Thursday, 22 May 2014

Arsenal 3-2 Hull (aet): Hands down, best moment of my life

Finally, it’s come to an end.

Eight years, eleven months and 25 days. Filled with misery, compounded with false hopes. At a time when millions had stopped daring to dream, only to perk up their hopes again when we went to Wembley on the 17th, it seemed like the cycle was set to continue. 10 minutes in, Arsenal were trailing 2-0 to Hull City, fortunate to not be three down but for some fantastic work by Gibbs.

Disaster awaited, but was delayed by a superb Cazorla free-kick. He may have had a disappointing season, but that goal would undoubtedly be a high-point of his professional footballing career. It brought us back into the game, and more importantly, provided the fanbase with what they had craved for all these nine years – genuine optimism and belief.

The half wore on, then ended. The second half began, yet we didn’t look like getting the leveller. Familiar frustrations creeped up – Ozil wasn’t up to the mark, Podolski was anonymous, Giroud frustrating millions around the globe, Wenger facepalming on the touchline.

I won’t lie, at that point, everything seemed lost to me. I didn’t believe anything could happen unless we brought on Rosicky or Wilshere from the bench.

And then Yaya Sanogo, a guy who has never scored a goal for the club, came on for our third top goalscorer of the season, Lukas Podolski. Arsene, desperate to restore parity in a monumental encounter, reverted to a 4-4-2 of ten years ago, one that had proven effectual against Wigan. And then, incredibly, we saw change.

My heart went out to Yaya Sanogo. The guy has never scored a goal for the club, but I like him because he tries. I have never shown any hatred towards the guy, I just felt that it was unfair of Wenger to heap so much pressure on him by making him second choice to Giroud. Be that as it may, Sanogo put in a remarkable shift and swung the pendulum of momentum in our favour.

Koscielny bundled in a corner at the 60th minute mark, reminiscent of his goals on the last three St. Totteringham Day’s. At last parity was restored, tensions were cooled, and Gooners around the globe began to believe.

We could have been spared extra-time tortures had Gibbs not blasted a sitter over the bar. Had all not ended well, the guy’s confidence could have presently been in tatters. Yet one more incentive to take the trophy home was created. Pressure mounted.

And it mounted even more when the ref blew the final whistle, signaling the beginning of thirty added minutes. If people were shitting their pants over extra-time against Wigan, there’s no imagining their state then.

Honestly, we ought to have wrapped up the game early. Ramsey was clearly motivated to be the hero of the occasion, but was finding difficulty in getting his shooting across. A fine ball by him was nodded onto the crossbar by Giroud. Considering his height, Giroud really should do better in the air.

The moment did arrive, though. It took its sweet time, and that’s probably what made the moment sweeter. Seven minutes away from penalties, Giroud backheeled the ball to the onrushing Rambo, and the Welshman capped off a dramatic season by almost deflecting the ball into the net. That’s two screamers in the space of two games for him. 

When you need a goal, you need Aaron Ramsey.

When the final whistle blew, not before some Almunia antics from Fabianski, along with it brought tears of joy and intense relief. The wait was over, the monkey was lifted, and the team were, for the first time in a good part of a decade, winners. At last, since spaghetti knows when, belief was repaid.

THIS is what football is all about, I can't believe I have to point it out. It’s not about passing off bank balances, stadiums and Champions League qualifications as trophies. It’s about actually going out there and winning silverware, triumphing in the face of adversity and ridicule and returning something to the fans. I genuinely loathe people who think ‘practically’ in football, asserting that there are more important things than trophies. I think the wildness of the celebrations on the 17th proved them wrong. As long as you win trophies, nothing else matters, really.

Hands down, seeing my beloved Arsenal of eight years win their first trophy ever under my gaze, was the best moment of my life. My personal, non-Arsenal life has been on a high for the past year, so seeing them top my present state by first buying Ozil, and then, winning the cup, has brought my life to its ultimate peak.

Amidst all this, I am a bit puzzled. While winning the FA Cup was undoubtedly the best moment of my life, a small part of me felt that it would feel better. I don’t know why, but I didn’t feel the joy that I thought I would. Maybe because it’s tainted by the fact that it seals Wenger’s future at Arsenal, or because I know that the summer to follow is going to be an embarrassment, but I really felt that winning the cup would have signaled greater euphoria from me.

However, even though my opinions on Wenger will not dwindle, I felt happy to see him lift the trophy. I wouldn’t say he deserved it, given all the rash decisions he made during the past decade. However, even though my mind hates him, my heart loves him. It felt great watching him lift the trophy and end the wait. And let’s face it, the day we won the FA Cup was a day for the heart.

I’m an emotionless, stone faced guy, but football is a place where my emotions tend to leak out. No, I don’t believe that winning the cup will be the beginning of our glory days, nor do I believe that it will transform Wenger for the better. However, for once, I’m not worrying about the future and instead, focusing on the present.

And the present, as Freddy Ljungberg would call it, is fucking excellent.

We won the cup. Lap it up.

P.S. Apologies for the late review, internet was down for the last four days. Time to see what other surprises Brangled Minds, Twitter and Sky sources have in store for me.

Whew, what a week.

-Santi (Follow me on twitter: @ArsenalBlogz )