Saturday, 8 March 2014

Arsenal 4-1 Everton: Wembley beckons, bitches!

Here are the highlights.

Huge, huge win. The most important of the season so far, no doubt.

It's impossible to not be proud of the players. It was a massive occasion, the whole season was at stake and boos were certain to follow if we lost. The FA Cup, let's face it, was and is the only way we can transform this season into a success. And we're bang on track so far.

So many players stepped up today. Mesut Ozil got a goal and an assist. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (my MOTM) showed fantastic commitment and won a penalty. Olivier Giroud ran around and calmed the nerves, showing a rusty Sanogo how it's done (not a great achievement, though). Santi Cazorla sparkled like glitter, playing an inch-perfect pass to Ozil's opener. Not to mention Arteta, who REFUSED to crumble under pressure and dispatched away a crucial goal. Twice.

The job is almost done. We're on our way to Wembley, for the first time since 2011.

Today was exactly why I love these group of players. I scoff at people who suggest that Mikel Arteta or Olivier Giroud are liabilities to the club, because they clearly aren't. Bar Nicklas Bendtner (and maybe Mesut Ozil), I don't think there is anyone else in the team who is not desperate to end the trophy drought. I do NOT blame the players for not winning the Premier League - I have been saying since the inception of this blog that Wenger was forcing a task too many in their hands.

However, winning the FA Cup was always possible. After today, it seems almost probable.

These players deserve a trophy. Yes, I believe that Arsene Wenger doesn't, but that shouldn't cover the fact that almost every single Arsenal footballer have played their guts out since the season began. They've toiled, they've overcome hurdles (after which others might have crumbled) and they've overperformed through most of the campaign. Finally, it seems their reward is fast approaching.

The Sagnas, the Rosickys, the Wilsheres... even the Ramseys and the Walcotts have defiantly stayed by this club through times of peril. It wasn't easy; obstacles against Birmingham, Bradford and Blackburn stung in particular. However, another opportunity is being presented to them, more importantly to a much wiser Arsenal.

Perhaps what makes me even more proud about these players is how they're overperforming despite Wenger. Don't let this win fool you - Arsene Wenger still needs to go. His failure to buy a striker, buck up tactically and motivate his team in crunch clashes for almost 7 years yet stays in my mind.

However, I really don't think that today's the day to have the argument. Today's just a day to bask in the glory of sniffing the FA Cup and a day to realistically think about ending the trophy drought. It's a day to be proud of the players and connect with the club even more, if possible.

We are two wins away from achieving what we failed for 9 years. If we avoid Manchester City somehow, we are almost definitely playing in the finals of the FA Cup. It's impossible to not be excited by that.

Yes, I believe that the sub-points of the game were a bit overrated. Ozil, for instance, isn't 'regenerated', as Wenger says. I want him to do well, but aside 1 goal and 1 assist I didn't see much of him in the match (that wasn't sarcastic). I'm sorry to put a dent on this glorious day, but this match wasn't a sign that Mesut Ozil is back to his best.

We didn't blow Everton away either. Indeed, had Barkley not wasted an easy opportunity, the game could have finished much differently. Our attempts at goal were a bit few and far between for a good 60 minutes, and had Wenger not realized how ineffective Yaya Sanogo was, Giroud mightn't have come on and scored two crucial goals.

However, I don't care. This game carries similarities to the Liverpool one in the FA Cup: the scoreline was different and a bit flattering, but the result was one of such significance that it overshadowed the flaws. Who would care if we get lucky in two games as long as we win the FA Cup?

Of course, the season isn't a success yet. We still need to win two more matches to win the FA Cup. While every Gooner must pray to avoid Manchester City in tomorrow's draw, the fact remains that we have restored a lot of pride in England.

It's time to do that in Europe in as well.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )