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Arsenal Versus Aston Villa: History Beckons

I didn’t bother going out for my usual ride yesterday. The west of England was suffocated under a bleak grey cloud. An unseasonably cold wind drove the rain remorselessly down deserted streets and across the sodden green fields. The mountain bike remained in the shed and I remained in front of my computer intending to add a chapter to my book but actually watching reruns of season three of Game Of Thrones. You remember that series, it was back when stuff actually happened.

I wasn’t concerned by the elements. In fact I sat, quite complacent, as Machiavellian schemes unfolded and throats were sliced open, because, you see, I knew the weather would be fine today. I knew this because today, for the benefit of those of you just awaking from a coma or arriving from a previously undiscovered planet, is the day of the FA Cup final.

We may not know which coloured ribbons will go unused until this evening but we do know one thing – the sun must shine. It’s a tradition. Before you go scampering for your almanac in order to find the proof with which to refute this bold assertion, let me just stop you. The FA Cup is theatre. It transcends ordinary football, goes beyond the mundane because it is a part of a wonderful tradition. This is why people of a certain age get so bent out of shape about semi finals being held at Wembley and kick off being anything other than three pm. You shouldn’t mess with the very fabric of that which makes a thing special.

You should have replays and not penalties, goalies should wear caps, hymns should be sung, marching bands should march, royalty should attend in all their splendour and sullen boredom and the game should be broadcast simultaneously on all available TV channels. High streets should resemble ghost towns, agitated uncles should curse ill timed wedding invitations and small boys should run onto the streets at five pm clutching case balls and proceed to re-enact the highlights as soon the cup has been presented. Oh and while I’m at it the trophy should be handed to the winning captain in the moments immediately following the final whistle, not twenty minutes later. The winners should go up first with the runners up dragging disconsolately behind them.

And the sun must shine.

So don’t bother checking the weather for previous cup finals because in the only place which matters, in our folk memory, in the place where tradition is king, the sun always, always shines on Cup Final Saturday.

The FA Cup was the first trophy I watched Arsenal win. I read about winning the league in the newspaper but the final was actually broadcast live on television and what’s more it was in colour. We won in the glorious sunshine after going behind to a Steve Heighway goal, Charlie George instantly cemented his place as one of my favourite people ever and I argued with Steve Collins at school on Monday as to whether Eddie Kelly or George Graham had scored the equaliser.

Arsenal would appear in no less than five finals in my first ten years as an Arsenal fan somehow contriving only to win two of them. I remember each and every one of those games with quite startling clarity, startling when you consider how I struggle to remember where I put my glasses each and every morning these days. The fallow seasons which followed saw us go thirteen years without a sniff of the Wembley turf. This barren spell was at last relieved by a monotonous draw with Sheffield Wednesday in 1993, a game we eventually won in the last ever FA Cup final replay thanks to an Andy Linighan header in the dying moments of extra time. Five years later Arsène began his run of six finals, soon to be seven of course, all of which he won apart from one notorious robbery back 2001 upon which I shall not dwell. Suffice it to say Henchoz should have been off after sixteen minutes and had we scored the resultant penalty justice would surely have been done. But I’m not bitter.

Finals involving Arsenal aren’t my only favourites. I really enjoyed Coventry against Spurs in 1987 when Ogrizovic and Clemence competed for worst ever keeper in a cup final and Houchen scored with a diving header. Honestly, isn’t a diving header just the best way to score a goal? We don’t see anywhere near enough diving headers in the modern game. Sunderland and Southampton winning against Leeds and Man United take some beating and I’d have to put Wimbledon’s triumph over Liverpool in a similar bracket. More recently I enjoyed seeing Everton’s victory over Man United even if it was tainted by the sight of Anders Limpar in anything other than an Arsenal shirt.

So much for past finals, what might today hold for us? How will this afternoon’s match sit in this long and wonderful tradition? According to all the blogs I’ve read lots of people know lots about an event that hasn’t actually happened yet. I shall try to avoid pretending to be able to see into the future, neither will I be so bold as to tell Arsène Wenger what side he ought to pick nor which tactics to employ. Others of course are less shy of setting themselves up as oracles and seers, football mystics, tactical gnostics and world leading experts on formations and players. I’ve read that Arsène must start with Theo up front. Not should, not might or could but must. I’ve learned that despite formations having failed and players being out of form the manager will be too stubborn to change them for the final. I’ve heard that because we have two great keepers and because nobody knows which one will start we therefore have no choice but to buy Petr Čech from Chelsea. Pomposity, arrogance, idiocy and ignorance jostling for supremacy alongside an apparent ability to foresee the outcome of unpredictable events days before they come to pass.

Arsène couldn’t have been clearer in his comments about the line up. Those who start seldom have the biggest influence on the outcome. The modern game is a squad game. Football changed entirely when three substitutes were allowed to be chosen from a group of seven and as such the bleating and howling which accompanies the release of the team sheets before every match is staggeringly moronic. Which blogger or tweeter accurately predicted that swapping Podolski for Sanogo would be the game changer in last year’s final? Maybe somebody did but if so I’ve yet to made aware of their existence. If Theo doesn’t start it is because that doesn’t fit Arsène’s game plan, but it doesn’t mean Theo isn’t still an important part of that plan. If Ospina starts it means Arsène is confident he’s the best choice. This stuff isn’t complicated and just like our transfer policy is best left to those who know more than we do. I’m content to wait and see what the great man decides and then see how his plan unfolds. Why others are incapable of doing the same escapes me.

So what of our opponents today? The only thing we know for sure is they start every season below us in second place. If they end their FA Cup campaign in a similar position I shall be a happy man. Trophies tend not to be decided by alphabetical order, however. A shame really, as we would be in a pretty strong position every year, although we’d struggle to overcome Araz-Naxçıvan PFK in European competition, not to mention the unassailable Aalborg BK.

Villa have had a poor season. There’s no way of dressing that up. They ended up one defeat away from relegation despite a fantastic start to their campaign. Their early results proved to be a false dawn and it was Arsenal’s 3 – 0 victory which started the rot. They went on to lose their next six games in succession and although they briefly steadied the ship they did not end the season well. Today, of course, is an FA Cup final. Today that league form might prove a complete irrelevance.

They have a match winner in Christian Benteke, a hugely experienced keeper, and Delph and Grealish are both promising players. Would you swap any of their guys or indeed their manager for any of ours though? That’s the key question and my answer is an unsurprising and resounding no. Quite simply we have enough to win this. I’m not saying we will, I’m not predicting a walk over – I may not be a superstitious man but even I have my limits. Ipswich and West Ham taught me the dangers of hubris way back in the nineteen seventies and it’s a lesson I’ve heeded ever since.

Wherever you are watching and however the events unfold, I hope the game lives up to your expectations and unless you are a Villa fan I sincerely hope the result goes the way of your dreams. One day this match too will be bathed in the May sunshine of cup final nostalgia. In forty years time some grouchy old blogger will probably reminiscence about today and tell how an Arsenal legend entered his memories and his life in a way never to be forgotten. I doubt I’ll be around to read his thoughts but I shall be here today to bear witness as the stories and the traditions of both this venerable competition and of our great club are entwined once again. Who knows, we may even make history today. I certainly hope so.

About steww

Arsenal, books, photography, bass guitar, dog walking, mountain biking, being on the radio, writing, talking too much, failing, making mistakes, buggering on regardless.

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175 comments on “Arsenal Versus Aston Villa: History Beckons

  1. What a brilliant day! The energy at the pub was incredible. And the boys were just out of this world today. So commanding, so in control. A brilliant performance from every single player and from the manager, too!

    It made my heart happy to see Woj start and do well. He looked so happy at the end. Please stay, Woj. Please stay.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. brilliant and spot-on, mate

    Like

  3. Fantastic day, terrific, masterful performance and a celebratory curry to round things off nicely. No phone signal at Wembley meant Twitter was spared my in-match musings but suspect the meltdown as the anticipated goals were racked up made for memorable and amusing reading.

    Next up: Victory parade!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a performance. Exceptional football. Scary stuff. Exactly as planned. Alexis & theo amazing goals. This is the blueprint. So in englush football we now we have wenger as recordman in f.a cup 6, and recordman in epl -unbeaten. Heh…and still a long way to go. With the scarf round his neck he looked like the Owner/President. Ave Wenger.

    Like

  5. if chile go far in the copa this summer Alexis will miss the start of next season as Wenger says he will insist on him taking four weeks holidays.

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150530/wenger-on-fa-cup-win-alexis-and-walcott

    Like

  6. Arsenal will be back in action Wednesday six weeks – July 15th. A very short summer break for the players this year, thank god we will not have CL qualifier to play

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  7. Ben-teke
    Good a God y’all
    What is he good for
    Absolutely nothing!
    Say it again!

    Like

  8. Arteta has said that he did not want to lift the cup today, he wanted Per to do it, but Per insisted that he join him in lifting it, class all round from both of them

    Liked by 1 person

  9. WATCH THE PARADE LIVE ON ARSENAL PLAYER
    Join us on Sunday for LIVE coverage of Arsenal’s FA Cup parade!
    Following their 4-0 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley, the first-team squad and staff will take part in an open-top bus tour of Islington – and our coverage starts at 10.30am (UK time).
    Digital Members can follow all the action in a special show on Arsenal.com, which will include:
    •Every step of the parade, live on the Arsenal.com homepage
    •Reaction from former Arsenal players Ray Parlour, Nigel Winterburn, David Hillier and Stephen Hughes
    •All the very best footage and interviews as they make their way to the town hall
    •Your emails, tweets and messages of support for the squad
    •FA Cup final match highlights and analysis after 12pm (UK time)
    •Nigel Mitchell on hand to meet and speak to the Arsenal squad upon their return to Emirates Stadium
    Copyright 2015 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to http://www.arsenal.com as the sourc

    Read more at http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150530/watch-the-parade-live-on-arsenal-player#I262JoxClGrrwJxl.99

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  10. What a class display. I know Santi played like a mad man today, but I think Ozil was man of the match. The way he spots a pass is other worldly, it’s insane.

    Did anyone remember that pass from Koscielny to Nacho Monreal in the first half. Lolo hit a thirty five yard, curling pass into Nacho’s feet. Nacho didn’t even have to break stride in order to stop it. All our players are amazing.

    Did anyone catch the fact that Theo is a dribbler now? Eat your heart out Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Paul N is here. The band is back together.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Gains: Best blog of gooners, Positively Arsenal.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. what a day…what a lovely lovely day!!

    i really liked our whole team..can’t pick a motm

    ozil masterclass..shut me up for a while.

    cazorla’s game is so refined..so so elegant..what a player.

    alexis as always lit up the ground

    coq did an extremely good job…walcott added dynamism ..giroud came on and scored such a good goal himself.

    hector and nacho are so technical..they were the key for all the fluidity..making sure we had the extra option for the pass..all the time!! i loved it!

    i am in love with this club more than ever..what a club..what a manager and what a squad!!

    Arteta must stay next season..i wish well for Podolski but i cannot see him as a regular starter and it all depends on his expectations if he stays or not.

    we HAVE the squad for the title..unless a player of ozil/alexis’s (i dare not take names today) class is available we need no one

    Common Arsenal!! Thank you Arsene!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “Arteta has said that he did not want to lift the cup today, he wanted Per to do it, but Per insisted that he join him in lifting it, class all round from both of them”

    Just yet another reason as to why we need him here..he is an Arsenal man through and through..he is the captain for me!

    Cannot wait for next season..the last few interviews from Arsene have been delightful..

    Diaby’s picture during the celebrations was a class act too..i am sure he will be in the parade tomorrow..i so dearly wish he fulfills his potential ..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Arteta’s speech inspired us:

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150529/theo-arteta-s-speech-inspired-us

    they love him..he just confirmed he is staying too..what a news.

    Like

  15. Just got home. Watched the live screening at the Emirates with Passenal. Also brieflyet Calamity Jane outside the Tolly. Fantastic atmosphere next best thing to going to Wembley. The entire 30k in the stadium roared whenever Arséne appeared. No WOBS anywhere to be seen or heard….what a performance……

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  16. “Oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you”. I can’t wait for the parade tomorrow. I’m still floating and recommend the screening at the Emirates experience as it is the next best thing to being at Wembley.

    Like

  17. Great minds Georgaki…

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  18. REDaction Gooners ‏@REDactionAFC 1h1 hour ago
    Also lots of credit where it’s due to Arsenal today – paid for 90,000 scarves and a huge flag. Won’t have been much change from £150k.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. we play chelsea for the community shield! i promise you that will be one heck of a game..

    Liked by 2 people

  20. bellerin has his first FA Cup winners medal after only 3 FA Cup games

    Gabriel gets his medal after a total of 8 games in all competitions for Arsenal, 5+3

    happy birthday stevie gerrard

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  21. great day yesterday I too watched it at the emirates after losing out in the ballot. I must admit to being like a little kid again and running on the pitch.
    cant belive just how well we played including once again having to deal with the ref. Every player was on their game including the subs and if it wasnt for given and abit of luck it could of been ten.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. http://t.co/wXe5cI72pX

    Just seen this on Twitter, thought I’d beat Eduardo to posting it!

    Like

  23. thanks Passenal..brilliant video!!

    Like

  24. The Ems rocked and it was great to be there. I didn’t enjoy the first half as it felt like we would do everything but score but the quite superb Theo settled that with a great strike off his weaker foot. I also realised sitting in the Clock End Lower Tier what a wonderfully inclusive multi – cultural club we are. A properly London club leading the way with the right guiding philosophy and somehow much more modern and go – ahead than those clubs propped up by those who at times seem to have an almost criminal disregard for anything remotely resembling any kind of fair play.

    Liked by 4 people

  25. Thanks Steww.

    Well done Arsenal. This is a beautiful weekend.

    Like

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