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The first FA Cup Final that I remember watching Arsenal contest was the 1998 Final against Newcastle. Goals from Overmars and Anelka secured Arsene Wenger a first Double and the club’s first since before I was I born. I jumped around in our lounge and made a lot of noise. Top day, that.

Ever since then I have enjoyed this tie when it comes up. In 2002 we drew 1-1 at St James’ Park but prevailed in the replay, running out 3-0 winners at Highbury with goals from Pires, Bergkamp and Campbell (sploosh!) That was one hell of a team and of course it went on to collect our second Double in four years.

In 2008 we played them in the fourth round and again beat them 3-0, Emmanuel Adebayor plundering two of the thirty goals he scored in all competitions that season. Unfortunately, that year did not end so rosily for us. We went on to lose 4-0 to Manure in the next round and a week later Eduardo’s leg was broken in an incident that so shocked the team that they fell away in the League and slipped from first to third. A sliding doors moment for the club and a horrific injury for a popular and prolific player who never quite returned to his best form afterwards.

However, although we have not challenged for the league as often as we would have liked since then, the last few years have seen some wonderful results in the cup and we have won it more than anyone else. Tomorrow will see us begin the defence of the trophy that we won in such magnificent style last year. The restrictions on gathering meant there were quite a lot of us jumping around in our lounges and making a lot of noise that day! Being 22 years older I also consumed rather more beer than I had done in ’98. Top day, that.

The Opposition

Newcastle fans are beset on all sides. Mike Ashley is still their owner and their manager is Steve Bruce, who, whatever you think of him, is not coaching a side that are easy on the eye. I watched them play Leicester last week and they were not at all pretty. They have a decent shape, Bruce is no mug, and they have players who put a shift in but lack the quality of many other top-flight sides. 

Callum Wilson appears to be someone who can continue the Tyneside club’s tradition of quality strikers and they rely on him to hold the ball up and nick goals. Creativity comes from Almiron, although he is not a player I rate highly. They are also waiting on an all clear for Saint-Maximin, one of the last of their players to return to contention after a recent outbreak of coronavirus swept through the club. The Frenchman is far from consistent but he is about the only player they have who, on his day, is genuinely exciting and unpredictable. Although if he is not available to enliven a dour Barcodes side then I won’t miss him.

Dave used to appreciate a mastery of the Dark Arts and we will have to watch out for that tomorrow more so than ever – there is no-one better qualified in this area than Lord Voldemort himself, who could line up in midfield. He may have changed his name to Jonjo Shelvey but he is fooling no-one. Mind you, if his arch enemy had been Kieran Tierney rather than that Radcliffe chap it would have been an hour long tv special and no more. KT would never have taken seven books and eight films to come out on top. “A bit of dark magic? It hurts no-one.”

Anyway… If we do get ourselves a lead then I expect the last fifteen minutes will be them thumping long balls at Andy Carroll from any and all conceivable opportunities. Didn’t we play a Fat Sam team last week too?

The Arsenal

The busy festive period saw a marked upswing in results and, having made it through that punishing schedule, our boys have had a full week to prepare for this match. I imagine that Arteta will rotate somewhat for this one but quite how many changes he makes we will have to see. He might decide to go wholesale, giving the youngsters a rest and allowing their older colleagues the opportunity to prove that they are worth more than simply chucking on the scrap heap whilst the kids take over. 

So, we might get a bit more Willian. Oooh yeah. Perhaps some Pepe, hopefully the spicy one that lashes shots in with a vicious left-foot rather than the luke-warm, underseasoned one who gets passed the ball with three blokes in front of him and then runs straight into the first one anyway.

I think we probably will see David Luiz. It is even possible that Partey may be in contention, although I am sure all Gooners everywhere are happy to wait to see him until he is actually fully fit. Let us hope the staff assessing this are more cautious than they were the last time he came back. If we could get him in the starting line-up with any regularity it would really add some power, quality and experience, and provide an actual midfield platform for our attacks. If he is fit I’d still have him on the bench tomorrow.

AMN should play, perhaps at left-back so KT3 can have a day off? Or he may go at right-back, Cedric staying on the bench and the indestructible Scot looking to add to his goal tally now he has got the taste. Go on Kieran!

I think this one will have a Europa League feel to it. Willock may start. Apparently, Nelson had an injury that has kept him out of the team but he appears to be available, so he might well be given a chance to get back into things. Will Gabigol be rested? Or does he need game time more than rest? I think we need to start ESR in the league, so I suspect he won’t play tomorrow but I might be well off in that assessment (guess).

Will Saka be deemed un-droppable? Or will he be allowed a chance to sit on his arse at home after some inspiring performances that, although they have been exceptional, must have taken something out of the young man who has played a lot of games this year. (Well, last year, but you know what I mean.)

Do we play Auba to try to get him scoring again? Or Laca, to continue his streak, and because he likes the physical challenge a side like Newcastle bring? Is this one for Eddie, who has been largely absent recently? Might we even see some of Balogun? I hope we see the young striker at least make the bench. And personally, I hope the even younger Miguel Azeez also gets in the squad. That is a player I want to see more of. Yes please.

The boss has a lot of choices for this one and then five days before we play Palace in the League. It is a tough one to call, so my team might be well out here:


AMN, Luiz, Mari, Tierney

Xhaka, Elneny

Willian, Willock, Nelson


Do not be surprised if we line up completely differently. The boss has alternate options in every single position barring central midfield, when even a fit Partey would still see us needing to field one of the Xhakneny Axis of Average. I will look forward to suggestions in the drinks as to how else we might line up and be perfectly happy if I get five out of eleven correct.

The holics’ pound

Well, I quite fancy us to get through this one. We have hopefully turned a corner in our results and we look like we can actually score goals. Recent history is on our side. And Newcastle aren’t great. I shall be watching the match on the BBC, just like ’98, so that’s another good omen. Unfortunately for those chasing a bit of value the bookies agree with me. We are comfortable favourites and there isn’t much of anything attractive being offered.

I will suggest waiting until the team-sheet comes out before placing your money down. If the Icelandic lad starts in goal then don’t bet on a clean sheet! Assuming Leno gets the nod I am torn between 2-0, available at a skinny 6/1 and 3-0 which is available at an equally uninspiring 9/1. Both of these are through William Hill and if you shop about a bit you may find a slight improvement. On balance I am going to go with 3-0, to make it a hat-trick of three goal home cup victories against this lot.

I do love the FA Cup. Let’s put in a good performance and keep building momentum.

Have a good one ‘holics.

71 Drinks to “Magpies for the pot?”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    Lovely preview but you’re sooo young! – 1998 was a great day out and I remember driving back from Wembley with ‘ Hot Stuff’ the Arsenal single blazing out from the car . You do things like that when you win the Double!
    You’ve hit the jackpot with – ‘ Xhakneny Axis of Average‘ which is amusing , fair and a slightly depressing description of one of our possible midfield combos . Xhaka has two FA Cup winners medals and I’d love him to get a third before he naffs off to Hertha Berlin . I heard some silly stuff today about Guendouzi returning , Nketiah interesting West Ham ( still a chance to keep Balogun?) and Mustafi on a free to Inter . If Mesut leaves too we could have a bonfire with the dead wood we’ve got rid of but then if we got rid of them we couldn’t set fire to it could we ?
    Anyway I’m hoping for 2-0 to the Gunners

  2. 2
    Noosa Gooner says:

    First – rude not to.

  3. 3
    Noosa Gooner says:


  4. 4
    Bathgooner says:

    Fine preview GSD. I was deeply disappointed to be at an ASCO conference in LA on Cup Final day in 1998 and had to phone my son at intervals to keep up with the score. It was a great result. I loved that Arsenal team. They really should have done the double double.

    I hope that Arteta takes the opportunity to give some of our youngsters on the fringes of the first team an opportunity to shine. Your selection would do nicely though I hope KT3 gets a rest and I expect to see Cedric at RB and AMN at LB. I also hope to see Balogun on the bench (it’s perhaps too great a leap of faith for him to start) and to get at least a 30 minute run out. If he doesn’t make the squad, I fear he’s gone.

    3-0 would do very nicely, thank you.

    What did she wear?

  5. 5
    bt8 says:

    Cheers, GSD. Enjoyed that one. Is that a yellow garter? 😉

  6. 6
    Countryman100 says:

    Great work GSD. First Cup Final 98. Bless! You’re surrounded by your Dad’s mates! 71 for me, Charlie and the spreadeagle on a sun kissed Wembley day.

  7. 7
    scruzgooner says:

    thanks, dino. top stuff. i agree with ttg@1 about the quality of your Xhakneny term…it’ll make even a t.rex’s arms grow 🙂

    i’d love to see partey with ceballos, and esr up in front of them, if they three were to start. but i think you have come pretty close to hitting the target. and i would also love to see balogun start with eddie up front in a final two with azeez behind them…however unlikely THAT is.

    oh, and macey leaving means we’d better be wrapping leno in steel wool.


  8. 8
    Uplympian says:

    Excellent stuff GSD – brought back many good memories. I had arrived for a European group get together in Malta ( in 1998). It was a great start to the week ahead watching us beat the Toon in the hotel bar. Followed this by going on an excellent night on the lash with my European colleagues in St Julian’s, only tempered by all the “talent” on display were young enough to be granddaughters 🙄. The hotel casino was the final port of call.
    I expect Mikel will put out a fairly strong team – he likes to win every game and no doubt winning the cup again would be a priority as the league has long since disappeared over the horizon. I will go for 3-1* win – expecting Andy Carroll to plant a header past Leno during his substitute appearance ( assuming he is half-fit to play ). * This will be somewhat different if Runnarson is selected – he should be kept in the freezer at Iceland.

  9. 9
    TTG says:

    I’m not sure even Clive remembers our FA Cup Final before 1971 . It was our losing final ….to Newcastle ( we’ve lost twice in finals to them) in 1952 and we ended with nine fit men . To remember that you’d have to be 75 so 1971 was very special to a lot of Gooners. Not only was it the first final I can remember it was the first time since I supported Arsenal we had got beyond the fifth round . Thankfully I got a ticket as I couldn’t get into White Hart Lane on the Monday

  10. 10
    Osakamatt says:

    Fine preview GSD, thanks.
    Right up to your usual high
    As you say tricky to pick a
    side for this one.
    I think Gabriel may start at CB –
    if he’s available now? Martinelli
    should start I think.
    Personally I wouldn’t play Leno,
    KT, Saka, Partey, Laca or Auba.

    I’m expecting Newcastle to field
    mostly a second string too as they
    play again on Tuesday night away
    at Sheff Utd.
    In the circumstances it will probably
    be a fairly disjointed game but our
    squad is deeper than theirs so a 2-0
    win looks about right.

  11. 11
    Osakamatt says:

    Best of luck to Matt Macey at Hibs.
    Never quite made it for us but I’m
    sure he will have a good career.

  12. 12
    Trev says:

    Nice one GSD,

    although you have the memory of an elephant rather than a dinosaur – you can actually remember which TV station you were watching in 1998 !?

    Your Xhaka – Elneny Axis of Average would really worry and disappoint me. How are we ever going to get the ball in the opposition net when it’s up the other end of the pitch. If the likes of AMN and Willock can’t get on the pitch in the FA Cup they might as well give up.

    One thing sadly certain to be missing from tomorrow’s spectacle – the sight of bare chested, fat-belly Newcastle fans in the freezing cold, crying at the final whistle !

    Happy New Year everyone ! 🤪

  13. 13
    Steve T says:

    Nice stuff Dino.

    Like many here, I hope that the grouping of Xhaka and Elneny is just a sick joke and something that never happens ever again. Oh to offload both in January? Wishful thinking I would assume.

    The squad have had a week off and we are playing a side only 4 points below us in the league. As a result I hope that we don’t make too many changes. I would hope to see Gabriel and Martinelli start. I would also hope to see ESR start the game in that key role. If Partey is fit then he would benefit from a 20 minute run out.

    I also saw speculation that Eddie might be off and that might convince Balogun to sign??? I have no idea if there is any truth in that but from what I’ve seen, Balogun looks the far better prospect. I just hope he doesn’t become the next Gnabry.

    4-0 to the good guys. Balogun hat trick.

  14. 14
    Goonersince54 says:

    You are correct TTG.
    ’71 was my first, and more importantly celebrated with my Dad who was at both the 50 and 52 finals.
    A twist of fate, being the Assistant Manager at Wimbledon Woolworths store, meant I missed the Spurs league game due to working night shift that week with the painters in for a spruce up.
    The quid pro quote was I got the Saturday off and the rest is history.
    Dad didn’t want to go to the Lane without me, so he missed the utter chaos of that night, and that wonderful day at Wembley was our reward.
    Even though it was 50 yrs ago, I still remember it as if it were yesterday.
    We have won plenty of Finals since, but to triumph in extra time in that one after the enormous physical and mental effort at the Lane with only 4 days recovery, stands alone as a shining beacon, for me anyway.

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    Great memories and an idea fir our noble editor C100. We will celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that final in May. What about some memories from various Holics who were there or watching at home of their memories of that occasion ? I think it would make a wonderful piece .

  16. 16
    ClockEndRider says:

    Lovely story GS54. Treasured memories indeed, Sir.
    TTG, a great idea. Afraid I was too young to attend that night at the Lane and only attended my first game in the following season. I’d love to hear others stories of both the peerless victory at the Lane and then Wembley. We lived on Upper Street at the time and I vividly remember my great grandmother pinning on me an Arsenal rosette to watch the victory parade at the Town Hall from over the road, clambering on the gates of the flats. A sea of red and white, noise and great good humour, even for a very young boy like me to remember. Ahh, happy days….

  17. 17
    Countryman100 says:

    TFtG @15 – what a wonderful idea! Let’s do it!

  18. 18
    Trev says:

    I can add a few memories from the Lane that night – I skipped off school and went very early. Let’s save the rest for May 😏

  19. 19
    TTG says:

    Sounds like a plan . I skipped off work early…and couldn’t get in! As Trev says let’s organise a week of remembrance in May . Not sure when the Cup Final is but it would be great if we can get there again . Hopefully the one in May might have a few spectators .

  20. 20
    Esso says:

    Cheers GSD!

    Up The Arse!

  21. 21
    North Bank Ned says:

    Good going, GSD. As dinoesque as ever.

    I’d take 3-0 with no alarms in a heartbeat.

    OM: Big call for Arteta on Runarsson today. Play him, and we lose, then Arteta gets slaughtered. Play someone else who is not Leno, and Runarsson is done. Play him, he plays well, and we win. Now that would be a surprise.

  22. 22
    North Bank Ned says:

    Clive@14: Great memories.
    Half a century ago! Where does the time go?

  23. 23
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Leno, Cedric, Luiz, Mari, Tierney, Elneny, Willock, Willian, Pepe, Martinelli, Aubameyang

    Subs: Runarsson, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Saka, Nelson, Smith Rowe, Nketiah, Lacazette

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    Willian in the ESR role? No Gabriel, even on the bench. Nor Bellerin. Mustafi and Holding also AWOL. Sadly also no Balogun on the bench.

  25. 25
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Cheers all.

    No Balogun. That doesn’t look good on the face of it.

    But the team looks decent.


  26. 26
    North Bank Ned says:

    Partey and Dani also absent.

  27. 27
    Osakamatt says:

    Looks like MA went with the safe
    option in goal

  28. 28
    Osakamatt says:

    An interesting side, looks quick
    up front and let’s hope not too
    lightweight in midfield. Mari /
    Luiz lacks pace but certainly big
    enough !
    Except for Mus (leaving?) those
    left out must be starters for the
    Palace game. Let’s get through
    and no injuries to Leno or KT or
    Auba especially

  29. 29
    TTG says:

    Can’t see that midfield dominating. Worried about overplaying Tierney . Has to pick Leno

  30. 30
    Steve T says:

    Martinelli injured in the warm up???????

    Ankle apparently????

  31. 31
    Gunnersaurus Stunt Double says:

    Oh no. Martinelli.


  32. 32
    Countryman100 says:

    Reiss Nelson brought in for Gabi

  33. 33
    Countryman100 says:

    Oh God. Danny Murphy.

  34. 34
    Countryman100 says:

    Poor free kick by Willian

  35. 35
    Steve T says:

    Why does Pepe always make me think that we only signed him 12 hours ago and he’s not yet been introduced to anyone?????

  36. 36
    Countryman100 says:

    Lovely play be Tierney. Unlucky Reiss. Willian keeps getting in Tierney’s way

  37. 37
    ksn says:

    We are shot shy today, first Nelson and then Pepe taking too many touches instead of shooting first time.

  38. 38
    Countryman100 says:

    Pepe, Willian and Auba having Westons at the moment

  39. 39
    Countryman100 says:

    Willian off for ESR at half time please

  40. 40
    Steve T says:

    A very uninspiring first half indeed. Back to the days of turgid lacklustre football.

    Need to up it a few gears in the second half. You can see how much we miss Martinelli in a game like this??

  41. 41
    ksn says:

    Laca and Saka please in place of Pepe and Willian.

  42. 42
    ksn says:

    Saka and Xhaka on for Willian and Willock.

  43. 43
    Steve T says:

    Nil nil at home and we Xhaka on to win the game????

    So glad I’m sat in my lounge rather than block 4.

  44. 44
    Osakamatt says:

    well, half of what you wanted
    ksn 🙂

  45. 45
    Steve T says:

    Pepe. Useless.

    I can still do that.


    Fucking wake up Arsenal.

  46. 46
    ksn says:

    Xhaka is Arteta’s favourite, OM.

  47. 47
    ksn says:

    Our passing is shit as usual.
    Phillips takes a dive and the ref buys it.

  48. 48
    ksn says:

    Pepe is fluffy and I can’t figure out how he was the leading goal scorer in France two seasons ago.

  49. 49
    ksn says:

    We will meet Newcastle in the league and that will be tougher for our not too creative team.
    Leno made three fabulous saves to keep us in the FA Cup.
    Not a red card from the replays and VAR says yellow for ESR for a change.

  50. 50
    ksn says:

    Extra time it is. The visitors had the better goal scoring chances. Need to buck up and get a goal.

  51. 51
    Steve T says:

    Another 30 minutes in the freezing cold. Just what we need.

    We look like a divided team. One group of players that are at the required. And one group of players that just aren’t.

  52. 52
    Steve T says:

    And Leno outstanding in added on time.

    World class

  53. 53
    ksn says:

    Laca on for Pepe.

  54. 54
    Cynic says:

    Pepe coming off about 70 minutes too late.

  55. 55
    ksn says:


  56. 56
    ATG says:

    Get in ESR! 😀

  57. 57
    ksn says:

    Laca make a good pass under pressure and ESR takes his chance with aplomb.

  58. 58
    ksn says:

    Auba finally nets one and it is safe for us now.

  59. 59
    Cynic says:

    Good ball from Xhaka, who’s been very good since coming on.

  60. 60
    ATG says:

    Great work by KT and Auba and we are two nil up! Well played!

  61. 61
    ATG says:

    and Xhaka! 😀

  62. 62
    ksn says:

    Tierney who has been running at them constantly and making really good passes, finally gets his assist. Good work by Xhaka too.
    2-0 and through to the fourth round. Well done.

  63. 63
    Bathgooner says:

    Job done.

    We learnt that:

    1) Saka and ESR are better starters than Pépé and Willian if you want to win your games;

    2) Laca is a better CF than Auba

    3) Xhaka can make a positive difference to a toiling midfield

    4) Leno is a top keeper

    5) ESR will be a top, top player

    6) Nelson needs more game time but doesn’t look to be in the same class as Saka, ESr and Martinelli.

  64. 64
    Bathgooner says:

    7) KT3 was again our best player tonight.

  65. 65
    scruzgooner says:

    good call on the score, dino.

    happy for xhaka, he did play well. beauty of a pass to kt3 for our second.

    i think we gained when carroll went off. he had a good game, except for his (thankfully) missed/saved chances), defending hard being an extra mn on the low block.

    a nice way to start my afternoon!

  66. 66
    Esso says:


  67. 67
    Countryman100 says:

    The mug is now four for four.

  68. 68
    Countryman100 says:

    The Croydon de Bruyne strikes again. Also accolades for KT3, Mari, Leno and Saka.

  69. 69
    North Bank Ned says:

    What C100 said @68. But we really should not have needed extra time to beat an average set of barcodes.

  70. 70
    TTG says:

    I’ve sent the report on .
    Mrs TTG is not impressed with the late start for Casualty . I’ve told her she’s lucky she didn’t have to watch the game ! 😃

  71. 71
    Pangloss says: