April 12, 2014

When Do We Celebrate?

First of all, let's get the obligatory circumspection out of the way;
Let's not get ahead of ourselves people, there are still 5 league games left and a tricky FA Cup Final to come.

Right, now that's done. We're on our way to Wembley (again)! I suggest you go and look at the match reviews from various different sources, as you'll find a completely different opinion of the game from each source. It's quite funny actually, as you can tell which journalists are either Sp*rs fans or just complete idiots just by reading the first couple of paragraphs. 

You don't have to be blind to realize that Arsenal didn't play their best football against Wigan, but you do have to be a complete knob end to suggest that we were poor and didn't deserve the win. The classic "It's just Wigan" is being thrown around, along with the "If Arsenal were any good they would have won by 3 or 4 goals". 

I love that stuff. The fact that Wigan won this particular trophy  a year ago, and just got finished disposing of potential Premier League champions, Manchester Citeh in the quarter final doesn't mean anything to these apparent football 'fans'. I thought, with a number of players lacking proper playing time and experience we came out of this one looking OK. Not great, but good. Wigan got exactly what they wanted when the 13 year old referee, Michael Oliver awarded them (quite rightly) a penalty which they converted at 62 minutes. This allowed them to execute their 'sit back and wait for it' tactic perfectly, and credit to them for keeping us at bay.

Granted, the first half our efforts were tame, but we clearly stepped it up a notch in the second half and made multiple chances, hitting the woodwork twice before the BFG equalized. Then in extra time the Ox (Man of the Match for me) hit the upper 90 with a lovely shot, leaving the match to be decided on penalties.

As an England fan, I'm not particularly fond of penalty shoot-outs, but when I think back to all the Arsenal penalty shoot-outs I've seen I don't think the Gunners have the same bad luck as the Three Lions usually do. Perhaps this particular shoot out was a bit more convincing and enjoyable than most. As my sister, and perhaps the biggest Gooner on the planet pointed out, this was a great 'farewell' performance from Fabianski. I must admit that I was a touch puzzled by Wenger's 'keeper selection before the game, but clearly he's made old Flappyhandski his 'Cup Keeper'. I think it's only appropriate that the older Pole-in-goal gets the nod for the Final now, and I think he's earned it to be honest. What a farewell that would be, and it's too bad his time at Arsenal didn't pan out differently, but he's a stand up guy, a quality goalkeeper and perhaps too good to be a back-up.

Without rating every player on the field today, I still want to mention a couple of encouraging performances. Sanogo was another surprise start today, and although he might not quite be good enough to play for The Arsenal week-in week-out, you can tell there's some talent there, but it's the effort that won me over. Same goes for Ramsey - the two of them haven't played much this calendar year (Ramsey got just a few minutes in the last three months) and they ran their arses off for the fans at Wembley and if we hadn't got the result we wanted at least the effort was there. That's often all we ask for as Arsenal fans.

Being in a loud bar setting I wasn't able to hear the atmosphere that well, but when the camera showed the halfway line divide between the blue shirts and the red shirts in the stands, it was clear that the Arsenal players had more to play for today. Touché to the traveling fans this season, seriously. How motivating it must be to have that undying support when playing away from home. Class act.

Speaking of traveling - Arsenal travel to New Jersey to play Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls on July 26th as part of their pre-season build up. I shall be there, along with good friends and great Gooners, so please, if you can make it I implore you to get in contact with me so we can share a pint and a march to the Red Bull Arena this summer.

In closing, it's obvious why people are bringing up our current League position, but can we just have a couple of days to basque in the glory of an FA Cup semi-final win? I recall, back in 1993 when we were in both the League Cup and FA Cup finals, I couldn't have cared less where we were in the league (We finished 10th that season). Let's allow Everton fans to enjoy this week in 4th place, because once they get bossed by the Manchester teams, they'll be right back where they belong.

I wonder what our FA Cup song will be this year? Perhaps a re-make of Hot Stuff??