28 April 2014

Between us and the FA Cup stands Newcastle...

As we prepare for today's clash, it's tempting to revisit some of the more-recent and significant encounters, but without slighting Newcastle too much, we have bigger fish to fry. With Everton having lost twice from three matches and still to face Man City, it's getting to a point now that we can start to turn more attention to the FA Cup. What, then, would best whet our whistles? Would it be last year's 0-1 win, which, thanks to Koscielny's goal, not only defeated Newcastle, but also safeguarded fourth place and St. Totteringham's Day? What about last season's manic 7-3 win? No, neither of these does the job—not for me, at least. Not with the FA Cup beckoning from mere weeks into the future.

Instead, I'd invite you to revisit the 1998 FA Cup final, the one in which we defeated none other than Newcastle in a 2-0 classic. It splits the difference nicely, doesn't it? We can continue to prepare for Newcastle while also preparing for the FA Cup. After all, Everton's slip means that fourth is more securely in our hands, and a positive result today just about clinches it; we'd only need three more points (from what we win or Everton drop) to clinch it. Take a gander, then, at the 1998 FA Cup final below:

The win would mark Arsène's first cup final and the club's second double, and it also marked in many ways the beginning of that magnificent period, that scintillating first half of Arsène's tenure. It's perhaps fitting then that we look to win the FA Cup again, although whether some might see this as the beginning of a similar renaissance or an all-too-welcome bookend to the man's career is another debate for another time.

For now, give yourself some time to revel in that 1998 cup-final. Think about how it might feel to claim similar success this May. After, a win over Newcastle today would go a long way towards securing fourth, but that brings with it none of the drama, pageantry, or ecstasy of the cup. Finish fourth, and what do we feel? Relief? Resignation? Regret? Perhaps of all of these and few more. Win the cup, though, and we not only have a monkey off our backs, we've reclaimed a page from history. It wasn't so long ago that the FA Cup itself marked the pinnacle for English footballers. In the days before the Premier League, after all, it was the match televised live. Those from a generation younger than mine (I'm about to enter my fifth decade on this Earth) may scoff. After all, with the right resources, they can stream almost any match from any league, no matter how far-flung. Scarcity can create of the sacred, for what that's worth.

Anyone who doubts that can look to the end of this match and to other FA Cups that Arsenal have won. Is there something in those celebrations to suggest that these were anything other than glorious moments? Was there anything ho-hum in the earning or the cheering of the trophy? I doubt it. Let's go out and get after Newcastle today and then take care of the rest of our Prem business. After that, though, let's make sure we go out and claim that cup!