There’s a mathematical equation for this: Britain + Bank Holiday = Rain. So forgive me if I pass some of the time by watching a rerun of Saturday’s FA Cup final.
Unusually, it was a good game from start to finish. While the euphoria of victory allows some magnanimity on my part, I’d like to think I’d be able to acknowledge that had we lost. I’m not sure I could have, knowing Chelsea had completed the double.
Fortunately, that was never an issue although as we know, luck played no part in it. And in such moments, it’s understandable that emotions over-run common sense and belief oozes through some veins. I’m not ruminating on what next season holds today; we’ve got all summer for that. Celebration mode is still engaged.
With good reason; some of the humour was spot on:
Dear Tottenham, that’s another trophy we have won at your ground. 😂😂😂
— Goonerholic (@TheGoonerholic) May 27, 2017
As many pointed out, our worst season in twenty years yielded more reward than Tottenham’s best in half-a-century. North London for a while longer, remains red.
There were many performances to be praised. The combination at the heart of the defence with Mertesacker and Holding double-teaming Diego Costa. Some of the match photos of the younger of the pair unashamedly giving the latter verbals are marvellous to see.
The FA Cup is the team’s reward but there is surely no doubt that Holding has put himself into the frame for a regular starting line-up place next season. He has plenty of experience around him to learn from and to lean on in matches.
SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE
One player I’m sure I didn’t mention yesterday was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Returning from injury, on the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch, he had an outstanding game, underlining why it is important to retain his services this summer.
His versatility shows what he brings to the squad. We know he wants a central midfield role and I think that’s where he will find the prime years of his career in that area of the pitch.
At Wembley, with Nacho Monreal for support, he had a quietly authoritative performance, ensuring that Chelsea’s wing backs and wide midfielders were pushed back. It also relieved Alexis of the need to track back so frequently.
It was the same on the right with Bellerin marauding and Özil stretching the Chelsea defence. And he did his defensive work as well; Eden Hazard has never been scythed down so cruelly if his rolls and pirouette were any yardstick.
That reaction from Chelsea typified their performance. Arsenal pushed them onto the back foot, a position which they were not familiar with and one that they did not react well to.
The opening goal vexes them; Courtois, Gary Cahill contended, might have come out and grabbed the ball were Aaron Ramsey not there. It’s a false logic; the Belgian remained rooted to the spot when the Welshman was on his own momentarily so he wasn’t come off his line in any circumstances.
Nor were they happy handball wasn’t given. Courtois argued Alexis performed the perfect volleyball block, despite the fact that ball ricocheted off his knee onto his hands; natural position be damned.
Diving from Costa through to Moses became the norm for the champions. The weight of expectation didn’t sit well on their shoulders. They were rightly favourites but the tag meant nothing when compared to Arsenal’s desire.
TASTE OF HONEY
Rattling them in a one-off game but harnessing the positives from Wembley is vital if it is to be built on. And in every single position, there were plenty of positives. Even with Dave the Goalkeeper.
Ospina got brickbats for the goal while meriting the bouquets. The squad goalkeepers pushed aside their personal ambitions to congratulate the Colombian in what was most likely, his final Arsenal appearance. While he may not have known too much about his late save from Costa, the positioning was right to be there to block in the first place.
From front to back, the squad pulled together outstanding performances. It ended a dreadful season on a high. And in terms of the finals in my lifetime, I think it’s possibly the best, with only 1971 to rival it. Maybe 2005 where injuries and a red card saw us play for penalties.
1979 remains seared into our psyche as the ‘five-minute final’ but rarely do we recall the two-goal lead dropped. 1993 was dour, attritional, enlivened in the replay by Andy Linighan’s late winner; 1998, 2002, 2003 – all straightforward. 2014 against Hull was a mess of our own making while 2015 was the most one-sided final Arsenal has ever taken part in.
Comparisons are for idle days with not a lot better else to do. Before the week begins in earnest with tomorrow’s board meeting, I think I’ll sit back and savour the victory once again.