with draws against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United and Arsenal, the “big cup draw” distraction has become a little too common.
Part of my apathy probably derives from the lacklustre form that tends to coincide with these fixtures, but for the most part, the problem is that I find such fixtures to be utterly pointless. Don’t get me wrong, I love the competition, but is there really any point in the teams outside the Premier League competing? Even if they get a third round scalp, they’re not going to win the competition – some Premiership reserve team will knock them out sooner or later, it’s inevitable.
I’m sure there are some Leeds United fans out there buzzing with excitement ahead of the match, but I suspect the older generation will share a similar mindset to myself. With the days when we competed in this competition knowing we had a realistic chance of lifting the trophy still fresh in our minds, playing in it now makes it seem all the more trivial.
Another factor is the Arsenal fans themselves. I don’t wish to offend the entire readership of this site, but for all your friendly banter in the pubs pre-match, there was little in the way of an atmosphere the last time we visited – I remember games at the Library with a more vocal support (and that really is saying something). But I fully understand the reason for this – when you’re used to competing against the world’s best, playing a Leeds United side that are a shadow of them former selves must be pretty depressing. I’m sure you’d rather play a competitive Leeds United side too, as opposed to the ensemble cast of players you’ve never heard of that will be wearing all white next week.
Before I reaffirm the dour Yorkshireman stereotype any further, I’ll move on to what you can expect from Leeds United on Monday night.
Our team is currently ravaged by injuries, particularly the defence where we have only one fit centre back (Darren O’Dea – on loan from Celtic). You can imagine how delighted we were to hear Thierry Henry had returned to haunt us with such a ramshackle defence to hold him back – he was deadly enough against us when we were flying high, so 5-6 goals should be no problem for who I consider to be the best striker I’ve ever seen.
The injuries don’t stop there either. In midfield we’re missing our captain Jonny Howson and winger Robert Snodgrass. Two key players on which the foundation of this team was built. We’ve suffered badly over the Christmas period without them, culminating in an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Barnsley.
We do have Andros Townsend on loan from Tottenham Hotspur who has only played once for us so far but was devastatingly effective in the 2-1 win over Burnley. Extremely fast and always looks a threat – if Leeds are to cause any kind of threat in this fixture, he’s the most likely source.
I’m sure Ken Bates would love to see us scrape another draw so that he can further boost his pension fund with an Elland Road money-spinner, but the last thing we need is additional fixtures when we’re in the midst of a huge injury crisis. The ideal outcome for me would be a minor loss – 1-0, 2-1 for example. Realistically speaking however, I think your third team should be able to stick five or six by us at this point in time.
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