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Arsenal’s chance of getting silverware, are they heading for the treble?

For many years a group of malcontents who claimed to be Arsenal supporters would often write the comment “Fourth is not a trophy” in reply to any other fan who cited the fact that Arsenal had qualified for the Champions League for more years consecutively, than any other team other than Real Madrid.

Now it seems those days might be over; even fourth could be out of reach. It is unlikely that Arsenal will be making any major squad additions but you never know. More likely it will be players leaving the Emirates.

Of course there is a long way to go until the end of the season, and Arsenal could come good, although clearly no one is going to catch Manchester City, now that the Premier League has been transformed into an offshore version of the Spanish, German and French Leagues.

Put it this way, what odds might you get for betting a fiver on Bayern, Barcelona, PSG and Manchester City all winning their respective leagues this year?  I think you might have to wait for your bookmaker to stop laughing if you asked that question.  League football really is sorted by Christmas these days.

However silverware is still an opportunity on three fronts.  Arsenal is in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup against Chelsea against whom they have had good results lately winning the FA Cup last season and winning the Community Shield at the start of this season. The Gunners have reached the knock out stages of the Europa League with what looks a fairly easy draw against a recently formed and very inexperienced Swedish team, and then there is the FA Cup, with us about to play a Nottingham Forest side that has just sacked its manager.

So maybe instead of that bet on the obvious four title takers you could try for Arsenal to get a cup triple.

Now one possible response to this might be “not with the way they have been playing” – and yet if you look at each of these competitions there is quite a possibility.  Let’s take them in order.

The Carabao Cup

With any competition when you have reached the semi-finals there is a chance.  And just as Leicester managed to win the League so we might recall that Wigan beat Manchester City to win the FA Cup a while back.

So on the basis that anything can happen, we might do ok against Chelsea especially as the semi-finals come as Chelsea will be keeping up an attempt to come second in the league, and be looking to progress in the Champions League.

When it comes to fielding a weakened squad, as both teams probably will do, Chelsea don’t have as much flexibility as Arsenal.  In fact it is easily forgotten that instead of registering 25 over 21 year olds for their squad on September 1, Chelsea actually only registered 21 players.  The reason for this being that they only have three players in the squad who are qualified as “home grown”.  Unless they sell they won’t be able to bring in anyone new if he doesn’t qualify as “home grown”.

So far Chelsea have beaten Nottingham Forest (5-1), Everton 2-1 and Bournemouth 2-1 in the competition, with all three games played at home.  Arsenal’s youngsters and back up players have the benefit of not only playing in their three league cup games but also of playing in six Europa matches.

Put the fact of more players being available, and those players having played more games together, and I think we have a good chance.

The FA Cup

I don’t think anyone would ever dare say that Arsenal don’t stand a chance in the FA Cup having won it more times than any other club, and with a manager who has personally won it more times than any other manager in the entire history of the cup.

Wenger has twice won the Cup in a run of three seasons in four, and twice won the League and FA Cup double, so with the extended squad that other teams don’t possess, we could certainly see a chance here.

What’s more, those three wins in four seasons have annoyed him, as no one has won the FA Cup three times in a row  since the earliest days when The Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers did it, in a competition that in those days mostly consisted of little more than three or four games.

Certainly the third round tie against Forest should not cause a problem.

The Europa League

If Arsenal do progress to the later rounds then I suspect we could see the experienced first team players entering the side if we come up against one of the top teams such as Atlético Madrid.  But they are second in the Spanish League and although a long way behind Barcelona, that desire to secure second place might just be a distraction.

Elsewhere Milan seem a shadow of their former selves, and Lazio are on the cusp of qualifying for the Champions League next season so they too might give that more focus than the Europa.

Lazio and Atlético Madrid could be our biggest concerns in the Europa, but if that is who we draw we can expect to put out the first team, rather than the team we have been seeing thus far.

And of course in Europe we don’t get Premier League refereeing, which can make the results more a reflection of the teams playing rather than the referee’s inclinations.

Overall

Overall, I feel rather positive about the Cups.  Of course winning a cup is always down in part to luck – one bad game and that can be that.  But this year we will avoid the trauma of another big defeat or two to Bayern in February.

So I certainly see one cup as very possible.  More than one might require a spot of luck, simply because we are talking about knock out competitions, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

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