Arsenal v. Chelsea: time is a flat circle

I baked bagels this morning. A test batch. Five bagels. Three with crunchy bits of seeds, garlic, and salt and two plain. They turned out a little too crisp on the outside. I’m guessing my oven is too hot. Though I might try the next batch on a baking tray as well.

The interior of the bagels were, however, unlike any bagel I’ve ever had. They are usually this dense round of moist dough with a slightly browned exterior that’s soft as American loaf bread. My friends used to pluck the crumb out of bagels, wad it up, and chew it for half an hour. That reminded me of gum. I hate bagels.

But these bagels have a chewy interior which is not gummy or dense. It’s light and the exteriors are slightly crispy.

Bagels take two days to make. On day one you make the dough, then you let it sit in the fridge over night. The next morning you wake and bake. Cut, shape, boil, bake. I’m into it. I will do some more tomorrow. I think this batch will be all gone soon despite being overcooked on the bottom. Sometimes all you need (knead, get it?) to get a decent result is to be in the right ballpark.

Manchester United won the Europa League, vanquishing the mighty Ajax, to ensure their participation in the Champions League next season. What a huge victory for them and a vindication of their four year plan to finish 7th, 4th, 5th, and 6th, and finally secure Champions League football. Jose Mourinho is such a genius: buying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of players, having them play an odious anti-football system for 30 matches, and then when it was clear he couldn’t get into the Champions League the right way, throwing all of the League matches so he would have time to prepare for his miraculous underdog win over Ajax.

We talk a lot about failures and the failure of Arsenal on this blog but when it comes to epic failures nothing matches the fall from grace of Man U. Imagine Real Madrid finishing 6th and getting excited about getting into the Champions League. I’m pretty sure they would fire their manager.

But Mourinho is oblivious, he raises three fingers. Tells his team to raise three fingers. One finger for each moment in his life where he felt empathy for another human. Or a finger for each of the major trophies they have won this season: the Charity Shield (a pre-season friendly), the League Cup (in which all teams but United use children), and the Europa League (the cup you get into when you aren’t in the Champions League but you still want to play teams like FC Metallicalist, AS RedHotChilliPeppers, and SC Bigbusiness).

One of the things that hasn’t been discussed these last few weeks is the fact that everyone knew Mourinho was tanking the end of season matches. He would say after every defeat or setback that his main focus was on the Europa League final and that “in this moment the Premier League, for us, is just matches we don’t want to play.”

Mourinho fielded a weakened team in the Premier League in order to rest and prepare for the Europa League final. Isn’t this the kind of maneuver which used to spark outrage? Isn’t he disrespecting the League by fielding a weakened team? Doesn’t the FA normally “investigate” and “fine” teams when they do this? Mourinho has just made a mockery of the entire League system and fielded intentionally weakened teams because the League didn’t matter to him. And all the pundits can do is laugh at what a brilliant game plan it was.

This is the same League that once fined Blackpool for fielding a weakened team and then later loosened the rule. But this is one of the biggest clubs in world football, and the star attraction of the League, fielding weakened teams because the manager felt like it was easier to win against Ajax than Tottenham. And he was right. I don’t know what that says about the integrity of the Premier League.

As for Arsenal… we have a match tomorrow. Against Chelsea. Alexis is going to start and that’s a positive but everything else is just up in the air right now. Injuries have decimated the Arsenal back three and it looks like Wenger will have to decide whether to go with three at the back or four. My guess is a flat 4 with Coquelin patrolling. But I’m not sure the formation is going to be the deciding factor. The big problem is that Arsenal don’t have any of their first-choice center backs.

Arsenal lost Koscielny to a stupid red card and like Mourinho disrespecting the League little has been said about this. Koscielny has been Arsenal’s best center back for a few years now so I understand why he isn’t criticized but I’m going to go ahead and dive in. That tackle was both feet off the ground, wildly lunging, no chance to win the ball, and really no reason to attempt the tackle: nothing about that tackle made sense, unless he was trying to get sent off, or he’s lost his mind. In either scenario I have to question the player.

Let’s hope for a massive game from Mertesacker and Holding. Mertesacker has some atonement to make. He was dropped by Wenger after his red card on Diego Costa, the same Diego Costa he will be facing tomorrow. Costa will be licking his chops to have a go at Arsenal’s back line. He seems to have a special hatred for Arsenal so I expect the shithousery to start from the opening whistle. I also expect the referee to let it all go, as if no one would have expected Costa to slap people in the face, fall over feigning injury, stamp on his marker, and throw people to the ground before squaring off with them and offering a fight.

Tactically, while Costa will be trying to get players sent off Arsenal have to find a way to contain Hazard. He will be going at Monreal all game and Monreal will need help. I don’t know how Wenger will set up for that. Iwobi can’t be trusted in that defensive role and if you drop Alexis back to help out, it kills off the Arsenal attack. I suppose you could try Welbeck wide? I don’t know.

Chelsea will have to contain Alexis and Özil and much of that will be down to player of the year N’Golo Kante. I think the reason Wenger likes to start Alexis wide is because it forces the opposition DM to come over to cover in deep positions. If that starts to happen, Arsenal could get some attacking sunshine through the middle of the park with Özil and Ramsey. The only problem with Özil, Ramsey and Welbeck through the middle is that they are all terrible finishers. Let’s hope they can take their chances tomorrow.

There is one other story. It’s the one about how Fabregas faced Chelsea in a cup final when he was a kid and how Walcott opened the scoring and John Terry got his head kicked off by Abou Diaby then Arsenal had two players sent off and Drogba won the game. Later that season, Jose Mourinho went to collect his medal after winning the cup double and held up six fingers toward Abramovich to indicate the six trophies he’d won at Chelsea (yep, one was the Community Shield).

Losing to Chelsea time and again was the reason Fabregas left Arsenal. And now Fabregas could very well win the double with Chelsea with a victory over Arsenal. Proving once and for all that time is a flat circle.

Like a bagel.



  1. Hazard mainly operates from their left, no? I know he floats around where he wants, but we’ve played Chelsea numerous times with Monreal in the lineup in the last few seasons and I can’t remember a single game where Hazard was consistently trying to isolate and target Monreal on our left.

  2. Btw, arseblog is reporting that Ospina will start in goal tomorrow. If true, this strikes me as incredibly stupid. But there ya go…Arsene really doesn’t help himself sometimes.

  3. Well, every team we played in the run-in except Spurs was throwing games because they had nothing left to play for/nothing in the tank. Mourinho is just the only one brazen enough to have outright said he didn’t care. Meanwhile Arsene’s Getalong Gang were able to roll up some good results in meaningless fixtures and make the table look a bit more respectable. Specialists in getting results when it doesn’t matter/chasing that fourth place trophy.

    Tomorrow is going to be a massacre. We are guaranteed a red card and odds are we will ship more than a few goals. Most of our defenders being unavailable can’t just be chance, half of them are serial bottlers. Including Koscielny. Remember that comical goal against Birmingham in the League Cup Final? That farce, along with the regular spankings by Chelsea you allude to, must have been important for Fabregas I think. You know, first as tragedy, next as farce, all that.
    (attempting repost as my comments don’t seem to register)

    1. Yeah, Mustafi really “bottled” it by having a concussion, didn’t he? Likewise Gabriel going in for a full-blooded tackle really “bottled” it by tearing his whatever-it’s-called ligament. And I’m sure Cech got injured in training today because he thought, “you know what, rather than play in an FA Cup Final at Wembley, against my former team, the champions of England, at the end of what will inevitably be one of my last seasons as a professional footballer before decades of slowly growing old in retirement, I better get injured so I don’t run the risk of bottling it tomorrow.”

      Oh, yeah, and that one unfortunate mistake six years ago in the league cup totally proves that Koscielny SUCKS.

      Your first paragraph, though cynical, makes some good points and is completely defensible. And we might well lose badly tomorrow–Chelsea are excellent and we have lots of injuries. But don’t besmirch this thread with irrational, hate-filled nonsense.

      1. Hate filled, please. Gibbs crying off with an injury in a big game has been going on for years. Koscielnys insane red card ( our CAPTAIN, god help us) was bottling it, give me a proper explanation if you can. Gabriel and mustafi I won’t argue with, didn’t know about cech being ruled out when I posted that. Cech deserves respect, no doubt. But generally from top to bottom our team is full of players who can’t be relied on to do the job when the pressure is on (especially those who developed at arsenal, ie not cech Alexis or even monreal). Most of them aren’t fit to wear the shirt. If that’s hate filled well I’ve supported this club for a quarter century but as a grown man I’ve no pride supporting a team of babies and losers.

        1. I don’t want to debate what gets to count as hate, but you’re view (“babies and losers”? really? what are we, in secondary school?) is certainly contempt-filled, and largely irrational. If you think Gibbs gets injuries because he’s weak psychologically (I’m guessing that’s implied by “bottler”) then I can’t help you. That’s just idiocy. As for Kos, I’d say it was a mistake: it was a split-second decision, he thought he could get there, and he makes terrific tackles like that all the time (in the past he’s not been in a back three but rather had Per to cover for). This time he missed and I’m sure he knew he had been stupid immediately. It was very poor decision making, given the circumstances, but again he had to make that decision in a split second. We’re all frustrated with him, but he’s been an excellent defender for us for years and years so I choose to give him the benefit of the doubt, not judge someone based on one or two incidents. Is every mistake on a football pitch, or every one that has severe consequences, really “bottling it”? And I notice you only backed down about Gabriel and Mustafi after I called you out on it.

          Having that much–not rationally supported–contempt in your heart for people that you’ve never met, because they have the temerity to get injured at inopportune times or make mistakes on a football pitch you’d rather they not make (and need we add that they are performing this activity at a level that you almost certainly could not come close to matching?) may or may not be “hateful”, but it’s certainly not the attitude of a mature adult.

    2. It’s the first paragraph I have an issue with. Teams throwing games is a pretty strong charge, it’s actually an illegal activity, and needs to have some basis before you put it out there. I’m going to presume that you mean to say they found it hard to motivate themselves to the usual levels, which is fair. Boro and West Ham played Liverpool pretty tough — for a while, until Liverpool the game out of sight. But for Ayew’s howler and a cowardly referee in their last game, it could have been a completely different story.

    3. We can win the game on Sunday. We just need to slash Hazard’s car tyres, and feed some past-its-sell-by date Lasagna to Kante and Azpilicueta. Have faith. Off-the-filed intervention cometh 🙂 On he field? Well…

      Hey, we can do it. It’s not best of 7. It’s 90 minutes, one time.

    4. What a cynical post! With fans like you, the team probably feels like its playing away games at home. They were immense today. And every single one of your predictions was wrong. Get behind your team.

  4. I wouldn’t change a winning system. Starting Mertesacker is a big risk as well after he’s been out of football so long and wasn’t suited to defending against Hazard in the first place. I would stick with Holding and Monreal and consider adding Coquelin to the mix as the 3rd CB. He is pretty good in the air and good at defending deep. I think Francis needs to start this game, whether it’s in midfield or at the back. We’ll need his bite and aggressiveness. To further throw a wrinkle into things, we are also down Kieran Gibbs, who would’ve probably started, so my crazy idea is to start with Bellerin on the left and Oxlade-Chamberlain on the right. I would go with Giroud up front for his greater presence, since both Hector and Ox will be firing crosses in.

    So, 3-4-2-1: Cech; Holding, Coquelin, Monreal; Ox, Xhaka, Ramsey, Bellerin; Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said. However, given that everyone is reporting Ospina is starting, I fully expect to be disappointed tomorrow by seeing a 4-4-2, with Ospina in goal, Per and Holding with Bellerin and Monreal on the flanks, Xhaka and Ramsey who both can’t function in this formation, Alexis on the side, Ozil in the middle and Welbeck on the other side, with Giroud up front. Then, at 2:0 down we introduce Walcott and Iwobi for Giroud and Alexis who goes off disappointed and the game finishes 2:1 with a late Walcott goal in added time.

    2. Have to feel for Wenger here, with the insane (even by our standards) injury/suspension crisis to our backline. If it means we can’t play our new formation, it will be a big blow, psychologically as much as tactically, since the players have been concentrating for weeks on adapting to it, and confidence has gone up since we switched.

      I see Doc’s thinking behind preferring Coquelin to Per, but I wouldn’t do it. I think we need Per here. Yes, he’s been out forever, but that’s not as bad as throwing Coq into a position he’s never played. Plus, he’s an extremely experienced defender. And even though Per’s lack of pace will be targeted, Coquelin was absolutely terrible against Chelsea (and Hazard in particular) last time we met them, so he might have his own issues.

      I’d do everything reasonable we can to start with the 3-4-3. Suppose Gibbs and Mustafi are both out (another knock against Gibbs, and why we really should sell him this summer: even in seasons where he doesn’t have big injuries, he consistently picks up niggling ones). Then the only options (assuming Per>Coq at the back) are:
      1. Ox on the right, Bellerin on the left (or vice versa), or
      2. We bring in Debuchy out of the (bitter!) cold. The guy is like Monreal in that he’s very much suited to a back 3. In his one appearance this year, he actually looked good. Then again, this would be a crazy call to make before a cup final…

      Ok, I just realized a third option: if we’re going to run with Doc’s Coq idea (har har), then we could play a back three of Coquelin, Holding, and Per, with Bellerin/Ox on the right and Monreal on the left. But “makeshift” doesn’t even begin to do that back 3 justice.

      So, fitness miracles aside, I fear we’re going back to a back four in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1, and for once, if this happens, you can’t really say you’d blame Wenger for the decision. Any way you look at it, it could get real ugly.

      1. When Coquelin played as the most withdrawn midfielder in a 4-3-3 he was essentially a 3rd CB. He would be asked to win duels and protect a small territory, so that’s not too far from his comfort zone. I agree asking him to be CB in a flat back 4 and playing the offside trap would be a disaster, but in a 3 CB system, maybe not as much. Not saying it’s ideal, just that he’s done this before.

        The issue is that when he played that way it was against sides who monopolize possession. Chelsea won’t do that. They’ll invite us on to them and then break quickly. This is why I would not start Mertesacker.

      2. “Have to feel for Wenger here, with the insane (even by our standards) injury/suspension crisis to our backline”

        That would be my first reaction too. Also my first reaction to Koscielny’s tackle and sending off, seeing as he has been playing injured most of the season and when you have tendinitis in your Achilles last thing you want to do is chase down a speedy player like Valencia ,so you take your chances on a risky tackle.

        Except Koscielny has done it before and is the only player in the PL to have been sent of twice in the opening fifteen minutes of a game( City 2013), and no player has been dismissed more times in the league than Koscielny since he joined Arsenal in 2010.

        Furthermore, if Arsenal weren’t such a boys scouts of football, this particular play should’ve never developed to the extend it did for Kos to even make the dumb decision to take out Valencia ,who ran past two Arsenal players like they weren’t even there, with Holding almost getting out of his way and Monreal barely putting a hand on him.

        Incidentally, Valencia was also the “culprit” in Gabriel’s unfortunate exit which makes me think something was said to the players before the game about keeping a close eye on him.

        Same place on the pitch, same opposition player involved, same unnecessary tackle by Arsenal defender.
        Call it bad luck if you want to but I think it’s more than that.

  5. It’s definitely going to be 4 at the back with probably Giroud starting up front, supported by Ozil, Sanchez and either Walcott or Ox.

    Xhaka for sure but who is the other pivot? Ramsey or Coquelin?

    At the back I can’t Mertesacker starting. Gibbs (ugh!) and Bellerin on the wings with Holding and Monreal inside.

    And who wouldn’t love to see Cech have a great game, a clean sheet even, against his old team?

    We will have to play out of our skins to make that happen and for lucky # 13, going one better than Man U with whom we are currently tied with 12.

    I’ll be watching, maybe from the back of the sofa while invoking voodoo rituals and stabbing a tiny effigy of Diego Costa with red and white push pins.

    It is The Magic of the Cup after all…

  6. Chelsea 3 – 1 Arsenal is my prediction. I only hope the scoreline isn’t embarrassing. Our defense will be all over the place. At least we can’t blame Wenger for this one! Koscielny, you twit.

    1. I’d flip the tables on them and refuse to come out. If they can’t hit us on the break, that protects our back line and gives chances on transitions. Attack with the front 3 only, keep the fullbacks in our own half and have Ramsey play a disciplined game. It won’t make for a great spectacle but you can hardly blame Wenger if he goes that route without Koscielny and Mustafi. I think that’s our best hope for victory. If we come out and expose that makeshift back line early, it could be a massacre.

      1. When I read your first sentence I thought you meant we should stay in the dressing room. 🙂

  7. Some footballer (Samuel Eto’o?) said famously that you don’t “play” cup finals, you win them.

    I’d be happy to see us park the bus for once, play compact and tidy and hit them on the break. Whatever it is, it can’t be the same old Arsenal playing a suicidal high line and going for broke because they WILL break us if we try anything that stupid.

  8. If we go to 4-3-3 with Coq as the deepest midfielder and splitting the central defenders in possession to have a functional back three, use Ramsey and Xhaka as box to box midfielders, keep Ozil out wide, and use Welbeck on the other flank to at least lock down one flank, we could have a fighting chance. If in moving to a back four we simultaneously move Ozil back centrally in 4-2-3-1, the score could get really, really ugly.

  9. “Chelsea think we are favourites? He can think what he wants,” Wenger said. “If he can justify it during the game it is even better.”

    This from Wenger made me laugh.

  10. the ideas for how best to use coquelin are befuddling. he has no experience as a central defender. just because wenger may have thrown him in the back late in a game, that hardly constitutes experience required to play a full 90 minutes against the bpl champions. why would one contemplate playing coquelin there when you’ve got a vastly experienced world cup winner available who’s been a defender his entire career?

    likewise, coquelin doesn’t have loads of experience playing as a defensive mid. he started there when wenger brought him back from loan but that’s because everyone was injured. after about ten games, players started getting fit and coquelin was pushed higher up the pitch. if frank plays, it has to be as an 8 but please not as a 5 or 6.

    1. I don’t really think Coquelin’s best position is an “8”, and I don’t think that’s where he’s played for most of his Arsenal career, i.e. alongside Cazorla (the beginning of the this season was a notable exception). I think he is a defensive midfielder (a “6”, I guess, to the degree I understand the numbering), but he obviously shouldn’t be playing there as the deepest midfielder on his own, in a passing team like Arsenal, because of his inability to build our attack from deep. But if we’re going to sit deep and try to hit them on the counter, I have no problem with him sitting roughly as deep as Xhaka (and I assume you wouldn’t either, joshuad).

      1. Ah, so the team news is out, and the debate about Coquelin is a moot point.

        Only question is, are we playing a back four, or is one of the Ox or Bellerin starting on the left????

  11. Ok, so is Cech injured or not?? If he’s completely healthy, than I disagree strongly with the decision to start Ospina (as admirable as it might be from a “I’m a man of my word” point of view). But the BBC is (predictably) treating this as definitely a case of Cech being dropped, and already using it as a stick to beat AW with, clearly not having gotten the memo from the (usually reliable) Guardian that Cech picked up an injury in training. If he did, then it’s obviously not Wenger’s fault. And the fact that Cech is on the bench doesn’t settle matters, since obviously one can be fit enough to start on the bench but not be 100%, in which case going with a backup, if not strictly necessitated, is not always a crazy decision (in spite of the mindless, oft-parroted bit of wisdom that goes “if you’re fit enough to make the bench, you’re fit enough to start”). It seems weird that the Guardian story would be completely made up just to shelter Wenger from criticism at picking Ospina.

    But if I were Cech and completely healthy, I’d be pissed right now.

    1. You’re being overly sensitive. The BBC, for whom I worked at one time, doesn’t need to “get the memo” from the Guardian. I think their considerably-sized sports staff has channels to Arsenal FC for team news? If Cech is injured, why is he on the bench? It’s a fair question (which you yourself ask in the last line). Surely can’t be that he was dropped.. he’s been outstanding lately. Ospina (a goalkeeper for a Top 12 national side) has obviously been promised the cups, including the Champions League.

      (Goal! Good call ref!)

      1. I’m not being sensitive, a forteriori I’m not being overly sensitive.

        I don’t like the BBC’s coverage of football, period. Obviously they’re a huge news organization and maybe the Guardian just got their story wrong, but the BBC football journos, and especially the buffoons who run their live feed, are always looking for ways to push a simplistic, small-minded, often mean-spirited narrative, often directed at Arsene and Arsenal but also just in general. That’s my personal opinion, anyway.

  12. Highlight of the game? Ozil slide tackling Hazard. Time and date was noted. 🙂

    How well did BFG play? Rolled back the years. Won every header, blocked shots. Our skipper was terrific today, and proved a few doubters wrong. Koscielny was not missed; Mertesacker is not finished.

    TV gave the Man of the Match to Sanchez, but I thought that person was Monreal. Totally nullified Hazard, and was tenacious as a pitbull. That’s probably the best I’ve seen him play for Arsenal. Welbeck and Ramsey were superb. Welbeck is such an athlete, he can catch a mishit forward pass and turn it into a good one.

    Ramsey had a bad miss that had me cussing him for a long time (he sometimes tries to do the harder, Hollywoodish thing. Head the f***** ball, don’t chest it) But apart from that, the movement of him and Welbeck caused Chelsea problems all afternoon, and for the second FA Cup final in recent memory, he got the winning goal. For the opening goal though he showed great game awareness to not get involved in the play when offside. Maybe gooners will give him break now. Fabulous performance from the Welshman.

    Welbeck too, despite his miss. More game awareness would have seen him square the ball across goal instead of taking an extra touch with Courtois smothered… Alexis and Ozil were wide open. But they couldn’t live with his pacy running, harassing and defending from in front. On days like this, you want him to add the missing element to his game — the ruthless streak in front of goal, and more goal productivity.

    Shout out to Ospina. Two brilliant saves, one very brave, and a very good game. But man (if I may nitpick a bit), he can’t kick long to save his life.

    Shout out to Mesut again (good game), although he should have scored near the end.

    Today, though, is Arsene’s day. Congratulations, coach, and well played.

  13. Redemption

    Per… hasn’t played all season, go go gadget legs fully armed and functional
    Xhaka… level headed, good passing, retains possession
    Giroud… sets up the winner with a sweet touch few forwards have
    Ramsey… defending well in a pinch, cup winning runs
    Ospina… a bit slow to reach and let in that goal, but good patience to deny Kante, a great save against Costa on breakaway, great save on Costa’s last shot. Had a nice claim off a cross as well.
    Sanchez… not for scoring and the hockey assist, we already know he’s great, but the way he called his teammates in to celebrate his goal

    And of course, Arsene, who got every single tactical choice right, whose team looked very dominant today.

    My only regret is that Ozil’s goal was saved off line and his other shot came off the woodwork. Would have been sweet redemption as well.

    Well done boys.

  14. Amazing game. Was cursing and swearing at the players for missing tons of chances. But they really gave the blues a runaround. Just goes to show how little we, as sports fans know about team tactics, player mentality etc etc. Wenger went with 3 at the back. And it made perfect sense in the end. The man has won SEVEN FA cups and we still keep questioning his judgement. So Conte, the master tactician according to so many posters here had no answer to Wenger’s (the guy who doesn’t do tactics and won titles the easy way) gameplan. I think all this game shows is that when your players are fully tuned to the objective, anything is possible.

  15. Congrats everyone! I’m still emotional about the game. Terrific performance from everyone. Per, what a professional footballer, damn it. It just makes you wonder what the heck happened in the second half of the season. With this attitude the team can beat anyone. I hope AW stays another 2, and gets his squad fit and ready early for a change. #COYG Hugs and kisses everyone!

  16. I was a bit terrified and dreamt of winning ugly but hey, we played a fantastic game!! This season made me feel numb number of times, watching games stopped being fun a while ago but today… I was full of emotion again, caring.

    One of the best games this season and a hell of the final. Fantastic performance from the team, good to end in such a way.

    Thanks for amazing contribution to all of you and Tim for your work during this difficult times. 7am yet again didn’t disappoint!

  17. Two injured defenders and one suspended. Not a problem when you can call on the BFG to start his first game of the season and shows what an experienced defender can do.
    Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers played a superb game with only one mistake on the Costa goal but his future is incredibly bright.
    Monreal maybe a LB but as he has shown us time and time again, he is a very capable CB.
    Wenger who doesn’t do tactics gave the media’s tactical darling, Conte a masterclass today.
    I cannot remember the Ox playing on the left side before today and he did well enough against Moses.
    Full credit to the referee for producing that second yellow in a cup final at Wembley for a blatant dive from Moses.
    All that is good at Arsenal this season begins with and ends with Alexis Sanchez. Re-signing him is imperative. You call his agent in this Monday and you talk to him everyday until it gets done.
    You call Özil’s agent on Monday and you get that deal rolling as well.
    I won’t lie, I was not expecting this performance today and I was as shocked as Chelsea were. Today’s Arsenal could have won the league. Arsenal played with no hand brake, no fear, with focus, with tenacity and we dominated the champions.
    Ospina’s save on Costa’s shot in the box was the save of the game.
    S***s did finish above us for the first time in my time following this club since the mid-nineties and we still managed to come out ahead with a trophy won at their home stadium.

  18. Hold your heads up Gooners!

    Forget yesterday, tomorrow will come soon enough, but what a day!

    Our club delivered out of nowhere, one of the finest performances in years.

    We did something I didn’t think we were capable of doing: we made the league champions look average, ordinary, downright pedestrian.

    Had we finished better (Welbeck, Ozil), the score would have been a more accurate reflection of a special day in the sun.

    Holding is a revelation, Mertesacker – was great – and looked like he had played the entire season.

    Fantastic cross from super sub Giroud for the low, diving header by Ramsey who was once again the cup match winner.

    What a wonderful Saturday!!!

  19. I can’t put into words how I feel. I’m still processing it. The emotion is still in the forefront. Maybe tomorrow I will write something cerebral. Something about the tactics, something about the individuals, try to find some context. Right now though I just can’t get past the simple joy and sheer pride of it. The images of the match, the post-game celebrations, the goals, the way it all unfolded on a day when most thought we had little to no chance…!! I was sitting in my chair, a nervous wreck, just waiting for the heartbreak, and in the end it was the opposite. Ah, what a day to be a gooner. I will savor this one for a long, long time.

    I’ll raise my glass and lift my fist into the sky. UTA!

    1. Ok, just a few nuggets because I’m still excited and can’t help myself.

      –I was obviously wrong about Coquelin starting. Good call by Josh above. Mertesacker was the absolute BOSS of the day. Keown was right: this was The Mertesacker Final. Who saw that coming?! He was good in the air, he brought calmness and communication to the back line, used the ball extremely well, and his lack of athleticism didn’t matter much because he had two more mobile partners on either side of him.

      –May not get a lot of press but we had a 3 minute spell of possession to start that game, which was really good to settle everyone’s nerves. Similarly, Rob Holding not letting Costa bully him early on was big. I despise Diego Costa as a human being, but his athleticism, strength and balance are something to behold. He is quite the physical specimen and a terrific striker. Holding dealt well enough with him. That he lost him for the goal was a positional thing, correctable. In his rookie campaign, the cup final wasn’t too big an occasion for him, and his opponent could hardly have been tougher. The lad has a big future.

      –Arsene outdid himself tactically. Not only did he figure out how to attack Chelsea from the off by creating 3 v2 in the middle, he also looks like a genius for bringing on Giroud when he did, who once again showed his ability to impact games off the bench. Again, less flashy, but I thought Willian was looking very dangerous for them and Coquelin was able to shut that right flank down after he came on. An excellent and timely tactical response there from the boss. I also enjoyed the 93rd minute Alexis substitution. A classy move and one that would see the game out.

      –Spare a thought for Aaron Ramsey, a figure almost as divisive as his manager. He was, hands down, terrific today. The man only ran 14.5 km, completed 95% of his passes, and scored the winning goal by running off the back of the premier league’s player of the year. One swallow does not a summer make, but it’s hard not to let this game impact how I view Ramsey’s suitability for this role long term. He did it all on an extremely high level on the biggest stage against the best opposition. You can’t ask for more than that.

      All right, I’m done gushing, for now.

  20. My post right after the game… clicked send and it went into the ether. May have been the asterisked swear word. It went something like this…

    Play of the day was Ozil slide tackling Hazard, winning the ball, and leaving him in a heap. Your TV wan’t lying to your eyes. Even Mesut got stuck in, as the team fought like pit bulls.

    TV commentators said Sanchez was MOTM, but for me it was Monreal. He gave Hazard nothing all afternoon, and completely nullified whatever attack threat he presented. A great defensive performance. A left-sided red wall. That was probably the best I’ve seen Nacho play for us.

    How good was BFG this afternoon, folks? Won everything in the air, intercepted, even threw himself into blocks. He was exceptional, and ensured that Koscielny wasn’t missed. There was so much worry and angst about him playing. He was a boss, especially in a game where Holding was pushed to the limit by the skilful, strong and wily Costa.

    Also very good were Ramsey and Welbeck. Welbeck is such an athlete, he can turn an overhit pass into a good one. His pace and movement (along with Ramsey’s) posed problems for Chelsea all afternoon. It’s games like that where you wish he’d add ruthlessness and productivity in front of goal. On his missed chance which hit the post, he should have had the game awareness and the head-up play ability to pass early instead of taking the extra touch and running into Courtois. Ozil and Sanchez were wide open. Just square it. But overall, he was immense.

    Ramsey too. For Alexis goal, he showed good game awareness to get the hell out of the way and not touch the ball, knowing he was offside. For his miss that would have made it 2 – 0, he had me cussing for a while. His sometimes problem is that he prefers the Hollywood ball to the simple one, and chose to chest the ball into the goal rather than head it. Still, he came up with the game winner in the second FA Cup final in recent memory. very good game overall by the Welshman.

    Shout out to Ospina, who made two blinding saves, and had a good game. One from Costa knocked him out cold, and the other, a smart reflex sabe low down, kept out Costa at 2 -1. But, if I may nitpick, he can’t kick long to save his life.

    Mesut, as I said, came to play today, but should have taken at least one of two good chances to score. Xhaka, Alexis, Ox, Bellerin all came good on the day.

    But this is Arsene’s day. Congratulations and well played, coach.

    1. And I agree with Dr Gooner. The emotion and feelgood were highs from which I for one haven’t come down yet. Been out or a run in my red shirt, and Im heading straight to bar like this without changing or showering. On days like this I miss London. The red part of London will be gulping down the pints at pubs everywhere, long into the night.

  21. So, after today’s performance, is it insane optimism going to my head to think…

    if we can keep this squad together (thinking in particular of those contracts for Alexis, Ozil, and Ox; obviously a couple fringe players should/will be sold)…
    if we can add Kolasinac plus 1 or 2 high quality more…
    if we can play in this formation, with these tactics, this focus, and this intensity…
    and if we can keep our manager for 1-2 more years…

    Next year might just be our year??????

    1. Nothing wrong at all with insane optimism. That’s what being a sports fan is about.

  22. Oh yeah. Very complete game from the Arsenal today. Very happy today, especially as my wife watched the game with me. That never happens so I am doubly joyous!

  23. This one is truly special. I don’t know why. Maybe because of all that’s been said, maybe because Wenger might leave, or maybe the performance we put on. But this memory will stay with me for a long long time.

    Well done to all the players, especially our club captain, whose ability and value was discounted by so many. Well done to the manager for his tactics and subs.

    I don’t care what anyone says, I want him to stay and it isn’t just emotion either.

    Big decisions coming up for the club but for right now, we all deserve to just sit back and revel in this victory. Record FA Cup Winners.

  24. We gooners have just been disappointed one too many time these last few years to trust this win will spark a revival. But not being in CL might help with league title challenge. Man City and Nan U will definitely be stronger although Spurs might suffer due to playing at Wembley as well as being in CL.

    Lot of people mentioned few weeks ago that Van Gaal got fired last year despite winning the FA cup so why keep Wenger. My question is that Man U got Super coach Jose and they ended up being “specialists in draws” in their league campaign. They bought a lethal striker, an excellent midfielder who cost a bomb, an amazing winger who was the best player at Dortmund and still only managed to come behind Arsenal. They won Europa league by playing typical boring Mourinhoball, while Arsene’s team played amazing Football last night against premier league champions. So who really is a better manager? I think we need to think a bit more deeply whether getting rid of Wenger will magically make us better. For me Wenger will always be a hero for all the joy his teams brought in my life. His classy behaviour despite listening week in week out to idiotic pundits and obnoxious managers like Jose is something we all can learn from. He might be going “stale”. I might berate him after every loss. I might want a shiny new manager like Poch for this team but nobody will replace Wenger’s achievements until they have won 3 titles, 7 FA cups and gone unbeaten in league whole season. Then they can be called a great like Wenger.

  25. Thanks Tim for your sterling bloggery for another season. This one was difficult, but what a way to finish.

    1. And thanks to all of you for being fellow fans, for another season’s worth of thoughtful comments, for (mostly) being able to disagree without any disrespect. At the end of the day we are passionate bunch and for that passion alone I think you all deserve that FA Cup final payoff.

  26. Echo Greg’s sentiments. It is a treat to come here most of the time.

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