When you obsess about Arsenal everyday, over this particular time period of our clubs history, you can find yourself getting pretty beaten down by the situation. Arsenal, over the past 9 years lost some of its sparkle. Not because I don’t love the club anymore, but more because the relationship has been damaged by lots of minor issues that stack up into big ones. Arsenal has been a stagnating marriage over the last nine years. The sex is shite and it’s started to snore. You still love them, but it’s strained.
Yesterday put all that into perspective. Yesterday it all came flooding back. Days like the one witnessed on Saturday are the days you live for as a football fan. The FA Cup isn’t just about the trophy at the end, it’s all about the day. Catching up with friends before the game, meeting new people from around the world and hearing their stories, the touching moments that happen all throughout the day, like when a group of quite thuggish old school guys sitting around me picked up the little boy sitting next to me and let him sit in the front row so he could see. That’s what makes being a football fan special, that’s the joy of the game, that’s what’s been missing from Arsenal over the last nine years.
Football is about stories. Arsenal’s story on the pitch hasn’t been a joyous one. Yesterday, is hopefully the next chapter in our history. That FA Cup is the start of something new. That trophy, regardless of what Wenger does over the next two years is the first of many. The hard work of the stadium move is over. The clubs sponsorship deals are now in place. The commercial infrastructure off the field is world class. Hopefully over the next two seasons the infrastructure on the playing side will be upgraded. Once that happens, we’ll be on the road to major trophies. We’ll be back in contention for the league. We’ll challenge for the Champions League. That trophy is the start of something new regardless of who is in charge. We’re part of the elite because we have the resources to play at the top table.
So what about the game? Before it I met up with a load of chaps from the internet. I met people from Australia, Brazil and America. Had some beers with familiar faces, met some familiar Twitter handles. All great fun, all great people in great spirits. The mood was quietly confident. We headed into the ground, arrived at our seats for kick off. The buzz was amazing… the realisation that I was sitting in the Hull end was not so amazing. But whatever.
The game kicked off, Arsenal immediately didn’t look at the races. Hull were confident and actually pinging the ball around quite nicely. Then, after 8 minutes, we were two goals down. I couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t in the damn script. Two centre backs scoring two really sloppy goals. What a shambles.
DID I TELL YOU I WAS IN THE HULL END?
However, you still didn’t feel like this was going to be one of those days. Hull really aren’t very good and Arsenal really do have too many good players to lose games like that.
So we started to ramp up the pressure. We won a freekick. I was going to video it, but I thought, no Pete, don’t do that, it’ll jinx it. Sure enough, Cazorla stepped up and slotted the ball into the top corner. A great strike the keeper certainly should have done better with. We were back in the game. Nerves slightly less frayed.
My main concern heading into the second half was how listless we were in the final third. We had no one making runs in behind the Hull defence. Giroud was having a stinker and Ozil… well, he was having an absolute shocker. Miscontrolling the ball, over hitting passes, making bad decisions.
The second half didn’t really bring much of a ramp up in quality. Wenger brought on Sanogo to stretch Hull as we reverted to a 4-4-2 against a 3 at the back situation. Was that a tactic I spied? Though Yaya really isn’t up to speed at the moment, he does cause problems. He’s just not very instinctive and his technique and decision making isn’t particularly tight at the moment. We picked up our equaliser on 71 minutes, Koscielny bundling the ball home from close range.
I thought Wenger would push hard for the win in 90minutes, but he elected to keep things the same. He changed it up in extra time bringing on Jack and Rosicky. Our moment actually came from Giroud, he back heeled a ball into Ramsey who guided a perfect outside of the boot shot into the bottom corner all in one stride. What a finish. What a moment in the career of a player who has cemented his name in the ‘World Class’ Premier League hall of fame.
The final whistle was close, but not before Fabianski gave us all a reason to soil our pants. He came charging out late on, missed his man, the shot at the empty goal narrowly going wide. That really was an awful moment.
The whistle blew. We’d won some silverware! What a day to break the nine year duck!
It was amusing to watch Podolski chase Wenger around with champagne, he was enjoying soaking the manager a little too much!
‘Have that Arsene, I don’t like being subbed every game’
… type vibe.
Seeing what the trophy meant to the players was magic as well. Those moments bond players to the club in a way money never can. Fabianski absolutely loved lifting that cup. Per Mertesacker and Koscielny lifted it together in a beautiful man love show of solidarity. Wenger kissing the head of Bacary Sagna. Just so many nice side stories.
Yesterday it felt incredible to be an Arsenal fan. I’m hoping that it brought back the memories for Arsene. Hopefully he’ll now think harder about his approach to the summer. Does he want the glory to continue? If he does, yesterday was a sure sign that we’re quite a way off being Champions League and Premier League contenders, even with fit players. That game, for all the ups and downs, in the cold light of day, wasn’t a good performance. But yesterday’s win was far bigger than the performance. It was a platform for future success. It was a bonding mechanic for the players. It was the first trophy win Le Grove has ever had the pleasure of writing about. It’s the first trophy fans up the age of 13 will ever really remember. It was a great way to finish a disappointing season. It’s a day that I’ll always remember.
… and, just to finish. I was wrong about the FA Cup. I dismissed it as an irrelevance earlier on in the year when we were going for the league. Maybe because I’d forgotten what a brilliant day out it is. The FA Cup is special because it’s so much more than just a piece of silverware. It’s a moment that stays with you forever, win or lose. I’m feel so lucky to have been a part of it.
Have a great day. Cherish it, but be safe in the knowledge there are lots more days like this coming over the next decade.