Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Lucky 13 For Arsenal

Saturday was a very good day for Arsenal when they beat Chelsea 2-0 to win the FA Cup for the 13th time. It was good in so many ways after such a disappointing season and not least because it stopped Chelsea from doing the double. As well as that it meant Arsenal had bagged themselves a trophy while Spurs, despite having their best season in living memory, ended up with their trophy cabinet bare yet again.

Of course Spurs did manage to finish above us for the first time in 22 seasons and that was one of the major disappointments of the season as well as missing out on the Champions League for the first time in 20 seasons. We will miss out on the extra revenue generated by playing in Europe's premier competition and the secondary prize of a Europa League place is little reward. It can't be changed though and we will have to deal with the prospect of trying to attract the players we need to strengthen the team without being able to offer them Champions League football.

Despite those negatives it was still a hugely enjoyable day on Saturday and I can't imagine there were too many Arsenal fans who weren't hugely satisfied with the result and the performance too. We went into the game as second favourites with a defence badly hit by injury and suspension while Chelsea had a full strength squad to choose from. They had breezed to the league title in the end with a record number of wins too and it was all set up for them to complete the double against an Arsenal side who were given little hope.

From the first minute it was Arsenal who were on the front foot though as they took the game to Chelsea. They won the second balls, got their tackles in, pressed Chelsea on the ball while continuing to play good football themselves. Unusually for Arsenal this season they got their breakthrough early when Alexis Sanchez got what can only be described as a controversial goal.

There's no disputing that Aaron Ramsey was in an offside position when Alexis put the ball away and he probably should have been given offside after he looked to play the ball. The referee and his assistant debated the decision for a while and we got the sort of decision which we usually feel goes against us. On seeing the replays I realised how lucky we had been as Alexis had blocked the ball with both hands above his head before going through to score.

They're the type of decisions you need sometimes in football and Chelsea have had them go in their favour against us in the last two seasons. Who can forget the opening goal in the league game at Stamford Bridge this season when Marcos Alonso knocked Hector Bellerin out to score and the goal was allowed to stand or Diego Costa's antics in that game the previous season which got Gabriel Paulista sent off while he somehow or other managed to stay on the pitch.

Anyway we continued to press after we took the lead which was another unusual thing to see this season as we looked to add to that goal. How the lead stayed at only one goal still mystifies me with the Chelsea goal living a charmed life and some poor finishing from Arsemal too. We hit the woodwork three times as well as Gary Cahill managing to twice clear the ball of the line and I just hoped we wouldn't pay a price later in the game.

Chelsea came into it more after the break, but we rode the storm and continued to make our own chances and the game went even more in our favour when Victor Moses received his marching orders. He had already got a yellow card for taking the impressive Danny Welbeck down when he stupidly took a pretty obvious dive in the Arsenal box and the referee had no choice other than to give him a second yellow card. It looked like there would be no way back for Chelsea, but in true Arsenal style they equalised through that man Costa not long afterwards.

I worried for Arsenal and where the game might go for them, but those worries didn't last long when substitute Olivier Giroud put in a cross which Ramsey nodded home to restore the lead. I celebrated louder than anyone in a pub with a lot of neutrals and a few Arsenal fans and patted myself on the back for backing Ramsey to score at any time in the game. Chelsea tried in vain to get back into the game and Arsenal really should have increased their lead before the end.

David Ospina was called upon to make one good save from Costa which made up for how he inexplicably let the goal go past him. He played well enough on the day and the team as a whole were exceptional from start to finish with an extra mention for Per Mertesacker. He had hardly kicked a ball in over a year and he was a brick in defence from first minute to last and an absolute inspiration to the rest of the team.

Alexis and Mesut Ozil both played their parts too and showed how much we need them and how we have to do all we can to get them on new contracts. There aren't too many players as good as them in the league and trying to replace them would be a very difficult task. If we can bring in other players to get the best out of them they are the players most likely to make us challenge at the very top next season.

While the cup win doesn't disguise the failings of our season it is still something that has to be celebrated and revelled in. We have won the cup three times in the last four seasons and more times than any other team and Arsene Wenger has also won it more times than any manager. Our worst season ever under Wenger still brought us a trophy and we won it at Spurs new home too.

There are plenty of challenges ahead and not least of them is whether Wenger will keep his job and if he does can he really get this team to progress. If he goes who knows what the future holds and it looks like we might get our answer to that question very soon. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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