By Avenell Dave
The magic of the FA Cup seems to have disappeared judging by attendances at many of the third round matches earlier this month.
A place in the Europa League underlines why it probably doesn't hold the same cache for the bigger teams as it used to, though Liverpool may be disappointed to have gone out so early.
Foreign fans are fascinated by the tradition and unpredictability of the Cup and the fact that Arsene Wenger has won it four times suggest he fell under its spell too.
But with the intense demands of the Premier League and Champions League, it seems a if Wenger no longer cares about the Cup in a way he once did.
Us fans know what a great day out it is, how it still remains a prestigious trophy and what it means to win the trophy.
Who can forget Charlie George's double-winning strike, Andy Linighan's last minute header against Sheffield Wednesday, the 'only Ray Parlour' goal against the Ch*vs, coming back with a sucker punch after being on the ropes against Man*re, to name but a few?
Of course, give me the choice and the PL or CL will always take preference but that doesn't mean I'm happy to throw it away.
But I fear Wenger wouldn't lose too much sleep if we lose at Stoke on Sunday, a place where we suffered last season in the league and which has proved again this campaign to be a difficult place to play.
With so many players injured or struggling, it makes sense that a few are rested and that means opportunities for younger squad members and reserves.
Going out of the competition would ease the strain on the squad and avoid risk of more injuries, of course, but it can have other effects as well.
While not wanting to pour cold water on our title aspirations, things could change a lot in the next month, if results don’t go our way.
The FA Cup, while not being the pinnacle of our ambition, is a trophy worth fighting for and I want to see us give it our best shot against Stoke.
Winning is a habit that is hard to form and easy to break and the confidence the entire club will enjoy if we manage to get our names in the hat for the fifth round cannot be undervalued.