By Declan Taylor
Arsenal were originally drawn against FA Cup Fourth Round opponents Cardiff City on Sunday, January 4. On Monday night, no fewer than 43 days later, the victors will finally be decided.
Of course there was nothing to choose between the sides when they met at the end of January, then London’s heaviest snowfall for 18 years prevented the sides from settling the tie a fortnight ago.
But now - weather permitting - the Bluebirds will finally make the trip along the M4 with an FA Cup Fifth-Round tie against Burnley up for grabs.
Ahead of the clash, we spoke to Steve Tucker of the Western Mail about January’s goalless draw, Aaron Ramsey’s reception and Cardiff’s chances in the capital.
It’s over two weeks since the teams met at Ninian Park, both sides had chances to win it. How satisfied were Cardiff with the draw?
I think people were reasonably satisfied with it. We said before the game that if Cardiff got any chances they would have to take them. They had the odd sight of goal but it didn’t happen. Defensively you would have to be satisfied, particularly when the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor came on. That has been the story of the season in many ways; they have been very strong defensively.
Cardiff went into that game in great form. How have they looked since the first leg?
With the weather recently they haven’t played for a fortnight or so there’s a bit of a build up of fixtures until the end of the season and I think it works out at two games a week. The league takes priority and there is a bit of concern regarding the fixtures. However, they are playing excellently really. Against Coventry they just dismissed them and they could have been three up by half time. They are coming into the game with a lot of confidence and they’ve got players coming back. The break has been good for them, no doubt.
And what did you make of Arsenal’s performance?
I thought they looked reasonably attractive. I wasn’t too sure but the one player who impressed me was Samir Nasri. He looked really classy with great link-up play and quality work rate. They looked good and I think it’s a tough job for Cardiff. If they were going to do it then Ninian Park was the place to do it.
Of course the game was notable for Aaron Ramsey’s homecoming, what did you make of his performance against his former club?
I thought he had a good reception. After the game people said that he got booed but what was happening was, as Arsenal passed it around, the Cardiff fans were booing each player. When he came off he got a good ovation from Ninian Park. It was nice to see him and he was oozing class, there’s no doubt he’s going to be a good player.
So from one homecoming to another. Jay Bothroyd was of course at Arsenal until 2000 and this will be his first appearance at Emirates Stadium. He must be chomping at the bit?
I would think so. He’ll be relishing it and he has been enjoying some fantastic form for Cardiff, he has scored in the last two outings and he’s buzzing with confidence. Dave Jones seems to be getting a great season from him, everyone knows the talent is there with Jay, and Jones seems to be harnessing that talent. He is setting him regular targets and if he ever gets complacent then Jones says thing like “he has achieved nothing yet” and “he has started well at other clubs in the past”. It has worked fantastically for him and he is having a great season so far. He’ll be right up for it on Monday.
Cardiff have not played for a couple of weeks now, do you think they will be rested or rusty?
It’s an interesting point and of course if Cardiff do go to Emirates and win, the fixtures would look incredible. How they’d actually fit them all in I don’t know. Jones won’t allow anyone to go up there and rest on their laurels and of course they’re unbeaten now in 13 games, stretching back to November and they won’t want to let the record go. Personally I think they’ll find it very tough but I’m just hoping for a good game. They’ll come full of confidence and they have nothing to lose. Arsenal will have to bring the game to Cardiff.
And how confident are they of progressing? Do they fancy their chances?
Defensively they have looked good and of course they have already held them 0-0 at Ninian. Cardiff will be looking forward to playing on the break a little especially if Arsenal leave themselves open. That’s probably their best chance I think. If you look at their last two games it shows two different sides to them. Against Coventry they bossed the game from start to finish while against Nottingham Forest they were prepared to tough it out and bide their time. There have been more attractive Cardiff sides than this but it is producing the right results so no one is going to argue.
And what an occasion for the Cardiff fans. Just how much are they looking forward to it?
There was some real disappointment when it was postponed last time. There should be a good 9,000 making the trip and the tickets have flown out. Arsenal fans may take their fantastic arena for granted but for Cardiff fans it is just great. I think all fans look forward to going to the Emirates because it’s just a great place to play football. It’s great for the Cardiff fans to be going there they are really, really looking forward to it.