ARSENAL 4 EVERTON 1
Before the game I described Saturday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Everton as ‘make or break’ for our season. It probably sounds like a very dramatic statement, like the view of a modern-day football fan where every victory or defeat is over thought and over dramatised, but that’s just how it felt.
Defeat to Everton, followed by the most likely scenario in Munich on Tuesday night, would have left us with only the league title to fight for, and we all know how the fixture list looks on that front (note: I’m not saying we can’t win the league, or won’t win the league, just that it will be very difficult). But victory over Everton would give us confidence going to Munich, more importantly confidence going into our tough upcoming league fixtures, and of course the excitement of an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to.
Happily the outcome was victory as Everton were put to the sword, just like 5pur2, Coventry, and Liverpool before them, thanks to a fantastic 4-1 victory. Much like the league fixture, it was a fast paced, end-to-end affair, and whilst some will argue the scoreline seems harsh on Everton I would argue that we were clinical, efficient, and took our chances, of which there were many.
Özil scored his first goal in three months to give us the lead, with a lovely placed finish made possible thanks to Cazorla’s perfectly weighted pass. But we went in at half-time all square when Lukaku tapped in from close range, finishing off an excellent Everton counter attack, led by the impressive Ross Barkley.
The next goal was always going to be crucial and, after Barkley missed Everton’s best chance to grab it, it was Arteta who scored it. Oxlade-Chamberlain was fouled by Barry and the Spaniard stepped up to convert the resulting penalty not once, but twice, after the first was ruled out when Giroud was adjudged to have encroached.
Regaining the lead meant Everton were forced to attack in a method other than counter attacks, which made them susceptible to counters of our own. And they paid a heavy price with substitute Olivier Giroud adding a third and fourth after good work from Sagna, Rosicky, and Özil respectively. Afterwards a delighted Arsene said:
We had a quality performance from the first to the last-minute against a good side. The first half was all us and we were unlucky to be 1-1 at half time. The second half, Everton started well and had a good moment in the game where they had the chance with Barkley. We scored the second goal and then controlled the game well. We always looked like we could score more.
So we’re on our way to Wembley for the 27th FA Cup semi-final in our history, equalling the record held by Man United. At the time the draw was made it was looking like we’d face Man City, but much to everyone’s surprise our opponents will be Wigan after the defending cup holders beat last year’s runner up.
The initial reaction was one of jubilation and excitement, mostly due to the relief of not having to face Man City, but also due to the fact that the other semi-final is Hull versus Sheffield United. The FA Cup is very much there for the taking now; failure to win it would surely be inexcusable.
That said, if Wigan can win away at City then they’re also capable of beating us at Wembley. We faced a similar scenario at this stage of the League Cup in 2011. Whilst we navigated the semi-final we fell flat on our faces in the final, losing to Birmingham. And for those who’ve supported The Arsenal for some time I’m sure Swindon in 69, Ipswich in 78, West Ham in 80, York City in 85, Luton Town in 88, Wrexham in 92, and last season’s defeats to Bradford and Blackburn are horror shows we’d also like to erase from our memory banks – not to mention Wigan themselves who beat us in the 2006 League Cup semi-final.
I guess what I’m saying is that having had some time to digest the outcome of the draw I think our feelings should lie somewhere in the middle of this jubilation and trepidation. If we play to our best then the FA Cup is there for the taking and after nine years without a trophy the FA Cup has surely become a must win this season.
After all the hard work of transitioning from Highbury to The New Home of Football, after years of getting ‘so close, but yet so far’, after all the promises from Gazidis that 2014 was the light at the end of the tunnel, the situation we find ourselves in in this season’s FA Cup is too good an opportunity to miss. The impact of winning a trophy must not be underestimated; the effect it would have on everybody associated to the club – the manager, players, and fans – would be immeasurable. We must not let this opportunity pass us by. So, what did she wear? She wore, she wore, she wore a yellow ribbon…