The FA Cup third round is here: Man City banished a weakened Chelsea; Man United saw off Everton and now Arsenal will clash with a perilously underestimated Oxford United.
January 2003, 20 years ago, was the last time that the two sides faced off against each other. The game was yet another FA Cup third round in which Arsenal came away victorious 2-0. It is best remembered as the day when Dennis Bergkamp curved a unique little ball over Andy Woodman’s head with the outside of his foot to mark a century of goals for the Arsenal.
With Arsenal as league leaders, various members of the football media are suggesting that Oxford might be able to snatch a draw from a powered-down North London side. Why don’t we push the boat out a bit? There’s still every chance that the U’s will knock out the Gunners, that ITV will film as Arteta punts a choirboy from Magdalen tower, that OUFC’s manager Karl Robinson will steal an illuminated manuscript from the Rad Cam and read it aloud to huddled masses in Cornmarket Street.
Arteta, not one to concede any sort of mental advantage to his opponent, has admitted in a press conference that “Oxford is a nice place”. I reckon they could put that on the welcome sign as you drive in. It beats “A CYCLING CITY” and is less gothically opulent than the “City of Dreaming Spires”.
Arteta’s army will be in for a tough outing at the Kassam. Oxford United are of course accustomed to a stadium with only three stands —something that they might have tried three years ago at the Emirates, but now, thankfully, there’s no need. Oxford’s fans will be eager to know that, due to the ITV crew, the catering van at the South East corner has moved to the North East (but the one in the car park will still be in its usual place).
The Gunners are likely to welcome back England forward Emile Smith Rowe. To match them, Oxford have brought in Stephan Negru from Shelbourne and just last week have signed Hull City left-back Brandon Fleming on loan. Hope remains ever a virtue.
The match kicks off at 8pm at the Kassam Stadium, Grenoble Road, Oxford. It will be shown live on ITV.
Image: Steve Daniels // CC BY-SA 2.0