A belated happy FA Cup Winners 2014 from That Sums It All Up! For various reasons the last few weeks have been flat-out, so I’ve been unable to discuss our comfortable 2-0 end of season victory at Carrow Road against Norwich and of course our FA Cup triumph. But I’m going to take a gamble and say most of you haven’t yet grown tired of celebrating our cup win or reminiscing that great day, so here’s a little bit more for you all to enjoy!
Normally during cup final week I’m a bag of nerves; fearing the worst case scenario, sweating on who might or might not be fit to start, and so forth. However, on this occasion I was as cool as a cucumber. I don’t know if it’s the distance living in Sydney has now given me, the distractingly busy week I was having, or whether I was just subconsciously feeling confident we’d get the job done.
One thing I do know for sure though is that after 8 minutes I was in shock and disbelief. We were 2-0 down to Hull City in an FA Cup final. Through goals from two of their centre backs. After 8 minutes. Surely we weren’t going to face more heartache? If not for a Kieran Gibbs clearance off the line (from Hull’s third centre back!) it might well have been the case.
Thankfully for us Santi Cazorla sparked our revival with a quite sumptuous free-kick into the top corner. Back to 2-1 and with only 16 minutes on the clock. “Come on!” I shouted, with my belief starting to return.
There was now only one team really in it; it became a matter of when, not if. The when was eventually the 71st minute as Laurent Koscielny, the man made for the big goal on the big occasion, made it 2-2. “Now let’s win it” I roared, my fiancée sat beside me quite possibly wondering at this stage just who she has agreed to marry!
For a brief spell the patience game became a ‘what if it’s not going to be our day’ game. Gibbs could and should have won it inside the ninety when be blazed over from close range, Ramsey spent most of the first half of extra time peppering the Hull fans instead of the Hull goal, Giroud thumped a header against the bar, and Lee Probert decided he wasn’t going to give us a penalty no matter how stonewall our four claims were. And then the magic moment arrived.
Sanogo caused some uncoordinated chaos, Giroud picked up the pieces, laid the ball off to Ramsey with a delicate back heel, and the Welshman fired home beautifully with the outside of his right boot. Technique, minimal back-lift, such precision with his placement. A world-class finish made to look so simple.
Fabianski, making his final appearance in an Arsenal shirt, came charging out in a moment of rush-goalie madness after a Mertesacker slip, but thankfully got away with it. Other than that it was a fairly panic free run through to the full-time whistle. Arsene punched the air in delight as Arsenal players fell to their knees behind him.
I have no shame in admitting I was close to tears; there was certainly a lump in my throat. I love Arsene Wenger. What he has done for our great football club is remarkable. Like any manager, or human being for that matter, he has his flaws. He has moments that drive you crazy. But I love him all the same. His Arsenal reign is very much divided into two. 7 trophies in 9 years followed by nine trophyless ‘so close but yet so far’ years, as he fought so hard to keep us at Europe’s top table whilst balancing the books. To see him lift a trophy once more, to see the weight lifting from his shoulders, to see how much he means to the players, it was emotional. Here’s to another three years, Arsene.
Many fans and almost all journalists have been beating the same old drums for far too long. We’re a selling club, we can’t or won’t sign big players, we still can’t compete financially, and we haven’t won a trophy for 9 years. But Ivan Gazidis said 2013/14 was the season of truth, one that would bring to an end the Highbury to Emirates transition. And thankfully he was right.
We can now put so many criticisms to bed. The core of our squad has signed new long-term contracts, keeping them at the club for many years to come. We splashed the cash to sign world-class Mesut Özil. We have additional finances thanks to the new commercial deals with Emirates and Puma. We’ve secured a seventeenth successive top four finish. And we’ve won the FA Cup. It’s had its ups and downs, its fair share of what if or if only moments, but fundamentally it’s been a beautiful season.
It may well have been fifteen days since the final whistle blew at Wembley, but I’m still very much revelling in the glory. For nine years we’ve had to listen to so much bollocks and abuse; not any more. Discussions of Sagna, Fabregas, and other summer transfer talk can wait a little while longer. The World Cup can do one. I’m basking in the warm victorious glow of an Arsenal trophy and an Arsene Wenger smile.