What an absolutely magnificent weekend for Arsenal fans. A spectacular performance with an even better result. I just can’t stop smiling and after the season we’ve had it’s the perfect remedy to give us a happy summer at the very least. We’ll hear the stories of how meaningless the FA Cup is, of how Champions League qualification is more important, of how if it’s not the Premier League or Champions League then there’s no point in winning it. Well you know what, hearing that stuff only makes it taste all the more sweet. Whatever you think/believe/profess about the game and what it is to be successful in football, if you truly believe that winning trophies isn’t a good thing then what’s the point of it all? What’s the reason we all follow the sport and our team? To hope against all hope, to believe, to experience joy. A day out at Wembley and an FA Cup win do those things. #13.
Where to begin? With our starting XI, at the back especially, I was slightly worried. Seeing Ospina on the team sheet was something I thought was a massive risk, however my theory on this is almost conspiracy like. I’ve always thought that Wenger has been quite a superstitious manager and some decisions that have looked questionable over the years have had reasoning behind them. I feel like he played Gibbs v Sp*rs at their place this season because he tends to do well against them rather than picking Rob Holding in the back 3. He’s done it before in the last two cup finals as we know and to his credit, the decisions have worked well. Fabianski couldn’t have really done more than any other keeper for the Hull goals in 2014 and the Scz properly nullified the threat of Benteke in 2015 by commanding his area. Ospina proved to be a similarly good decision.
I wasn’t expecting us to come flying out the blocks as we did and we really took the game to Chelsea. We had our first bit of drama within 5 minutes. Alexis Sanchez jumped to close down a clearance, and being less than a metre away the ball ricocheted off his arm into the air. There’s no way that handball can be given there as I don’t think that there was any intent on his part. Yes his hands were raised but you raise your hands instinctively to protect your face when jumping as he jumped. The play continued and the ball landed into the path of Aaron Ramsey who hinted at heading towards the ball before moving out of the way for Alexis to run onto his own touch and finish with aplomb. The handball I’m not really having for the distance away that he was, the offside situation is more contentious but again in the letter of the law the goal is good. And who am I to argue with the letter of the law? The most hilarious part of this was in Courtois’ post match interview he stated that he would have come and collected the ball if Ramsey hadn’t gone towards the ball. Alexis and Ramsey were in an identical position and therefore can’t have had an influence on the keeper and his thought process. But the annoyance on their part does make it more joyous. We continued to boss the game and could and really should have been 2/3-0 up before Chelsea created another meaningful chance. Ozil, put through by Alexis, had his shot flicked off the line by Cahill. Welbeck then hit the post with a header and the follow up was just too quick for Ramsey to put away, although at first glance I was incredulous as to how he contrived to miss. Chelsea then created a chance through a mistake by Holding, who relied on Ospina to come out and claim, which he didn’t and gave Costa the chance to equalise. Ospina made a great save and it remained 1-0. We then created another great chance for Welbeck with Cahill clearing off the line yet again. I couldn’t help but feel that we might rue these missed chances.
The second half began with a little more caution from both sides and Chelsea began to force their way back into it. Just as they were asserting themselves, Victor Moses chose to dive once he’d beaten his man to try and win a penalty. In real time I feared the worst even though I felt that the Ox didn’t touch him but still had the fear. Anthony Taylor called it for what it was and sent off Moses with a second yellow surely sealing the game for us. We continued to pile forward to finish it off but then got suckered with the ball out wide on our right hand side. Ozil was dispossessed fairly but didn’t really have many options to do otherwise (team shape the issue here) and it led to Willian floating a ball into our box that Costa was able to control and hit on target. The shot took a slight deflection, however you would really expect your keeper to save the effort. It was fairly tamely hit, which is why I felt as though it should have been saved, yet it went in and I was fully prepared for an arduous remaining 15 minutes followed by extra time. Wenger reacted immediately with exactly that thought in mind. Chelsea were most definitely going to consolidate and try and get a set piece or two in order to win it and Giroud came on to help defend those moments as well as become effective with a camped in Chelsea, where Welbeck wouldn’t be quite as efficient. Ironically, we responded within seconds through a ball down the channel that Giroud ran onto a la Welbeck and clipped back across goal for Ramsey to head home. Chelsea didn’t know what had hit them and from their reaction it looked as though the game was done. It really should have been as well as we created a further 3 opportunities that one of which should well have been taken. Not without a further bit of drama in Opsina saving well from a great chance for Costa. From our perspective, the Bellerin chance was good but the Ozil chance was better. He hit the post and what should have been 3-1. Thankfully it mattered not, the full time whistle blew and we were FA Cup winners for a record 13th time. Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker were monsters at the back. Bellerin and the Ox, outstanding. Xhaka and Ramsey, immense. Ozil, mercurial. I noticed in the tunnel cam video where Martin Keown went up to the BFG to congratulate him, to which Per responded with a “don’t write me off, don’t write me off” and walked away in a polite but pointed way. I’m not sure if Keown has ever written/said anything against the BFG but it seems as though he’s remembered it if so. There were a fair few on that pitch who had a point to prove and boy did they do it.
The celebrations that followed were reflective of relief as well as sheer ecstasy due to a season that flattered to deceive up until Saturday the 27th May. Yes the Premier League and Champions League are priority number 1 for us as a club at the beginning of every season, but the FA Cup is 2nd on that list of coveted trophies. In a League where 19 teams are left disappointed domestically and 31 teams left disappointed on the European front you’re telling me that scoffing at the FA Cup, Europa League and League Cup is OK then I’m afraid you’re missing the point of football. As I said, it’s about joy. We Arsenal fans are lucky in that we support a team that has, in the main, played some scintillating football over the past 21 years under Wenger and we’ve won things along with it. Some fans get to see one or the other. Some fans get neither. My point is the first and any point of happiness within the sport is winning a football match, winning the points, winning the battles that lead to what we term as success. A place higher up the league table means a few million more for the clubs financially and might set them up for a ‘stronger’ future, yet what does that give the fans? If you’re not winning a trophy that is what you have left as true joy within the game. I’m all about the silverware. It’s what the game is about and considering we play good football already, what else is left?
Post the game I received a couple of messages from Chelsea fans that I know saying that we deserved to win etc, which is in no way something I expected. I would be loathe to send a message as such in the opposite direction if the roles were reversed as I would be too sickened to even think about anything other than the defeat itself, so I have a huge respect for those two people as I know how hard that would have been for me. Pride eh? Though there were other fans on my timeline that took the route of belittling the trophy that we’d just won. The salty tears made it ever so sweet to enjoy. I really enjoyed the fact that John Terry’s last footballing moment for Chelsea was to clap us to a trophy. Just excellent. I’m also, aside from my club winning a trophy, so pleased for Arsene Wenger. He has given so much to this great club and deserves success for his unquestionable endeavour. Whatever happens with his future this summer, today is about celebrating for him, with him and for the club.
One thing is for certain, we can all enjoy the week ahead basking in the glow of a cup win. Adding to our collection of silverware. Hopefully giving the top players at the club a reason to stay on. There will be a time to assess the season as a whole and discuss the future of Arsene Wenger, however today isn’t that day. Today is all about basking. We won the cup with a centre back who is too slow. We won the cup with a 21 year old centre back who did not cost £50 million. We won the cup with a right winger playing left wing back. We won the cup with our 2nd choice goal keeper. We won the cup against the Champions. We won the cup for a record 13th time. Wenger has now won the cup as the entire history of Chelsea Football Club. Oh…and we won yet another trophy at Sp*rs’ ground. 🙂
Just the small matter of a board meeting remaining to determine the future of our club.
Have a wonderful week folks.