Red, Yellow & Silver: Gunnerblog’s FA Cup Final Preview

We’ve waited nine years for this.

This week, I looked back at the blog I wrote after 2005’s FA Cup win over Manchester United. That was the last time Arsenal touched silverware. Think about that: nine years. In the 125-year lifespan of the club, it’s not a massive stretch. However, us fans are only here for threescore and ten. In the course of our own individual lives, it’s a significant period.

Think of what you’ve done in the last nine years. Ponder what’s changed since. 2005 was the year Youtube was launched. Lance Armstrong retired a champion, not a cheat. Twitter didn’t even exist.

Today, Arsenal have a chance to end the wait. It’s a good chance, too. Hull City are a decent team and will play unshackled by expectation, but we are the overwhelming favourites for a reason. Play as we can, and we ought to win.

The same, of course, was true in 2011. I was at Wembley to see Arsenal lose to Birmingham City in that fateful final. It set our on-pitch progress back by several years. Having clawed our way back to this point, we cannot afford to let a trophy slip through our fingers once again.

I haven’t blogged much in the last few weeks of the season. That’s partly because of the demands of other work. It’s also because I’ve felt a bit underwhelmed by it. As Everton fell away, our games ceased to carry much weight. There was a certain ‘end of term’ vibe about the whole thing. Abou Diaby’s cameo at Norwich felt like the football equivalent of when my history teacher used to let us watch Blackadder in the final lesson of the year.

Today, the stakes are cranked right up again. That’s what sports about. Drama and tension; failure and glory. Arsenal need this. The club have spun a story about enduring a difficult period in order to facilitate future glory. We’re supposedly at the turning point, where prudence begins to pay dividends. A trophy would be proof of concept.

I won’t be there today. Other commitments will keep me from Wembley. But wherever you’re watching the final, I hope the team give you a match and a day to savour.

I leave you with this film. I dare you to watch it without feeling sick with nerves and excitement. The players have a remarkable opportunity to write themselves in to folklore today. Who wants to be the next Charlie George, Alan Sunderland or Ray Parlour?

Don’t make us wait another year.

Extra reading:

My interview with Wojciech Szczesny for Bleacher Report

A strange day: Arsenal win a trophy & Gervinho scores

Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup

ARSENAL 1 – 0 ANDERLECHT
Video highlights: Henri Lansbury ’34

ARSENAL 1 – 1 SOUTHAMPTON
Video highlights: Jay Rodriguez ’31; Gervinho ’35

I suspect in your head, when you pictured the next man to raise a cup aloft and end our trophy drought, you never for a moment believed that man would be Johan Djourou.  However, Arsenal are Markus Liebherr Memorial Cup Champions.  Perhaps we should take that, and our Emirates Cup victories of 2007, 2009 and 2010 and use it to plug the gaping void after ‘FA Cup 2005′ in the roll-call of silverware that lines the interior of the Emirates Stadium.

Obviously, in real terms, our victory in a friendly competition where we didn’t even play a full ninety minutes against a single opponent doesn’t mean all that much.  But if winning is a habit, then this could one day prove to be a helpful step in the right direction for the many kids involved yesterday.

The side that took to the field in the first 45 against Anderlecht was:

Martinez – Jenkinson Boateng Miquel Gibbs (c) – Yennaris Eastmond Lansbury – Eisfeld Chamakh Watt

Arsenal won the game thanks to a solitary goal, which showed off the qualities of both Carl Jenkinson and Henri Lansbury.  Jenkinson showed good tenacity to drive to the byline, and then demonstrated why I’ve long insisted he’s the best crosser at the club with a devilish ball which Lansbury arrived to thump home.  Whenever he’s played for the first team, Henri has shown a knack for arriving in the box at the crucial point, and this was no different.  Personally, I hope he gets a long overdue chance in the first-team this season.  His loan spell at West Ham was something of a disappoint, but a player with his style was never going to be the first name on the teamsheet in a Sam Allardyce side.  We could do a lot worse than to keep him involved in 2012/13.

In the second game we had a more experienced side on the field:

Mannone – Eastmond Djourou (c) Bartley Meade – Coquelin Lansbury Ebicilio – Santos Gervinho Aneke

Arsenal fell behind as Jay Rodriguez made himself an instant hero with the Saints fans by nodding home on his first appearance at St. Mary’s.  It was a good cross but new assistant Steve Bould won’t be happy about how easily Rodriguez rose between our two centre-backs.  With the games lasting only 45 minutes, there wasn’t much time to level, but Gervinho managed it with a corker.  He sprinted to the byline and cut back inside before firing past the keeper.  The confidence with which he took his goal was almost as surreal a sight as Djourou raising a trophy.  Gervinho has duped us with these pre-season antics before, netting twice on his first appearance in a friendly last season, but hopefully this is an early sign that he may have a more successful second season than his first.  A quick glance at the video reveals that our supposed left-back, Andre Santos, was in the six yard box.  A poacher’s instinct from the tubby Brazilian.

The game went to penalties, and Southampton emerged victorious, but it didn’t matter: the trophy was already ours.

So, Arsenal are back.  Next week the remainder of the squad will return to training before we fly to Malaysia in around a week’s time.  Something tells me the coming days will tell us a lot about the make-up of our squad for next season.