The Emirates FA Cup fourth round proper gets underway in emphatic fashion on Friday night when the Premier League’s top two go head-to-head but attention may well quickly divert towards Red Dragons and hundreds of Haddocks.
A resurgent Arsenal currently top the Premier League table and are five points ahead of Manchester City, with the Gunners having a five-point advantage and a game in hand on their title rivals.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta worked under Pep Guardiola at City but their friendship may be put to one side in front of the ITV cameras on Friday night, with kick-off at the Etihad Stadium at 8pm.
Arteta’s first major trophy as a manager came in 2020 when he lifted the FA Cup, having knocked out Guardiola’s City in the semi-finals, and the Gunners will be hoping to win the competition for a fifth time in ten seasons come June.
The match will be the first of two games between the clubs in the space of 19 days and Arteta admits they are games which could define the clubs’ seasons.
He told the Mirror: “The FA Cup is a competition that is very important to us, very attached to our club and history and it will define a moment, that is for sure.
“I think they will be two very different games. Obviously, it is important to play well and to win - that gives you more momentum and confidence and prepares you better for the next match.”
It’s hard to argue with Arteta but there is certainly something fishy about the game taking place at Kenilworth Road on Saturday afternoon when Championship Luton Town host League Two Grimsby Town.
Grimsby has a proud fishing history and 34 years on since their fans made national news by taking 2,000 ‘Harry Haddocks’ to their FA Cup last 16 clash away to Wimbledon, the supporters are being encouraged to do so once again.
Harry Haddocks can be spotted at most major Grimsby matches but with the Mariners reaching the fourth round proper of the FA Cup for the first time in 23 years, the club have called on fans to recreate the scenes from Plough Lane.
“We are proud of the heritage we have as a club in the FA Cup. In the 30s we reached the semi-finals twice and then in 1989 over 2,000 Harry Haddocks took over the terraces at Plough Lane,” Grimsby Town CEO Debbie Cook said.
“As this is the furthest we’ve been in the competition in almost a quarter of a century, we wanted to celebrate that achievement by encouraging fans to take Harry Haddock to Luton.
“We know that every seat available to us will be snapped up by our fans and it would be great to see hundreds of Harrys behind the goal as well!
“The FA Cup is a competition famous for underdog stories – hopefully next weekend we can create more memories as a club.”
From fish to Red Dragons: Sunday sees Wrexham play in the fourth round proper of the FA Cup for the first time since 2000 as they host Championship title-chasers Sheffield United at a sold-out Racecourse Ground.
League-leaders Wrexham are the only National League side remaining in the competition and they will be looking to cause another major upset having knocked out Championship opposition in the third round at Coventry City in front of 4,500 away fans.
Wrexham have been reinvigorated following the takeover by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney and no matter what the outcome, their FA Cup run is sure to feature prominently on the next season of their TV series Welcome to Wrexham.
The Red Dragons versus Sheffield United is one of seven ties to be shown on TV across this weekend, with the 4.30pm kick-off live on BBC1, iPlayer and BBC Sport.
On Saturday, BBC1 and their online platforms will also be showing Accrington Stanley against Leeds United (12.30pm kick-off) and Preston North End versus Tottenham Hotspur (6pm), with ITV4 and ITVX airing Reading’s trip to Manchester United (8pm).
Prior to Wrexham against Sheffield United, ITV1, UTV, STV and the respective online platforms will be hosting Brighton & Hove Albion versus Liverpool.
Whilst the Reds won the FA Cup last season, they will be aiming to reach the fifth round proper for just the second time in the last eight campaigns.
The final tie of the weekend will be on Monday night when ITV4 will be showing Derby County against West Ham United.
It is worth noting that if League Two Walsall are able to cause a major shock by beating Premier League Leicester City on Saturday, they will match their record run in the FA Cup.
It is a feat already achieved by League One strugglers Accrington Stanley, who will be hoping to reach the fifth round for the first ever time with victory at home to Leeds.