1. Well, who foresaw two 0-0 draws from games against Brighton and Arsenal? City started really well against the Seagulls, looking relaxed and confident as they passed the ball sideways waiting for a gap to open up in Brighton’s rearguard, but the visitors contained us well and City lost focus. After Middlesbrough’s no score draw at Leeds, City had a chance to take advantage and go four points clear at the top, but we didn’t exert ourselves enough to take it. A draw was tolerable, but undoubtedly disappointing. Complacency is the only thing that can stop City winning their first championship in 50 years.
2. Meanwhile, it’s a joy to be in the draw for the sixth round of the FA Cup again, isn’t it? We may not actually be in the sixth round (yet) but by not losing at Arsenal, keeping a clean sheet and making their unimaginably spoilt, entitled supporters go bawling to the Guardian’s comments pages about it being so unfair that lesser teams have the nerve to defend against them, we’ve done ourselves and football a great service.
3. That is, perhaps, until you consider the schedule ahead of us. The authorities have insisted on putting league fixtures into the midweek windows following each FA Cup weekend, thereby giving whingers the chance to question the FA Cup’s importance, and clubs further excuse – not that they’d actually need it – to put into the team a bunch of third-stringers whose matchday duties rarely go beyond hauling the kit basket out of the coach. A replay, albeit one at home, suits City as little as it does Arsenal.
4. The likeliest scenario at the time of writing is that City will rearrange the midweek home game against Brentford in order to accommodate the replay. But of course, little attention has been paid to City’s pile-up of games because Arsenal are in the super-duper stages of the Champions League and that takes on inter-planetary importance to absolutely everyone, including those who don’t know it yet or whom the media thinks should know better. That is, of course, until Barcelona crush them over two legs in their round of 16 game.
5. Of course, it isn’t necessarily a sympathetic view to bemoan an extra game of football being foisted on highly-paid professional footballers. From City’s point of view, a draw at Arsenal could be seen as a worse result than a defeat, as an exit from the FA Cup, heroic or otherwise, allows you to follow the immortal, tiresome cliché of “concentrating on the league” and, in City’s case, there is much to “concentrate” on, of course. But if City had won? That in itself, short-term glories and justifiable baiting of hateful Gooners aside, would have also brought out the professional worriers as far as fixture congestion is concerned, because the sixth round game would have forced another Championship match into the midweek abyss somewhere (and may still, of course – in this instance, City’s home game against MK Dons). There are compelling arguments on both sides, but ultimately football is about glory, glory comes from winning trophies and trophies come from winning matches. If you don’t want to be successful, stop winning and see how far that gets you with the fans, the media and with your employment prospects. City reached the final two years ago without being consequently in danger of relegation from the Premier League, and have a squad capable of enough of trying to the absolute limit in the FA Cup without destroying hopes of Championship glory. And if they beat what we suspect will be a massively distracted Arsenal side in the replay, then Wembley will be 90 minutes away and, thanks to Watford’s name coming out in a home draw, eminently doable to boot. It’d be mad, criminal even, to turn that chance down.
6. Steve Bruce’s desire to have FA Cup replays scrapped was the main focus of at least one national newspaper’s coverage of the game, not the performance of the team, nor of the goalkeeper, nor a massively heartening result for a side looking to win their division. It was such an unwise thing to say and smacked of short-term self-interest. Nothing more. City could play the exact same XI in the replay and it not affect our league run in at all, given that we made ten changes to the line-up that faced Brighton. We have a deep squad, established players that can’t get into the first team who need proper games to maintain fitness, we have talented young kids such as Josh Tymon who will gain immeasurably more from playing a replay against Arsenal than playing developmental games at Colchester, and our manager talks of doing away with replays because we have a busy run-in.
7. And finally, we can turn to that very act of keeping Arsenal at bay, led by an unlikely performance from Eldin Jakupović. He had a day in the sun, becoming the subject of a glut of internet memes for his saves and also his reaction to one save after viewing the replay on the big screen. It’s hard to begrudge him the attention, as the signing of Dušan Kuciak and Allan McGregor’s contract extension suggest Jakupović’s days are numbered. It’s ironic, given that this has been his most impressive and notably least error-prone campaign with the Tigers. And, just throwing it out there … is there any chance he may stay in the team for the game against Ipswich on Tuesday?
8. After the trip to Ipswich (who had the weekend off and hover in ninth place) City have a Friday night game for the TV cameras at home to Sheffield Wednesday. Big games in quick succession, not much room for respite, and yet we can’t wait. Bring it on. All of it.
9. We’re disinclined to waste too much energy on Jimmy Bullard’s claim that City accidentally paid him £50,000 per week, instead of the mere £40,000 he was expecting to have to struggle by with. The facts and the personalities are well known: Jimmy Bullard is a abhorrent human being obsessed with money and with no interest in football; those running City at the time were delinquent overspenders completely unfit to be our owners. The less we hear about these miserably inadequate individuals, the better.
10. It was a shock to the system when we realised that Josh Tymon wasn’t even alive when this website (and the hardcopy fanzine it supported) was first created. Happy 18th birthday to us!