The way I see it – Arsenal v Tottenham

Last updated : 31 January 2007 By Jason Hogan

I stumbled across one particular R'n'B compilation album that I had not listened to in ages and as it happened there was a song on the album called "Can't always have sunshine". To my mind, it was a song that was pretty apt given the events that unfolded at The Grove on Sunday.

As one of the lines in the song says, quite simply, "It's gotta rain some days" and it seemed to sum up how I felt after we had been held to a draw by Fat Sam's kicking crew pretty well. Because, for all my frustrations at seeing the Arsenal foiled once again by the modern day, jumped up version of Wimbledon, I soon took a more philosophical view of things.

As much as I detest Allardyce and as much as I detest the cynical spoiling, bully-boy tactics employed by Bolton, it has to be said that they are no mugs. And on Sunday, the Arsenal effectively played right into their hands yet again. Whilst we showed a definite level of intensity in the last half hour of the game, the fact is we could easily have been out of the FA Cup altogether by then on another day.

We were guilty of lacking tempo, drive and we were also guilty of sloppy passing and movement. When we upped the ante in the last half hour, we had them hanging on from grim death. But, what happened to us in the first hour?

The indecisive nature of our game was unfortunately summed up best by young Theo. I'm not picking on him as such. Anyone who knows the first thing about football will tell you that at 17, he is very much still a youngster with a lot to learn and his best days in an Arsenal shirt are very much to come.

It was just unfortunate that on the day he was virtual passenger in the sense that, save for one burst and shot, he seemed to be almost constantly caught between two stools whether he had possession of the ball or not. Theo wasn't alone in that sense. For example I will say, not for the first time, that I'm a big fan of Tomas Rosicky because I love the energy that he brings to the side but he also had a bit of a mare over the first hour or so.

In the end it didn't come as too much of a surprise to me that we ended up falling behind once again. Credit to Nolan. He does have this habit of often being in the right place at the right time and it's an art which cannot really be coached. And even though the ball came to him by way of a miss-hit shot, he still showed sound composure to finish off what was a good move to be fair.

It was of course one of the quirks of fate football throws up time and time again that, whereas they opened the scoring from open play, our equalising goal actually came from a set piece. The thing that made it particularly ironic for me was the fact that at set pieces, Bolton always work on the principle that it doesn't matter who wins the first ball in the air just as long as a Bolton player wins the second one.

So you can imagine the wry grin that was etched on my face when I found out that it was Gary Speed who happened to inadvertently flick Fabregas' free kick directly into the path of a stooping Kolo. It was kinda sweet to see that the Arsenal for once outwitting Bolton at their own game.

Whilst I will reluctantly admit that Bolton actually deserved a replay, the fact that they have immediate been installed as favourites to win the tie back at The Reebok doesn't faze me one bit. After all, if they are now the favourites to win the tie in the eyes of many neutrals, then that means we are very much the underdogs. And if we go into that game as underdogs, then what have we got to lose when we go there?

What's more, the Arsenal have often been at their best in the past when they have been written off or considered to have no chance. We have proved quite a few times this season alone but I'll expand on that closer to the time.

The only thing that really disappointed me, aside from the fact that we have to play an extra game in what is fast becoming an extremely cluttered fixture list, was that we picked up yet another bloody injury.

The Beast only entered the fray on Sunday with just 20 minutes to go but that was long enough for him to pick a groin injury.

The subsequent word on the street is that Baptista's groin problem isn't as bad as first feared but whilst I hope that's true, it's the sort of problem that can easy reoccur and put him out for a considerable length of time. Will he be fit for the semi against the Tiny Totts? It would be a great mental boost to the team if he was.

Baptista is definitely on a roll in this competition and he carrying the sort of momentum that could help us navigate our way to the final. This of course leads me nicely on to the semi-final second leg against our poorer relations from the wrong end of the Seven Sisters Road.

If anything, I'm more concerned about this game than I am about our trip to Reebok. Not because I think that Arsenal have anything to fear where the Tiny Totts are concerned but the fact is we are the ones who are strong favourites in this particular case.

And, whilst we have a small advantage on aggregate going into tonight's we must not lose sight of that fact that it is no more than that. The Tiny Totts and their fans will have spent the last week trying to come to terms with the fact that they squandered a 2-0 lead on their own patch against a bunch Arsenal reserves and kids.

On the other hand, can you imagine how much they would love to come to The Grove and become the first team to beat us there and claim a cup final place at our direct expense? We would never hear the last of it.

So, whilst we are entitled to be confident both in terms of our ability as a team and in terms of the fact that The Grove has not been the millstone round our neck so many people suggested it would be, we have to realise first and foremost that the job has not yet been done.

I hope that the tempo of our game will be right from the start tonight. The Arsenal cannot afford to keep going into games with a casual air about us, falling behind and then salvaging something from them with a frantic late flurry.

I would love to see Arsene and the kids get a shot at winning the final. Three times we have made the semi-finals in recent years only to be squeezed out. Could it be fourth time lucky tonight? As long as we don't take liberties, there's no reason why not.