Arsenal’s title march could benefit from losing to Man City in the FA Cup

Each week, ESPN’s Luis Miguel Echegaray offers his latest thoughts and permutations from the world of soccer. You have the analysis, now comes the LME commentary. Welcome to the first edition of Tap-In!

Is it better for Arsenal to lose to Man City in the FA Cup?

As Arsenal continue their near-indomitable run to the Premier League title, with manageable if not entirely comfortable Manchester City five points behind (having played one more game), attention now turns to the fourth round of the FA Cup. And wouldn’t you know? The couple will meet on Friday at the Etihad (3 p.m. Eastern time, broadcast live on ESPN+).

It’s one of three meetings between these two teams before the end of the season, and it could tell us a lot about what to expect from the conclusion of the 2022-23 campaign: not everything, but enough to paint a picture.

Mikel Arteta against Pep Guardiola. Student against teacher. South against north. Cockneys against Mancunians. Coldplay vs. Oasis, okay I took it too far. The point is that this trilogy of matches will play out like a good old game of Texas Hold ‘Em, with both managers trying to bluff the other.

– Broadcast on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (USA)

What if, however, in this cup match, the best hand to play is a loser?

Listen to me.

There is a strategy in American sports, sometimes even constructive if done right, where accepting a losing season can help you win in the long run. If a team without all-star power, a disjointed squad and a disgruntled fan base identifies early on that there is no legitimate playoff hope, the franchise could reconsider its roster and, more importantly, plan ahead for the draft. extremely important, where high school students, college and international athletes are eligible for selection. The more you lose, the more likely you are to be able to select a coveted star.

This is collapsing, and it’s obviously a massive risk, with seemingly infinite variables determining the outcome. However, when it works, it can change the entire trajectory of a team.

In the NBA, for example, the 1991-92 Orlando Magic were terrible, finishing last in the Atlantic Division with a 21-61 record. His reward? Shaquille O’Neal. The mammoth phenom won Rookie of the Year that season and helped the Magic reach the NBA Finals in just his third season before traveling to Los Angeles. LeBron James, for example, changed Cleveland’s overall identity after being drafted by his hometown Cavaliers right out of high school.

In this year’s draft, there will be another prodigy by the name of Victor Wembanyama, a French unicorn, a Unicorn, If you want. At 7-foot-3 (some say taller) and possessing moves like a point guard, we’ve literally never seen anyone quite like him. Every NBA front office is preparing for him no matter what, and most remarkably, if his team is bad enough, then their chances of catching him improve significantly.

So what does all this have to do with North London Arsenal and their Basque coach? Well, back to my original point. Don’t prepare to win now, but rather plan to win later.

Arteta’s revolution within the Emirates is quite prominent and yes, I said last weekend that if they win the Premier League, many aspects of the victory will be more impressive than the Invincibles’ 2003-2004 season. I’ve been yelled at in the comments by many, but my point stands, mainly because unlike Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles, with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp and other stars, Arteta’s young side is basically the cast of Rugrats, who you enter a new playground without much experience in this situation. With an average age of 24.6, the Gunners don’t have to win any competition, so they need to make this title quest path as seamless as possible.

ESPN analyst Steve McManaman, who won a pair of LaLiga titles with Real Madrid, told ESPN FC presenter Kay Murray and me a few days ago: to maintain this level of excellence, Arsenal must stay healthy, It’s as simple as that. The best way to do that is to relieve congestion from lighting fixtures, and that’s why they need to lose this Friday and focus on the Premier League.

Arteta should field his underdog squad and prepare for a packed schedule, and I haven’t spoken about his Europa League commitments yet. Arteta will never admit it and fans will argue that a team should always play to win, but in a marathon-like season, these are the words of the fool, not the smart. Wenger often used this strategy, prioritizing the necessary over the idealistic. I’m not saying that Arteta will lose on Friday. I’m saying that he should weaken his team and be prepared to give up the cup for the greatest treasure ahead of him.

So, Mikel, here’s what I’d say: look at Pep’s hand, anticipate his response, and just like Matt Damon’s Mike McDermott did to John Malkovich’s Teddy “KGB” in the final scene of “Rounders,” do that Guardiola thinks that he is winning, when in reality, in reality he is going to lose.

goal of the week

Serious question. Is Marcus Rashford the best player in Europe right now?

Nineteenth in the Premier League and without a manager, Everton are in serious trouble and are on course to suffer relegation for the first time in their history. Frank Lampard is gone, Marcelo Bielsa is said not to be interested in replacing him, and Arnaut Danjuma — who was supposedly heading to Goodison Park — has now decided at the 11th hour and 59th minute to move to Tottenham Hotspur instead.

Is there anyone who can save this club? Well, the issues run much, much deeper than a manager change, but at this point, the fans don’t care. They just need someone, anyone, who can keep them in the Premier League. There is talk of Sean Dyche, Nuno Espírito Santo and even Ralph Hasenhüttl, fresh from his dismissal in Southampton. Even Toffees legend Duncan Ferguson apparently doesn’t want the job: just been named as the new manager of League One Forest Green Rovers.

Also, late reports Tuesday He claimed that Farhad Moshiri is actively looking to sell the club for more than $600 million, making his future even more uncertain.”

tweet of the week

Carlo Ancelotti: Most decorated coach in the history of the Champions League. Former midfield legend. Savior of Real Madrid. Gum giver.

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