I was nervous about the FA Cup final all week. In fact I have been nervous since Aston Villa made mince meat of Liverpool at Wembley during the 2nd semi final.
Many neutrals while hoping for Arsenal to fail were resigned to the fact that they were the better team and were favourites to win. Many Arsenal fans were nervously confident but I doubt if any were over confident. Any true Arsenal fan know that we usually need to battle 2 teams in any game.
There is the game versus the opponents which is hard enough and there is another game the Arsenal players play against themselves. We always need to win these two to win any match.
I was worried. The results versus Villa in the pre - Sherwood days meant nothing to me. A month before the 2014 FA Cup final, we beat Hull 3 nil at the KC Stadium. One month later, I was at Wembley and watched Hull almost go 3 nil up in the first 20 minutes. That is the Arsenal I support.
Almost 5 and a half years ago, I was in the midst of a terrible personal tragedy driving up the A12 motorway when I learnt Arsenal had lost to Birmingham City FC in comical circumstances. I had told myself prior to the final that Arsene Wenger was going to win the League Cup the very first year he took it serious. Oh. Was I wrong. Very wrong.
I have seen matches we were winning comfortably end in a draw (Anderlecht this season at the Emirates), I have seen matches where we didn't deserve to win only to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (against the same Anderlecht in Belgium this season), I have seen many teams defeat us or get a point from their only shot on target versus our 1 million shots on target. I have only been supporting Arsenal since 1990 so I can not claim to have seen it all.
This week, I remembered Villa defeating Arsenal at the first match of the 2013/2014 season. I am sure millions of Arsenal fans verbally abused the muppet referee that day including yours truly.
I also remember Villa putting up a good fight against Manchester City and bar some headsgone moment from Brad Guzan, were good for at least a point. So I didn't think yesterday was a done deal.
I was also worried about the Referee. I have watched many matches where the referees especially in the English game believe its their God given right to even out the teams by either given contentious decisions in favour of the underdogs or ignoring legitimate calls in favour of the so called favourites. And when I learnt that the referee for the Cup Final wanted to be a manager, it worried me.
Match day yesterday. I was surprised at the Wenger calls. Scz in goal was a surprise because he didn't play him in the West Brom game (was that a Fabianski moment? Say good bye to your fans? was that an emotional decision, opportunity for Scz to experience a cup final win? Loyalty to my Cup keeper? I am sure we will find out one day)
Walcott up front. Very bold. Giroud was the conservative choice. You know what he brings to the team. Do we stick to the tried and previously tested or should we be bold and go for the in - form player. He chose the latter.
Fair play to the Prof. His choices panned out. Scz bar one moment where he and Per both clattered each other, performed well and I can't remember him putting a foot wrong. Of course Walcott got the first goal and justified the Prof's confidence. Unfortunately he also appeared to have earned that tosser Piers Morgan some money with the bookies.
Walcott could have scored twice before his first goal. Once Richardson cleared his goal bound pass and before that Ramsey had a chance to hook the ball to him while Theo was clear and Ramsey went for glory and missed. On another day, small margins.
I don't think the match was a procession like many would like to say now. Yes the result showed it was a comprehensive win. Villa gave it a go and didn't allow Arsenal play out of the back, they attempted to choke (solidify) the space where Per & Kosc play the ball out, but this attempt left loads of space for the Arsenal forwards once the right long ball connected.
You might have to blame Tim Sherwood as it appeared he only had one game plan which was to frustrate the Arsenal defenders from bringing the ball out but didn't cater for the pace of the forwards if that plan failed to work. Offensively, it appeared it was all about crosses and they tried this many times. It appears Scz was primed for the crosses and contested every one of them. Thinking of the Villa crosses, this might be why the Prof preferred Scz to Ospina. Clearly Scz's reach is longer than Ospina and looking at the Swansea & West Brom matches in the last 2 weeks, it is clear Ospina might be slightly deficient with crosses.
Offensively we were good. All our players turned up without exception. Arsenal fans mutter about Alexis losing the ball. But I only remember one incident where he did that yesterday. It was that good.
So what next? Charity Shield 2015, some have already said Chelsea & Mourinho will win. Lets prove them wrong guys.
Some people want Wenger out and are so blase about it. We need fresh blood the say because they have run out of excuses including their usual excuses about not winning any thing. I say they need fresh brains. You have a team where the owner and directors have 100% confidence in the manager, you have a team that is wholly made and built by the same manager, you have a team that went through a long lean patch and has suddenly started winning back to back trophies. You have a team that top class players like Ozil & Alexis want to come to because of this same Manager and you want him out. I am glad the directors and owners are not persuaded by this type of thinking.
Next season, I hope we mount a proper challenge for both the EPL & UCL. I am also aware that winning titles is not the divine right of any team. Football is a game of small margins. Arsenal mounting a challenge, remaining on the hunt for the title till the very last day of the season is good for me. Arsenal in the final of next year's UCL is good for me also. Winning it will be be absolutely brilliant but let us mount a proper challenge and hope the small margins fall in place for us.
Come on you Gooners
PS: Watching the parade today on Arsenal player and I tell you Olivier Giroud is so vain (in a nice way I dare say), I could see him pretty himself up before going on stage, rustling his hair for that HFB look.