Arsenal have been drawn away to Bradford City in the quarter-finals of the League Cup. Bradford are the lowest ranked team left in the competition, but they have upset the odds to get this far.
In the first round they knocked out Notts County 1-0 in extra-time. Bradford are a League Two club now and Notts County are a division above them in League One. The next round saw them drawn away once more, this time to Championship side Watford. Bradford upset the odds once again by winning 2-1. In the third round they were given a home tie against a side from their own division, Burton Albion. The game went into extra-time again and Bradford won it 3-2. Their biggest upset came this week in the fourth round. Drawn away to Premier League side Wigan, nobody gave the visitors a chance. After battling to a 0-0 draw in both normal and extra-time, the game went to penalties. Penalties are a lottery and anyone can win them. Bradford did just that, winning the shootout 4-2 and booking their place in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Arsenal’s route to the quarter-finals has been shorter, but by no means much easier. After a comfortable 6-1 win in the third round at home to Coventry, the Gunners got a tough test when drawn away to Reading in the fourth round. Reading went four goals up before a thrilling comeback saw the Gunners force extra-time with virtually the last kick of the game being Arsenal’s equaliser. Arsenal went on to win the game 7-5 in extra-time on what was a crazy night.
Now I am not going to lie, everyone in the draw for the quarter-finals was secretly hoping for Bradford at home. Bradford away was the second best draw for most teams. Despite their heroics, people will still want them. Having said this, I know Arsenal. I’ve seen Arsenal mess these games up in the past. I remember a couple of seasons ago we drew Leyton Orient of League One away in the FA Cup. You think that’s a lovely draw, but Arsenal managed to draw the game 1-1, letting the hosts score a late equaliser.
Bradford’s crowd will be fired up for this one. This is the first time they will have hosted a Premier League club at their ground since being relegated from it in 2001. Another example of Arsenal struggling when crowds from lower league clubs get behind their teams is a League Cup quarter-final between Doncaster Rovers and Arsenal from December 2005. Wenger fielded a reserve team with a few first-team players in it. Rovers, then of League One, took a 4th minute lead, but Quincy Owusu-Abeyie’s equaliser sent the tie into extra-time. Doncaster took the lead again in extra-time before Gilberto’s extremely late equaliser sent the game to penalties. Doncaster bottled it on penalties, whilst the Gunners held their nerve. Arsenal emerged 3-1 winners in the shootout, but they were very, very lucky indeed. So if I was a Bradford fan I would be making as much noise as possible and trying to make this a very uncomfortable night for Arsenal’s players.
The game will take place on the 11th December at 7:45pm UK time at the Coral Windows Stadium (I prefer to call it Valley Parade, much better than the sponsorship!). The game will be broadcast on Sky Sports in the UK. Ticket details will be up on the Arsenal website as soon as the club receive information from Bradford.
If Arsenal win this tie as many expect, they will be in the semi-finals of the competition. Here is the quarter-final draw in full:
Leeds United vs Chelsea
Swansea City vs Middlesbrough
Norwich City vs Aston Villa
Bradford City vs Arsenal
As you can see, the toughest team left for Arsenal is Chelsea. There are other teams that can beat Arsenal in there as we have seen in the Premier League, but Chelsea is by far the toughest team left in the cup.