The biggest day in our season has landed.
FA Cup Final
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Kick Off: 530pm
It doesn’t get more exciting than this. FA Cup final day. A full squad to pick from. Chance to win back to back silverware. A chance to become the most successful FA Cup team of all time (12 wins). The weather looks like it’s come out to play, which is going to make for a spectacularly boozy day the world over.
But how are people feeling?
Well, I’m nervous. Wembley isn’t a happy house of fond memories. Even when we win, we don’t win at a canter. I don’t know whether it’s the monster pitch or just the team’s big game fight, but whatever it is, we don’t come out flying.
We were sluggish against Reading in the semi, we were also pretty ropey against Hull and Wigan the year before. This game is tougher than all three. Aston Villa are a bigger team. They might be hugely inconsistent in the league. The Lambert team was garbage, a terrible side. The Sherwood interpretation is in midtable form (well, they’ve been playing great football and winning) and arguably, under him, they’d have had a chance at finishing in the top half of the table.
So we have to be cautious today. Cautious, but not embarrassingly so. I don’t want to see us flustered by a high press or a bit of early aggression. I don’t want to have to wonder if Ozil is up for it. I don’t want to worry that the players look jaded because our prep hasn’t been on the money. We need to be the clinical scary Arsenal we know we can be.
Villa are hopefully going to play the high line against us, which saw them smashed by Southampton and us. If tactics Tim has taken those results on board, we could see the bus firmly parked. Great thing about that is Villa aren’t exactly we placed to defend like, say, a Stoke.
How Arsenal line up is also going to be intriguing. If we think the bus is going to be parked, do we slip Jack Wilshere on over Coquelin from the start so he can try and drive through the wall? Or do we play a similar side that has seen us have a lot of 2015 success? Does Theo land a start so we can utilise his pace on a massive pitch? What will Giroud’s role be today considering his poor form over the last month or so? Will we see a more motivated Sanchez (he said he is more motivated than ever!).
The backline is going to be interesting as well. Who is going to be the preferred line up? Bellerin, you’d imagine, because Debuchy is short and he was pretty woeful in the semi. Then I’d imagine it’ll have to be Monreal, though there are rumours that he’ll be benched?! Kos and Mert at the back. Then in goal… well, it’ll be a big decision. If he opts for Ospina, that’s it for Chezzer (who apparently is a target for Liverpool!).
I hope we play Coquelin in midfield. I think we’ll be taking a massive risk not having the enforcer in the middle of the park. I’d like to see him flanked by Cazorla, Ramsey has looked good in that more central role, but I think Santi deserves his place with Ozil through the middle. Ramsey should start on the right, Sanchez on the left with Olivier through the middle.
That should be enough. If we come out of the traps, disrupt their game plan with a powerful display of beautiful direct pasing. We need to test the keeper early, we need to push Villa back and we need to make them nervous. This Villa team have been better of late, but if things don’t go their way, that weeping child of a team quickly breaks down into a ball of fear.
We simply have to win today. I can’t face anything else. There’s literally nothing more horrible than trekking back from that stadium without the main prize. I’ve experienced it twice, once was Chelsea in a semi, the second was Birmingham, which was incredibly depressing… I nearly landed myself in a fight, accused of being an AKB by a group of fans!
Imagine my face.
The glory makes it all worth it. Last seasons win was something special. On a day like this, the football is secondary to the fun you have before and after. It’s days like this that make you fall back in love with the game. You realise that actually, despite all the money, the circus sideshows and the greed that engulfs every corner… that people make the game. The community around the club is what makes football so special.
What makes occasions these days even more special is the globalness of the game. Fans from Bolivia, America, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Australia (Shout out to my Sydney quarter final crew!), Germany… you name the country, there’s a supporters group pissing off the locals with their red and white shirts drinking beers at god knows what time. Doing their bit to be a part of the Arsenal.
That’s special. Today is special. So wherever you are, sing your hearts out and savour every minute of the day.
This is what being and Arsenal fan is all about!
Follow the day in realtime here Follow @LeGrove.
Have a good one! XXX