Wow. So the season comes to a close with a bang! The perfect way to end what has been a very up and down season well and truly on the up. I’ll get into a full season review next week, for today I’ll solely be focussing on Wembley.
My day began as any typical Arsenal game day does. Nervously. Though it being a cup final and al,
the trepidation was slightly heightened. All I could think about was the two extreme situations. Winning vs losing. The height of joy vs the depression of defeat. And a cup final can only be measured in extremes, there is no middle ground of happiness or consolation in correcting a mistake next week. It’s a now or never occasion, all of which combined makes for a very nervous start to the day. I had an hour before I made way to Wembley way and did the only thing I could to distract myself from the day, the only thing that I could think might slightly take my mind away from the nerves. I vacuumed the house. On cup final day. Ridiculous I know but this will now forever remain a tradition for cup final days.
I made my way up to Wembley a little early and met up with my fellow Gooner cousin whom I’d later watch the game with. We soaked in the atmosphere walking up Wembley way and went for a pre match meal nearby. On completing the meal and walking towards the stadium we were surrounded by around 30-40 Villa fans who began the mocking; “f**k the Arsenal, f**k the Arsenal” was the tune. Along with “We do what we want, we do what we want, we’re Aston Villa we do what we want” and finally a rendition of “we shall not be moved”. Imaginative. Both my cousin and myself did our best to belt out “49, 49 undefeated!”. We were fighting a losing battle here but it was all in good faith and quite a bit of fun really so no harm no foul. Although I do have to question their song choices. Now I can understand the “f**k the Arsenal” as it kind of makes sense with the context of the day. However the “we do what we want…” number had me and my cousin a little confused. It’s a song that could well be used in a restaurant or an argument between two homeless men – simply anywhere, but I have no idea as to how this came about as a ‘pop’ song for the Villa faithful. Secondly there was the delight of “we shall not be moved” – our question was where would you like not to be moved from? 17th place? Are you retainers of the FA Cup? Now I’m not one to mock a club whilst they’re down (unless it’s Chavski or Sp*rs) but I didn’t quite get the purpose of the songs here. Simply weird.
Keeping in tone with the context of the Villa faithful, our seats were in the club Wembley section of the West Stand. Sandwiched right in amongst the Villa fans both above and below. They were damn loud, throughout the full 90 minutes and for their consistent crescendo of noise they should be applauded greatly. Wonderful fans for the most part (I’ll get onto what ‘the most part’ means a little later). We knew we would be in for some proper stick no matter who scored goals. If it was them who scored we would get some banter-ful abuse, if it was us then the abuse would have been a little more aggressive. Either way it was going to be an afternoon well and truly in the trenches.
We started the game fairly well and settled quite well without having the focal point in Giroud as a get out clause for when we ran out of ideas at the back. In having a ‘runner’ as our CF our game needed to be very much about moving the ball more quickly and efficiently than usual, something at which I was really pleased with. It really reminded me of how we used to play before the days of Adebayor. The ball was kept largely on the floor unless there was no other option, which was a rare occasion. We had one real potential moment of tension throughout the first half with a Richardson cross aimed towards Benteke, however the Scz dealt with it quite beautifully, punching clear. Thereafter we began to turn the screw and create some chances. The best of which fell to Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Ramsey blazed over when finesse was required and Walcott got very unlucky with a tremendous block from Richardson on the line. We were beginning to dominate. The football played in the lead up to both of those chances was quite simply, sublime. Mesut Ozil was at the heart of both moves and he had an unbelievable game on Saturday evening. He was a conductor leading an orchestra, an architect, waving the team on through his wizardry. The take and the nutmeg prior to the Ramsy chance was something special and the cross to Walcott was pin point. I know Santi Cazorla got the MOTM award on the day but I thought Ozil was deserving of the honour. The people (I still can’t believe they exist) who continue to lambast him in the media need to make their opinions based on what he does not what his body language might say.
Just as I began to think Villa are going to nick one here Wenger conducted a little shuffle of the pack. Walcott went to the left hand side with Alexis through the middle. Coquellin switched the ball wide to Walcott who played in Monreal for him to cross towards the back post. Alexis Sanchez somehow won the header, and not only won it but put it on a plate for the on rushing Theo Walcott to lash home. 1-0 and the stadium was bouncing! A perfect way to end the half.
The second began in the same vein where Villa didn’t really come flying out the blocks. After some stale possession on both sides Ozil broke down the right and the ball squirted itself over to Alexis. The rest was, as you know, spellbinding. What a strike he unleashed. Crossbar and in. Perfection. The stunning effort seemed to completely deflate Villa. We continued to apply the pressure and created a couple of other great chances through Cazorla and Walcott, but Given was equal to them. The third did come from some quite woeful defending from Villa and that man Benteke. It wasn’t the first time he let his man free and Mertesacker was on hand to help the ball home. The likes of Giroud would never have let that happen in our box and no matter what people say about our handsome front man, he is a real asset at both ends for us. The third was the point at which the Villa fans lost faith completely but they did manage to create a couple of opportunities. Agbonlahor should have had a free kick just outside the box and Grealish should have had a penalty in the 86th minute which was a little unlucky. I do think that it would have been a little late had they even got the penalty but they still had reason to be miffed. About as miffed as we were when a Ramsey shot struck Hutton’s straying arm earlier in the half but these were both fairly contentious so you can understand why either wasn’t given as well as understand if they were.
Giroud put the icing on the cake with a delightful near post flick from a quite brilliant ball in from the Ox. My cousin and I were in ecstasy at this point and cheering with the full reality that we had actually won the cup. This was the point at which Villa fans began hurling coins towards us as well as half finished drinks. They had been brilliant throughout however now were completely transformed into absolute morons. My cousin and I were never once instigating or inciting any reaction as I know what it feels like to lose a big game in that way. There were a couple of Gooners enjoying the reaction of the Villa fans and began hurling abuse back but the coin throwing from above and below was quite frankly disgusting behaviour. The small minority ruining what had been a quite exemplary vocal performance throughout.
We had so many outstanding performers on the day it’s tough to pick just one of the team as a MOTM so I’m going to pick a few. Hector Bellerin was exemplary throughout and covered well for Kos and the BFG on a couple of quite important occasions. 19 years old and a quite unbelievably experienced and assured performance. Plus I love the guys song. “I want to tell you, I might as well do…”. Ozil had an outstanding game and as I mentioned earlier was the artist to our quite beautiful picture. Cazorla was typically busy and created some brilliant opportunities as well as transitioned possession well between Coquellin and the front 4. Theo lead the line so well and him being in the side made us play more football on the deck. We resorted less to the long out-ball to Giroud and played some great short passing football because of this. A new style in the offing perhaps? Finally that man Alexis Sanchez. The big player for the big occasions. Endless energy, end product and a fabulous first season. Nothing more to be said.
The celebrations were brilliant and Wenger was in buoyant form. An amazing end to an improved season. Progress as far as I’m concerned and some silverware to boot! The following day’s parade was also a special day. It was brilliant to see so many fans out to support the team especially considering the wet weather. I’m told it was around 200,000 Gooners that made their way to Islington for the day’s shenanigans. The players were all in good form and in what looked like a telling statement from Theo it looks like he might stay: “This is the best group of players I’ve worked with and will continue to work with…” Thereafter giving a smile to the Arsenal faithful.
A great weekend in all and I hope you all enjoyed it to the full, unlike the continually miserable throng of fans that seem to exist, who demand change from winning. Money seems to make these people believe that their opinion is above our lowly selves and I’m sick of it. Enjoy yourself – we’ve just won the cup! I know I did/will/am for the foreseeable future!
Get in there you absolute beauties!!!!
Arsenal winning at Wembley again.
What a feeling.
Enjoy the summer Gooners!
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