Well thank God for that eh? We looked lethargic, off the pace and even though we had the lion’s share of possession and chances we still struggled to click into any sort of rhythm or gear. Will it matter one bit on May the 30th? I think not! The main thing is that we got there. There will be many that will speak about how we didn’t deserve and Reading were far braver and better, which is a highly disputable point, but as I said before – it will not matter one bit as we are now in the final on the 30th May.
Mesut Ozil’s pass to Alexis was something else; I think I counted 8 or 9 Reading players in front of him when he picked out the pass. It had to be matched by the excellent movement of Alexis, but he hasn’t let us down one bit this season. He got his 21st and 22ndgoals of the season on Saturday and really has been outstanding this season. People talk about Hazard having done it in the big games, which he has, but I feel that Alexis has matched that by getting key goals against City and Liverpool as well as in big moments of the season (Champions League Qualifier and the FA Cup Semi to name but a few!). He really has been world class and I hope that he can be rewarded both individually by winning the Player of the Season award as well as with a trophy at the end of the season in the FA Cup.
The key moments in the game were the two goalkeeping howlers from both the Scz and Federici. From our point of view their goal was incredibly fortuitous. I have no idea how the cross was allowed to come through in the first place, something Santi should really have cut out, but then Gibbs could have got a little closer to make the block followed by the Scz almost catching the ball and rolling back into the net. A howler of the biggest proportions in a massive game, not a good sign for someone who wants to fight their way back as the No. 1 for the club. What then ensued was a relatively nervy 10-minute spell of some Reading pressure after which we began to drag ourselves back into the game. Ramsey really should have won it in the 88th minute when through on goal. He could have gone down for a penalty in fairness, however he contrived to smash the ball against the post at the second attempt when a calm side foot would have put the ball in. I did begin to wonder whether it would be our day with that amongst some other guilt edged chances either being saved by Federici or being spurned by ourselves. Alexis winning it in extra time was deserved on his part for his sheer will to win, Federici had one to forget and people will feel sorry for him, as do I to a certain extent, but there was no one feeling sorry for the Scz when he and Koscielny assisted Olbafemi Martins in the final minute of the then Carling Cup final so I wont be losing too much sleep over it.
Alexis Sanchez has been magnificent for us this season and along with Ozil I really see us as being close to having built a really dangerous team. One that other teams will begin to fear once again and those one or two key summer additions could well be the difference between ‘they were rather good’ and ‘greatness’.
The hyperbole around Alexis aside there was one really pressing issue that I felt the need to discuss and it’s with regard to the split in opinion over Arsene Wenger. I was on the tube heading to Wembley Park filled with Arsenal fans and found myself surrounded in brilliant atmosphere and much singing only for the environment to turn very sour very quickly. There were a group of 6 or 7 older men, of which 3 were vocally expressing their views on Wenger by shouting ‘Wenger out’. Now I understand that there is a bit of split on this view across the club but to vent fury at a man who has led us to 2nd place and a semi final of the FA Cup is really not going to get anyone of us anywhere closer to creating a game winning atmosphere. If we had just been knocked out I would understand it a little more but the constant chanting and then belittling of anyone who though the opposite was pretty counter-productive as far as I could see. On top of that we then heard the quite ridiculous gas chamber bullshit that has no place in the world as well as some Munich plane crash guff. These people are the scum of the earth in my view and they have no place in football. The anti-Semitic and inhumane chanting then led to some swearing from one to another, largely again provoked by the ‘Wenger out’ brigade, which led to some fisty cuffs in front of a dozen or so kids heading to the game. There was a child behind me in tears as his dad was approached by one of the ‘Wenger out’ brigade. I just can’t understand this type of atmosphere before a huge cup game. There is no place for it and if people really don’t want Wenger there then stop going to the games and if there’s enough of you then we’ll see change. If not then shut up and get on with it. I’ve seen some of this stuff at the Emirates from time to time but never to this extent and it really left me feeling a little ashamed to be a Gooner before I realised that anyone who behaves in such a way really isn’t a representation of the club as a whole. Thankfully it’s a small minority but one that needs to be quashed sooner rather than later.
Back to something a little more positive in that we will no longer have to play Liverpool in the Cup Final on Gerard’s Birthday. Thank the sweet Lord. I don’t think I could have handled the narrative and the build up to a game that we know would have nothing to do with Arsenal but only Liverpool and their beloved captain. I was genuinely worried that if they go there fate would send them to glory but we have a different beast to contend with. In Villa we have a team that will be far trickier than Hull and have the option of directness as well as pace so we really will be tested to the maximum and will need to be at our very best to retain the cup. We have beaten them twice already this season but those results will really have no bearing on the game, as we all know the underdogs always get up for the cup. It’s going to be a tough battle but being there gives our season a sense of direction and purpose until the very end. With Chelsea all but securing the title by beating United on Saturday 2ndplace is well within our reach. A win against the most despicable team in the land will solidify our efforts and they do look a little of the pace at the moment so lets hope we can take advantage.
For now though, I’m going to enjoy basking in the glow of our FA Cup Final birth!
Have a wonderful week filled with Yellow Ribbons aplenty.
Follow me on Twitter @MiteshLakhani1