I remember doing the oppositional analysis before the game. We had the flipchart out to go through opposing players’ strengths and weaknesses. Just basic information, like whether they were right or left-footed.
Most National League players are one-foot dominated, so normally, we put a little ‘R’ or ‘L’ in red marker pen to show if they’re right or left-footed.
This time, we just kept writing: “Both. Both. Both.”
We were used to players who either had real pace, but not so much end product, or those who had a good end product, but maybe not the pace. Now we were up against Özil, Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez – they’ve got pace, they’ve got end product, they can go left, they can go right.
It wasn’t easy formulating a plan that the players could actually believe in and buy into.
We almost made it to half-time with the score at 0-0, but just before the whistle blew, Walcott scored.
Our message to the players in the dressing room was to hit back. Attack and get back into the game.
Looking back, it was probably the wrong message.
“After any defeat, we try never to be too emotional or analyse too quickly. It’s easier to learn when you’re less emotionally attached to a game”
But it was an FA Cup quarter final, and we felt we owed it to our supporters – there were 8,000 of them at the Emirates that day – to give them something to shout about.
We probably left ourselves too open, though. And, tactically, Arsenal were excellent in the second half.
Like Danny said, it felt like a very long 45 minutes.
Arsene Wenger was brilliant with us that day.
He was under real pressure at the time – getting a lot of criticism from every quarter. And yet he still gave us 90 minutes of his time to talk about football after the match. He had so much passion and love for the game – it really impressed me.
We talked about selection headaches and training regimes. Even though we were polar opposites in terms of levels, it was really interesting that we faced similar problems and dilemmas.