FA Cup Final Promo

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Arsenal’s recent FA Cup Final History triumphs in about 5 mins

 

From Oblivion to Glory

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As I sit ready to watch the second FA Cup Semi Final of 2014, time to reflect back on yesterday’s first, which saw Arsenal equal Man Utd’s record of final appearances and seemingly a great change to equal their FA Cup successes.

Last week I joined the melancholy train of fans who said it is time for managerial change at Arsenal in the wake of the defeat by Everton. Enough was enough and it was interesting to feel that as we walked up Wembley Way, was this going to be Arsene’s last meaningful game. Defeat yesterday and you would have felt so.

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No matter how I felt, it is always exciting to be at Wembley. Only a max of 6 teams can get there every season,so we should have been pleased to be there and we were.

We were surprised by just how few Wigan fans there were in the ground. Of course for them this is the 3rd time in 2 seasons they have got here and hopefully for them hopefully a 4th is round the corner in the form of a Championship Play-Off Final. Also it is quite a long journey coupled with the fact Wigan is a real Rugby League city, not a football one.

So with the stadium having at least 75% gooners, it really felt like a home game and just makes a mockery of FA Cup Final ticket allocations where they will give each club about 25,000 tickets.

The scene was set for the Arsenal to really put their poor league form behind them and give this a real go. And after 5 mins it was looking this way as Songo was unlucky with his chance. Unfortunately, little did we know that would be our last real chance till about the 80th minute!

We were appalling for a majority of the game. We were clearly a team with zero confidence and zero game plan. Wigan came to ensure they got a lucky break and/or hold out till penalties. Of course they got both!

It was a poor lunge by Per for their penalty. No arguments.

From the minute Gomez scored Wigan’s penalty, the atmosphere within the Arsenal fans turned from nerves to anger. We simply could not see how we would score and it wasn’t because we were outplayed by Wigan, we just look dishevelled and wanting the season to finish with a whimper.

Some of the abusive language emanating from people around us levelled at the players and more specifically at the manager was dreadful, but it went on for about 20-30mins. At one point there was a brawl among Arsenal fans leading to Stewards being called it. Civil War had broken out again. Time for Arsene to go.

But up popped Per to make amends for his mis-demeanour following some good Arsenal pressure finally. We all felt we needed a 2nd before FT while the momentum was with us. Overall is was disgraceful to only show up from the 80th minute and of course at that point we would have taken ET and penalties. We were unlucky with a few chances from Gibbs and the Ox.

No matter how we won, we deserved it. Wigan didn’t register a shot at goal all game. But we should have put a Championship team to the sword. Wigan needed us to be off our game and we really were.

So on to penalties and I have been to hundreds of Arsenal games but this was my first ‘live’ penalty shoot-out. As I tweeted afterwards, hated the game but loved the penalties!

See Santi’s winning penalty here from where we were sitting:

So through we go to the final. But I couldn’t get over just how fickle fans we are. From literally wanting Wenger’s head on a plate to singing we are the worlds greatest team was remarkable.

The media may have a go at our over the top celebrations.It was a mixture of relief and real hope that we can shut the media up, because we have a real chance of ending this trophy ‘drought’. (As a side note, I havent heard once in any Liverpool game that it has been 24 years since they won the league.)

90mins away from a trophy. 90mins away from maybe Arsene’s swan song. 90mins away from ending Talksport’s Daily Arsenal. Just let that all sink in,

 

A Sad Day

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A lot of my Twitter followers urge me to write more in my blog. I always find it hard because I don’t know what to always say that is no different to other Arsenal fans.

Well today, although probably no different to what many others are saying, is actually quite a sad day following the defeat to Everton. Today is the first time I actually went out on Twitter and called for Arsene to go (#WengerOut).

I am not going to forget what that man has done for us. We have gone from a provincial London club to one of the best and most respected clubs in world football with arguably one of the best club football grounds around. And for that we will be eternally grateful. I also know he has worked in the last 8 years under some great financial constraints.

But this was THE year when the Moon, the Sun, Saturn and Neptune aligned (aka big manager changes and big money available to us) in order for us to mount a serious title push. Unfortunately all we have aligned with is Uranus.

There are obvious deficiencies here that makes me believe Arsene is no longer the man to take this club as forward as we deserve paying the highest ticket prices around:

  1. Tactics
    1. Arsene won everything with 4-4-2. Now he won’t go near it with a barge pole. He simply has too many CMs and won’t drop any of them. This leaves us so limp up front and Giroud is not the man to get us out of jail.
    2. Arsene says he only concentrates on Arsenal’s game. If we play well then what the others do is not important. This is very naïve. Just look at the Lukaku goal. The bloke is lethal on his left and we just let him cut in on his favoured foot. The result was inevitable.
    3. Plan A is all we have. Many managers at HT would have shaken things up to get us back in the game. Time and time again, the sub changes come too late. Take the Liverpool game, we were 4-0 down at half time. Why, why wouldn’t Arsene out two upfront? What did we have to lose? There is simply no Plan B, C or D.
  2. Transfers
    1. Ozil was a masterstoke. But every fan said that although a great capture a CM was the last thing we needed.
    2. January transfer window debacle. Arsene knew Theo was out for the season and Aaron was also out for a while and we were pushing for the title, yet he only brought in an injured CM! 2008 was another year this happened. The title was in sight and he didn’t add to the squad.
  3. Injuries
    1. The same old sob story has become very boring. Unlucky yes, but every season? Something is clearly wrong with the training regime, style of football and the types of players we buy.
  4. Fight
    1. Or lack of fight. Clear on the pitch there is again no leadership and no desire. If Arsene has lost the dressing room then it is game over.
  5. Inevitability
    1. Many,many fans knew we wouldn’t win the league. The implosion was just around the corner like in most years. This cannot be repeated season in, season out. From top to potentially out of the top 5 in just 9 weeks will be the biggest one yet. FA Cup or no FA Cup.

I take no pride on writing this blog or tweet #ArseneOut. He deserves respect for everything he has done. But he will deserve even more by realising he can do no more and help the club find his next successor.

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Sherwood’s a Gooner

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Some may say I only blog when we win big. Considering my last blog was when we beat Dortmund I can see the logic. However, follow me on Twitter (@jamesreuben) and I comment all the time.

However this blog is about more than just us beating Spurs but about the FA Cup 3rd Round.

I am a die hard Champions League man, usually gunning to want to ensure we qualify at the behest of any cup. I reality I am gunning to qualify for a competition that we will realistically never win. I am attracted the money, signings and competition we face, wanting Arsenal to be a European Super Power.

But this weekend we can see the FA Cup and all its traditions dying in front of our faces. Draws made during games, tea time finals, drop in attendances and Championship teams fielding weak sides.

I know we cannot go back to the days where winning the cup meant more than finishing 4th. Of course you have to blame UEFA for the Champions League and destroying the Cup Winners Cup, and the money flooding into the Premier League. But without these we wouldn’t arguably have the best league in the world. We wouldn’t have seen Henry, Pires and Bergkamp amongst others. We could also blame the redevelopment of Wembley. Without those twin towers nothing seems right.

I used to love everything about the cup. This was before we won our haul in Cardiff – I’m harking back to the 80’s where Spurs had won more than us. I used to love the draw, the magic and giant killings. A few cup games in my early Arsenal years provide both strong and miserable memories, Semi Final defeat to Utd in 1983, York in 1986 and Wrexham in 1992. Gazza’s free-kick was probably the biggest low. But I also saw delights and the 1993 final, although dire, will always be up there because it was my first Final ( and the replay).

But back to the 3rd round. A time for clubs to change focus and for the lower league teams to try and take some scalps. It was also always the best time to take the young’uns to a game if drawn at home. My son’s first game was a few years back when we faced Plymouth in the 3rd round.

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So I wasn’t too thrilled to get Spurs in this year’s 3rd round. We have a had an energy sapping but confidence boosting holiday period and they had just beaten Utd. Not  a great time face them and have to field a semi-strong side.

I don’t know why I was worried. The 2-0 scoreline flattered Spurs who from the off were in trouble. To beat Arsenal at home you pack your midfield and play tight. It is like ‘How to try to beat Arsenal for Dummies’. Sherwood showed his inexperience by playing 4-4-2 and a high line.

I have talked before about Wenger’s Eco-System – the ability to bring players in to play the Wenger Arsenal Way. Yesterday saw this again with TV5 and Gnabry slotting in seamlessly. There was a slight tweak in style with Theo playing up top. I am delighted Wenger learnt from the Cardiff game where playing like we had Giroud upfront without him just didn’t click.

Thanks again to my friend Michael Samuels (@msamuels75) for the ticket and we agreed that Santi needed a big game changing performance. And bang did he deliver with his sublime finish past Lloris. He is so calm, cool and collective on the ball and the fulcrum of many a passing move. The way we play is like no-one else in the EPL and at the back we are providing some much needed steel. TV5, LK6 and BFG held strong all game and Arteta picked up everything.

Theo and Gnabry also interchanged very well and Gnabry seems to have a bright future. Jack also played really well.

However it is ‘Super’ Tomas Rosicky who gets his own paragraph here. He epitomised everything The Arsenal are – hungry, skilfull and passionate. He drove us forward all the time and got his just rewards with his goal. I think we are all delighted he showed Danny Rose up, laying the ghost of goal he scored against us a few years ago. That is all he was known for. Not any more. Tommy came forward and cut across the defender to set up the delightful chip that sent us in the North Bank lower into a nice frenzy. No way Spurs were going to get two goals yesterday.

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As for the ‘Theo what’s the score?’ incident. It is like the Adebarndoor City goal celebration. Really, some football banter/incidents sending grown men and women into fits of rage that they want to storm the pitch, assault staff and seats and hurl bottles and hard earned money? Get annoyed but calm down!

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The reaction in the North Bank Lower – seemed in bad taste that Spurs fans could boo a  player obviously injured. If they were annoyed at time wasting, The Arsenal could have gone home and they would never had scored. Any injury should be met with compassion. When Capoue went off earlier in the season the Arsenal fans were respectful. There are always some idiots a la when Sagna was carted off at WHL with a broken leg. Should Theo have done what he did? probably not but was very funny. Let’s not forget what Bale did last season shall we!1388925778334

So a great win. It’s always great beating them lot. A nice few days off now for the team. Every game in the EPL is hard and Villa will be no exception but let’s exact some revenge for the opening game.

I leave this blog with its opening, the best chant of yesterday – Tim’s Sherwood’s a Gooner!

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Dortmund Diary

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We came, we saw, we conquered – Borussia Dortmund 0 – 1 The Arsenal

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I don’t normally do many away games with The Arsenal, so when I do it’s usually a big trip. As this years Champions League draw was made it was an easy decision to make to go to Dortmund. Runners up last year, play good football, have a great stadium and a good manager, the ingredients were all there to go. I really wanted to experience the atmosphere of German football and BVB’s famous yellow wall.
The trip itself was seamless and many countries should take note in including the train fares with the tickets. EUR 46 is very cheap for a match ticket and a 1 hour train trip from Dusseldorf to Dortmund.

During the day we strolled around Dortmund, savoring the food and the atmosphere created by the travelling Gooners.

As we checked into our hotel, which was a mere 10 minute walk to Westfalenstadion, my dad (@papalolly) and I had the smallest of thoughts as to whether this was the hotel the Arsenal players were staying in. As we were sitting, minding our own business over a beer or two, I caught a glimpse of Giles Grimandi, and after having that doubly confirmed by my dad we soon realised that the players must be staying in our hotel. Stevie Bould then sauntered through followed by Monsieur Wenger. I was soon reduced to an excited child as we saw the whole squad ambling about the lifts going up to their rooms.

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We then must have waited for what seemed like an eternity outside waiting for the players to re-emerge to board the team bus.  As they did it was great to get so close to them:

Well, that put us in a great mood before we even started heading off to the Westfalenstadion. In the short walk we were immersed in the 60,000+ Dortmund fans and there was not one hint of trouble as we walked proudly in our red and white of The Arsenal. Security at the stadium was tight and everyone (BVB fans and Arsenal fans) was body searched. In fact it was a stricter body search than anything witnessed at an airport. On speaking to a Dortmund fan on the way in security was tight because of after their local derby with Schalke.

With the stadium being within a huge park it was easy to see what we may have missed in building The Emirates right next to Highbury. History and tradition aside, you could see the logistical benefits of building a great stadium on green belt land. However, despite the sheer size of Westfalenstadion, The Emirates is a nicer ground.

So we were in, and our seats were great, right by the pitch to the left of the goal we eventually scored in however, with the rain lashing in we still got wet.

The atmosphere was great with quite a noise coming from the natives who gave us a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone. I thought it was only done at Anfield and Celtic Park? What was interesting is that you can see what Arsenal have taken from the Bundesliga (or indeed just Dortmund) in replicating their atmosphere. The walk in music and the large flags behind the goal were very reminiscent of the new Emirates atmosphere.

As for the game, the first half was predictably tight with just a couple of half chances for Dortmund. Defensively we looked sound but at half time I told my dad that I simply could not see us scoring from open play. All the balls to Giroud were hard to take and he had 2 players around him all the time. Our attacking midfield played quite deep so any scraps Giroud did get he had no real outlet. Dortmund’s tactics were interesting and had clearly marked Gibbs out as our weak defensive player. Every attack they pinged over to our left. Gibbs held strong all game so hats off to him.

The second half (with Arsenal now attacking towards us) was very similar to the first, but all of a sudden, our first good move of the game saw an Ozil/Giroud combo for Aaron to pop up and nod home right in front of us.

Cue a red and white pandemonium behind the goal. Unfortunately it was a tinged with an element of un-enjoyment because as we scored there was a huge surge of Arsenal fans pushing forward (remembering we were all standing) and a wave threatened to wash me and my dad away into the concrete sea in front of us. Fortunately I held strong and managed to hold him too. Don’t worry, we still enjoyed scoring, but for me it is clear that standing, even safe standing, is still dangerous. I get it that it creates atmosphere but it is still dangerous and a lot of thought needs to go in to it before it is to be re-instated into British football.

Anyway, it was still great. Dortmund caught some wind in their sails and pushed us for the next 10mins after we scored, but we held strong and Rambo had another chance to score. Ozil, with the shackles loosening by the Dortmund defence started to enjoy himself.

However, it was a defence that needs to take some real credit and their coach, Stevie Bould. It was like witnessing our famous Back Four again. Strong, positionally astute and no messing. Sagna, Metersecker, Kos and Gibbs, all take a bow. A great defensive performance. Arteta too had another great game at DM and Flamini may find it hard to come straight back in. Rosicky provided the midfield drive we needed and overall it was a professional and accomplished performance.

1-0  to The Arsenal was lovely to see again.

The group now is in our hands and a win against Marseille with Napoli and Dortmund to play each other guarantees qualification. Ideally we either want a draw or a Dortmund win to help our journey to being group winners.

It was a great trip and I was so glad we did it, win lose or draw. Much better though when it is a win against arguably the second best team in Europe. 3 tests in a week, 2 exceptional passes. 1 to go and we can’t go into it with any higher confidence.

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(thanks @Squevvles and @SianyMacalarny for the photo!)

You’ve only come to watch The Arsenal

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Amazing what happens when you are top of the league/flying high/have a star – everyone wants to watch you. Live TV listings just announced for December – I won’t be going out then!

  • Arsenal v Everton

Sunday 8th December 2013 (originally Saturday 7th December)

Kick off: 4.00pm

Live on: SKY SPORTS

  • Manchester City v Arsenal

Saturday 14th December 2013

Kick off: 12.45pm (originally 3.00pm)

Live on: BT SPORT

  • Arsenal v Chelsea

Monday 23rd December 2013 (originally Saturday 21st December)

Kick off: 8.00pm

Live on: SKY SPORTS

  • West Ham United v Arsenal

Thursday 26th December 2013

Kick off: 3.00pm

Now live on: BT SPORT

  •  Newcastle United v Arsenal

Sunday 29th December 2013 (originally Saturday 28th December)

Kick off: 1.30pm

Live on: SKY SPORTS

A point in the Bag

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Definitely a case of a point won today (v WBA 1-1).

I thought we looked jaded and labored, especially in midfield. Gone was the zip and harass from Tuesday night (v Napoli 2-0), hello the lethargy that plagued us last season. Big difference though, we probably would have lost last season.

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Credit though to WBA who kept going and kept their shape not letting us really get any rhythm. I think if WBA had gone home early we still wouldn’t have found it.

Well done Jack. I do not condone professional football players smoking but admire him for standing up and being counted. I joined many if wishing Arsene would have taken off Jack instead of Rambo. But boy am I glad Arsene didnt listen to me.

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Jack, like the rest seemed off the pace, but took his goal well. It was probably the culmination of one  of the few moves of  any note that we conjured up.

As usual as well he was kicked from pillar to post. He was definitely caught from behind after skying a shot which in any book is a penalty. I thought originally the ref (Lee Mason) was doing well letting the game flow where I have seen other refs blow up easily. However, his leniency was too much on a number of occasions against both teams.

Anyway, if you said to me we would be top come mid-October I would have bitten your hands off. It may only be a point gained on Spurs but their defeat at home against West Ham makes our point all the sweeter.

For once I am glad of an International break- we look like we needed it.