FA Cup Final Preview: Wem-ber-lee, We’re The Famous Arsenal…

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The football family may be in the middle another interminable row but it’s Cup Final Saturday and frankly there’s nothing like a Shindig! to soothe troubled minds. Yours is here or in the right sidebar on Dad’s Jukebox.

Last year’s cup final preview was easy; a bit lazy if you ask me, feeding off 2013’s “The ‘Cup Final Saturday and we’re not in it’ Post“, basically just polishing it up and adding some enthusiasm. Having lamented the diminished status of Cup Final Saturday, nostalgia is making a comeback and the BBC is trying to recreate yesteryear with all-day fiesta of football. The only thing missing is the Wembley Lounge, filled with guests and a chummy host from the 70’s to crack a few jokes. Yew Tree and its’ satellite investigations have well and truly put the kibosh on that notion; every time the Lounge door opened, the apprehension filling the air would be accompanied by severe palpitations with the expectation of a collar about to be felt.

The FA Cup held – and still does to some extent – an affection in the nation’s heart. Times have moved on and live coverage of every Premier League game through fair means or foul, has reduced the novelty in the scant pickings of live club football during the year. Indeed, it marked the beginning of a small party of football with the British Home Championship matches following shortly after.

But it was the FA Cup Final that was the centre of attention, although to be fair Mel Gibson was an avid fan of Scotland taking on the Auld Enemy, using that match as an inspiration for trundling down the hill, bellowing “For freedom!” in the shoddiest accent imaginable. His face wasn’t daubed blue, that was the ill-effects of one too many beers the night before.

Then the “old men“, as Dyke labelled them, traded reputation for the pound coins lobbed at them from sidelines as they slid down the slide in their Cup Final It’s A Knockout, probably being knocked off their course by Stuart Hall’s rope ladder from the Scrubs window as they slid by.

Talking to friends about the match, you sense there’s a latent envy about Arsenal being in the final, especially one in consecutive years. Local clubs count the decades between appearances – and the plural is apposite – with the reality that a similar time will elapse before the next one, if not longer. Arsène meanwhile is looking to become the most successful manager in the modern era by winning his sixth FA Cup Final.

It’s a horrible phrase, ‘modern era’; it reeks of the expunging of all football before Murdoch’s intervention in the sport. Why not just point out that Wenger will be as successful as the Aston Villa manager whose name escapes me, who won six cups between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I’m guilty too, before you ask; I wasn’t paying attention when I read his name or the exact years quoted, more fixated on the fact that Arsène could equal his record by beating Aston Villa.

And Wenger will be looking to be the first Arsenal manager to retain the trophy since he last did it. Not that he is bothered by such things; don’t look back, move forward is his motto. It’s one for the team as well. Much of the talk this week has been around how the pressure is off compared to last year’s final. The millstone of a barren decade has gone but the pressure of expectation remains. Arsenal are expected to win today and for the most part, quite comfortably. We’re allowed to think that way, supporters aren’t the professionals. Hearts, draped in yellow ribbons, are being worn firmly on sleeves.

Coming close to being three goals down inside twenty minutes was something of a wake-up call for the players and Arsène hasn’t forgotten either. Had Kieran Gibbs not cleared off the line, Hull would have found themselves in the company of Cardiff, Swindon, Birmingham, Ipswich and West Ham; domestic finals Arsenal were expected to win and failed, on occasion, abysmally. Concentration and professionalism against a team who have been twice very comfortably, has to be the order of the day. Their own form has been worse than Arsenal’s recently; they have won two out of five since beating Liverpool in the semi-final. That victory has fuelled much of the optimism in neutrals but beating the Merseysiders has since been proven to be nothing that special. The romance of the cup though, has a habit of finding its own heroes.

Last weekend’s win over West Bromwich Albion threw a couple of cats among the Arsenal pigeons. Theo Walcott’s hat-trick caused pause for thought whilst Szczesny’s absence raised eyebrows; how could your cup goalkeeper just come in from the cold to play today? He’s had enough to take his mind off things thanks to Papa Szczesny with Junior venting yesterday. Bob Wilson believes Arsène will play the Pole; I’m not sure but Ospina’s problems with height last week have edged me toward Szczesny starting.

Flying under the radar is the choice for left back. Kieran Gibbs has managed a couple of games recently but Nacho Monreal’s consistency has been vastly under-rated, not just this season but pretty much since he joined. Although Gibbs will offer something more going forward, Monreal is a better defender which is at the root of that role in the side.

But it’s the forward line which vexes most. Danny Welbeck’s injury means there is a straight choice between Giroud and Walcott for the starting line-up place. Arsène can’t accommodate both as there would no experienced cover on the bench. Wenger has been effusive in his praise of Theo, the timing convenient not just for today but contract negotiations. Speaking this week he said,

“He can play on the flank, but if you ask me where do I see him in the future, it is through the middle. If you ask him, he will tell you as well through the middle. Why? Because he is a good enough finisher, he has electric pace and he has top, top quality in the timing of his runs. If you analyse that, it is the quality of his receptions, the space where he gets the ball basically, that is above average compared to many players.”

It seems as if he is trying to justify Walcott’s inclusion at kick-off with those words. Before last weekend, his adaptability made him favourite for a place on the bench but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s return offers a right-sided option and for that reason, I would start with Walcott. It would ask different questions of Villa than the more straightforward qualities of Giroud. And a hat-trick does a player’s confidence no harm whatsoever.

Which leaves my starting line-up as:

Szczesny; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Özil, Sanchez; Walcott

As much as I don’t like Ramsey on the right, I think that’s where he will start today. The temptation to shift him centrally doesn’t exist for Arsène as the Welsh international has a tendency to drift infield anyway. It leaves Arsenal light on the right, playing to one of Walcott’s strengths; his mobility.

Not that such thoughts matter as Arsène will probably start Gibbs and Giroud. The manager has made a great play of the importance of the whole squad today, noting,

“The whole squad has to focus on doing it as most of the time the heroes are the guys who come on. I remember last year in extra-time I brought on [Tomas] Rosicky and Wilshere. After, I spoke with the Hull guys and they told me: ‘When we saw them coming on, we knew that we didn’t have a chance any more.’ Most of the time it is a squad achievement, a cup final.”

If this afternoon could be a little less stressful, please…

I’m sure that the engraver would prefer the easier task of appending Arsenal’s name to the cup using last season as his marker and to be honest, the FA Cup looks so much better drapped in yellow ribbons that claret. Time to deliver gentlemen and to keep that winning habit going; it’s much more enjoyable than a losing one.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

264 thoughts on “FA Cup Final Preview: Wem-ber-lee, We’re The Famous Arsenal…

  1. Hats off to Villa as they put up a good fight, but after Theo’s goal and then Sanchez striking early in the 2nd half it was all over.

  2. Wish CA/MA was here to celebrate with us but surely he and the Mrs. are home celebrating themselves.

  3. I thought that too Bob, he isn’t going to leave any time soon regardless of which side of the fence any of us sits on.

  4. If this team gets the mentality to turn up to every game and Arsene starts to change things when it’s not working out then this is a wonderful squad of players.

    We need consistency and the strength to never have a game where we have shocker, this team needs to understand that to win everything you need to treat every game as if it’s a final.

    So many games this season where we have a shocker or games where our tippy tappy isn’t working and we don’t have the manager who can change it.

    That’s our problem. I don’t ascribe to this view we need 3 or 4 world class players more, we just need one more striker maybe who consistently finishes and maybe cover at DM.

    The problem isn’t personnel too much, it’s mental and decision making.

  5. This is the sort of performance that wins a club new fans around the world, with 500 million watching this is why we winning trophies will ultimately do more good for the future of the club than merely taking part in the CL every season.

  6. The main difference tosay was that our best players stepped up and made themselves known.

    Ozil, Sanchez, Theo, Santi and Ramsey were brilliant in midfield and in attack and our back 4 did really well. Hats off to Sczny too who I thought made his presense known early and often when balls were played into the box.

  7. Great performance from everyone including the fans, played fantastic with and without ball, dominated the game and deserved to win. Enjoy.

  8. Superb , confident , exhilarating.

    Almost as importantly it looked like we’d done some homework on Villa & once we’d taken their key players out of the game there was only going to be one winner.

    Top of the form was Santi but it was a wonderful team performance.

  9. Brilliant from the boys, can’t honestly choose a motm. Get in !!!
    Middle aged drunk bloke

  10. Watching the Copa del Rey, Messi just scored a brilliant goal. Bilbao has been kicking him all first half trying to frustrate him, he got pissed, took and humilated 3 Bilbao players and then scored a wonderful goal.

  11. It was a lot like our Liverpool performance or our previous Villa matches this season: total destruction.

    The Emirates screening was fantastic–30k fans and much louder than a typical home match this season. What wonderful support! Then in glee we invaded the pitch–25k of us and danced and enjoyed the trophy presentation on our ground!

    I’m heading to Finsbury Park to continue the celebrations and look forward to a huge parade tomorrow morning!

  12. Good point Andy. This is what it is about: success and glory bringing in new fans and making current fans even more committed to this great club.

    Is anyone tired of such victories or blase about winning a second straight FA cup?! No, of course not! We want to win the double next season. Come on Arsenal!

  13. I think I see Diaby on the winners’ pic. Hope he got the medal. Because there is something legendary about the bloke.

  14. Still on a massive high, still singing and full of joy. Watching highlights of the match, the one thing that was also quite a joy was that Theo, Ramsey, Sanchez and Ozil were interchanging more than I thought they would be were really fluid in doing so.

    Theo’s goal started with hin receiving the ball on the left and creating a 2 v 1 of he and Nacho against their FB. The exact same thing happened for Sanchez’s goal. We really did play with width today.

  15. @Yogi

    He might have been drunk prior to the end of the match, said the beer was going down quickly early in the first half.

  16. Great start by meeting Wavey and Wavey the younger. Outstanding !
    What a performance.
    Not a bad player on the pitch.
    Thank you Theo.
    Le Coq was outstanding.
    Ozil was a wizard with the ball.
    The back 4 were sublime.
    Etc.etc.
    The crowd even bought out the one Arsene Wenger. And no I didn’t!
    What a wonderful day.
    Pass the red darling.

  17. Arsene after the match said Theo will stay with us and that he knew Villa played a high line and thought that the pace of Theo and Sanchez would do the business if our midfield could dominate.

    Sounds like some scouting was done and Arsene is learning, with that I have to stand up and applaud the man.

  18. Tactical boldness from Wenger. Credit to him and these players. This was no tepid, nervous, constrained performance but a fluid, dominant victory by a strong and confident team. Maybe this time we will build on it more fully and be able to challenge properly in the leagur next season by having a stronger focus. Still do need some reinforcements.

  19. Hi LSG,
    Yes, I certainly was fortunate to be there. But 30k at Emirates would have been electric as well.
    I am leaving Monday afternoon.
    Not sure if that means I miss the parade etc.

  20. We just don’t score enough goals and need a “world class striker” like Benteke.:D

    106 goals from 21 different players!

    Media would deem that Villa did not ‘show up’ but the inconvenient truth for them is they were simply blown off the park and OUTCLASSED.

    Outstanding performance today. Almost made it a non event.

    Alexis = Buy of the season. And we don’t spend money never mind 37m
    Ozil = Most media underrated player of the season. Again so instrumental in finding space.
    Santi = MOTM. Tick tock, Santi clock. Back to his best in footwork and tricks.
    Bellerin = Best young player, never mind Media touting Greilish.
    Monreal = Most improved player.
    Metersecker = Rock. We suffered for lack of Cback first half of season. Who needs pace when you are there…particularly to score against their main threat and 32.7m quid man.:D
    Koscielny = Most missed player. Had he been fit and Wenger did not risk on unfamiliar players…
    Ramsey = Most complete player…he is simply everywhere!
    Coquelin = Most revived career! Hope to Campbell! What a performance.
    Walcott = Most dangerous player. hardly touched the ball but there you go with his chocolate leg!
    Szsc = Plenty of potential. Stronger coming out for crosses than Ospina (maybe not as good a shot stopper) but worth noting he is only 23. Not sure why media thinks he is off anywhere nor that we need a keeper.

    Honorable mentions :

    Jack – Drive from midfield and energy. Something different for us.
    Ox -Most impactful player. Immediate contribution! Well done Ninja Turtle!
    Giroud – Most underrated striker. Conversion percentage this season is equal to Benzema and Benteke. Another sublime near post finish.

    And Wenger doesn’t do tactics…if only. Good call on Theo particularly switching him left for the goal. Wenger out, let’s have Klopp.:)

    All that moaning about another poor season. We have plenty of room for improvement but Most successful FA cup team, retaining the cup in succession, and equaling Alf Ramsey…not to shabby considering we shot oursleves in the foot at start of campaign.

    COYG! The title next season!

  21. Media must look like a right bunch of tossers today back peddling and trying to paint our campaign as negative as they can.

    ‘Bold’ predictions a start of season we would fall out of the top four and finish behind their oft favorites Liverpool and Spurs who have yet again failed to deliver!Surprise surprise!

    Most successful FA cup team. Eat that!

    Where Michael Owen, Danny Murphy? Those numpties on ESPN.

    Comprehensive win.

    Quite why some of these prats are still employed by their respective outlets is frankly embaressing bordering on cringe worthy.

    Enjoy the parade.

  22. And congrats to Soton.

    Happy we could help them to a deserved spot in the Europa league.

    Fantastic season for them. Fantastic academy (one we can learn from). And great job by the gaffer.

    Well done!

  23. Plenty of plaudits. The lads have done us proud. Would you now take 3 FA cups in a row or PL winnners next year. I would go for FA cup 3 years running, because that is record stuff, but it would be nice to win the Premiere League.

  24. BY the way, although I am sure no one is really interested, both not penalties in my view.

    The first was outside the box and not a foul anyway, as Agbon trod on Coquelin’s foot, and the second was behind the goal line and, therefore, off the pitch, even then, not a foul by Bellerin, and possibly by Grealish.

  25. Great day today, was at the Emirates with my son and we both had a great day out. The boys played very well from the whistle, it’s nice winning a trophy without feeling like you could have heart failure at any moment.

    Back to back FA Cup wins is nothing to be sniffed at. Özil, Coquelin, Alexis and Santi all top class today.

    Whether or not we won today or not I think the quality of this squad has obviously improved from last season.

    Interested to see what we do this summer.. along with our competitors I guess.

  26. Just back from the match and well everything you can say has been said
    Limestone summed it up pure joy
    Exhilarating never been hugged and high five so much in my entire life
    I went with my sister in law who came from Toronto and she was simply super awed
    Have to say a special mention for coquelin I dare anyone to find a more complete dm performance from anyone this season
    Sanchez goal I was glued on him when he had the ball and he hit so hard and so clean it took a few seconds for most to release he had scored no goalkeeper saves that
    As for villains outclassed and out fought have to say graelish does have something about him he has a wonderful natural rhythm and poise on the ball can be a real talent if he is not destroyed by helter skelter tim

  27. Rune, I’ve been hugged and high-fived all across North London from Dalston, Highbury, Finsbury Park and Tufnell Park. So great to see the streets full of delighted Gooners. Wonderful, isn’t it?

  28. Santori

    You are correct with your goal scoring stats

    I think the worry that most people have is that our CF position isn’t prolific in the league. Giroud managed 14 league goals this season. Outdone at the club by Alexis, with 16, coming from a wide forward position.

    Within the Premier League landscape, he was behind Aguero, Kane, Costa, Austin, Sanchez and tied with Berahino and Hazard

    This is not the sort of end of season standing that a title winning team, lead CF shows. More what you would expect from a good goal scoring midfielder? (I’d like to add on a side note, that I find Ozil’s return of 5 in all competitions as quite disappointing and something that needs serious work on for next season)

    This sort of return from Giroud is about what he has produced throughout his career. He has shown the form in fits and starts that he could reach the 20+ league goal club in a season, but never long enough to actually do it. The talent is there, but never the consistency. The question is, can he add it?

    Then we get to the question of depth. Podolski can’t do it anymore and is probably on his way. Ditto Campbell? Welbeck, Akpom and Sanogo, whilst give depth in numbers, there are questions, some quite serious, over ability and quality. I’m not trying to kill any careers in saying that, or suggest that they won’t come good. But to go into next season, you must agree that there are question marks over all three?

    So… we come to Theo… is that it now? Is he our centre forward option with Giroud? If so, is that enough, considering what’s behind them? I’ve a feeling that Arsene will think so, or at least think he can sell the idea that he thinks so on the back of the last two (!!) games. I add exclamation marks, as, yes, I think two games is a tad small on the sample size.

    With that said, he couldn’t have done any more with the sniff he’s had in the last week or so, could he? Hat trick and breaking the deadlock in the cup final, just when it was looking like the script might be about to come the tried and repeatedly tested “bang, bang, bang on the door…. sucker punch counter and we’re chasing the game”

    Who would’ve thought a hungry player would gobble up everything before them, never resting from start to finish?

    In an ideal world, I’d like to see Podolski, Campbell and Sanogo moved on this summer with one top quality attacker brought in, with one prospect signing in addition.

  29. Very reasoned, Damon.

    I just don’t know what to expect of the club during the summer.

    One never does with Arsene.

    Why are we all so pessimistic that he will add strength and not say “we are good enough”.

    Experience, I suppose.

  30. Bob

    Quite. I’ve been saying it for some time now. I don’t mind a bit of opportunism in the transfer market. Nor do I mind taking a few punts on some uber talented 15 and 16 year olds from around the globe. Rule (I won’t use the word “Law” when discussing transfer policy!!) of averages says we’ve got to hit the jackpot sometime on them. Infact, since Cesc, we’re probably overdue one?

    But, where is the plan???

    I think in tandem with what you say is the feeling that we’ve been here before. Different players and positions, but we’re SO close now! A couple of players and it’s mustard.

    – Clear the crap forwards out and get two decent ones in
    – The CDM thing works!!! Who knew!!! Get another one for when this one breaks/to play with him/challenge him. If Vidal is on, he’s dreamland. If not, Schneiderlin couldn’t have offered more of a “come and get me” without incurring a slapped wrist from his current employer. Both options will cost a lot of money, but not over market rate from the figures discussed
    – The two first choice CB’s are on the way out in the next 6 – 24 months. Both of them. Hopefully not simultaneously, but knowing our luck…. I like Gabriel, quite a lot actually. Personally think Chambers ends up there, but I think it’s time to add one more. Plan for succession of Mert and Koz. Be overstocked this season and move one on next. Hopefully one of the ageing pair and not the failed younger new addition, but decide that then.

    What I don’t want to happen is for Mert and Koz bodies to both check out simultaneously and for Calum to get to January 2016 and be told he’s now first choice CB with Gabriel, whose still learning English. Oh, and we’re playing Barcelona in three weeks in the first knockout of the UCL

    – If a GK comes loose, great, but not super essential for me right now

    See? It seems so simple… Well, actually, I think it is. Sign Theo, get one of the two mids. if Vidal is too hard or too much, just go and get Schneiderlin from Southampton and don’t fuck about and low ball it. just get him.

    Play the market for a forward of some kind – it will be a tough summer in that area. Everyone wants cheap, yet highly prolific goal scorers!! Add a CB of note with potential – another Gabriel at that kind of price would be super smashing great

    Job done and it’s not even June yet. Don’t know what that mob get up to, wasting time and galavanting. Probably see them mucking about in a bus today, rather than getting down to doing the business!

    Rather them than me tbh, by the look of the weather. Merry month of May?

  31. It certainly has turned merry, just in time before June. Couldn’t agree more with you, Damon, on the need for some kind of plan like you have outlined. Also the club needs to sprinkle in a bit of audacity and some risk-taking to make something happen this summer. Not the risk that we are ok as we are.

  32. Just wondering, not saying we are, but if we did give Diaby a new contract…

    Would he be a new signing?

    Or like a new signing?

  33. Can we get someone in the medical team to crack Sanchez’s DNA strand, extract the bit that controls how he hits those rockets and stick it in Ozil and Santi?

    Then we don’t need another forward – we’d outscore Barca next season with those three!

  34. my only gripe is……… 🙂
    why did it take so long to achieve this?
    9 years without a trophy…all that time we were two fa cups away from holding one of the most prestigious records in the domestic game…
    its long been argued, by many of us, top 4 and fa cup were not mutually exclusive…forget the money clubs, if we were good enough for top 4 we were good enough for a domestic…..

    the issue was it was discarded by some, including the boss, as a nothing priority.. 4th on the list was it?
    so frustrating….and there were certain people, not naming names, who are probably now celebrating like they were right all along, who actually agreed and defended this mentality…..

    thank the moon and stars of the gooniverse someone woke the fuck up…what we achieved yesterday is nothing to be sniffed at…

    fa cup….most decorated club…get the fuck in….

  35. Damon – totally agree on your assessment. I think this squad is very almost good enough to win the league, if it all stays fit and dandy, but when does that ever happen? Vidal would be a super buy, not least to give some off-field support to Alexis who cut a bit of a lonesome figure during the post-match stuff yest. Having another Chilean and spanish speaker is a good non-footballing move. That said, it would balls up any hope of Coquelin’s progression which would be a pity. I have a feeling Wenger will show faith in LeCoq, and not buy a superstar DM this summer. I’d be okay with that but there’s always the worry about consistency and injury so some sort of cover there is necessary (assuming Diaby is eternally injured). As for strikers, keep Walcott, Giroud, Welbs – ditch Poldi, Campbell, Sanogoals, and bring in a quality finisher to supplement.

    Really pleased with season as a whole. 2nd would have been more of a statement from us, but the Swansea/Sunder games were our own undoing in that respect. Learn from those for next season I hope.

  36. What a day! Still recovering. It was great to meet up with Phil before the game and a couple of swift ones were had.
    Wavey the Younger got to hold an RPG before the game, which he loved (already posted the pic on FB).
    The game was just incredible and I can’t think of a player who put a foot wrong, everyone was on their game from start to finish. The movement of the players was fantastic. Walcott was popping up everywhere and players like Özil and Santi were relishing the option he gave them up front. Clearly horses for courses, but Wenger definitely backed the right horse yesterday. Alexis’ goal was a thing of beauty and it was fitting that he signed off the season with a strike of that quality.
    Chezza had a shocking game, he didn’t save a single shot on target. Oh, hold on, they didn’t have a shot on target. He did well in commanding his area when needed, but he really wasn’t needed very often.
    We met up with a couple of Villa fans after the game who were gracious in defeat and one who told us to F off. We had a hug and he admitted his team were well beaten. Then he told me to F off again. Ended up at The Torch where we gave the Villa coaches grief as they headed home and met the Wealdstone Raider as well. He’s a Gooner.

    Are we in transfer mode now?

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