Mikel Arteta: Without fans it’s not the same

CARDIFF, WALES - MAY 17: David Seaman and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal lift the FA Cup after a 1-0 victory over Southampton during the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Southampton at the Millennium Stadium on May 17, 2003 in Cardiff. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MAY 17: David Seaman and Patrick Vieira of Arsenal lift the FA Cup after a 1-0 victory over Southampton during the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Southampton at the Millennium Stadium on May 17, 2003 in Cardiff. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Arsenal are undisputed kings of the FA Cup and they return to the competition this weekend against Sheffield United, but will it be the same without any supporters?

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 27: Per Mertesacker of Arsenal celebrates with the trophy after The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: Per Mertesacker of Arsenal celebrates with the trophy after The Emirates FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

With the FA Cup semi-finals also played at Wembley, so the FA can fleece as much money out of fans as possible, this year we will see both games played in front of empty stands.

There will be no arguing over ticket allocation, because nobody’s getting any.

That could be an issue.

Cup matches are different to league games, derbies aside. They are one offs and fans, despite what most people will have you believe, enjoy them and want to see their side progress. There is still plenty of magic left in the cup. Well, there was until this season, anyway.

Should Arsenal beat Sheffield United on Sunday, something they are far from guaranteed to do, they will be Wembley-bound once again.

Being there, even if it is only for a semi-final, has a special feel about it and the players on the pitch feed of that energy from the fans.

But what now? How will players perform with nobody there?

“I think it’s always exciting to have the chance to go to Wembley,” Arteta told reporters.

“You want to play the occasions. Yes, OK it’s the game, but the occasion is what makes it so much more special as a day. To do that, you need people. It’s all about entertainment and entertainment is what it is because you have energy, you have passion from the fans and you feel the energy in the ground. Without that, obviously it’s never going to be the same.

“What we did in recent years is pretty remarkable and difficult to achieve because it’s a lot of games and a lot of tricky situations that you have to go through. But game management is a really important thing in these times and we need to know how to play the 90 minutes, the extra-time and sometimes the penalties. It’s a mind game as well, this competition.

“I think we have had no guarantees that we can have crowds in the stadium in the next few weeks so I think the Premier League has waited for a situation where they could provide a safe environment to the players and all the staff and then slowly we start progressing. This industry cannot stop for seven months with so many people depending on it and I think they have done the right thing.

“It’s not ideal but it is much better than what we had two months ago so we have to adapt to it and the world is changing and we cannot be any different, we have to adapt. We know that it is all about the people, it is all about the atmosphere that is created in the stadium and the energy that a good game needs.

“Without supporters, it is never going to be the same.”