We've come down to it now, one last day before a match that feels like we've had to wait forever for. Whether you count it down as six days from the last match, three years since our last glimpse of a cup, or, of course, nine years since we last hoisted one, the waiting has been agonizing and angst-inducing. Will we slip up against a side lower on the table an in apparent disarray after we ourselves despatched the likes of Tottenham, Liverpool, and Everton to get here? Will it be a cakewalk as it was against Coventry? It could fall somewhere in the middle, similar to the semifinal against Wigan, which looked like it could slip away in regulation and again when it went to penalties. Could the unthinkable happen—could Hull rise up and snatch glory from us, cruelly denying us the relief we so urgently crave?
16 May 2014
15 May 2014
I'm scared. Tense. Agitated. Worried. And worse. Like many of you, I've invested a large portion of my happiness and emotional well-being in this club. Like many of you, I turn to it to escape daily frustrations, disappointments, and obstacles in my life. I figured that living vicariously through this club would allow me to transcend those niggles, to set them aside for a few hours midweek and again on the weekend, subsisting in the meantime on a thin stew made of fish, vegetables, prawns, coconut milk, and four kinds of rice. Sorry. I retreat to sarcasm and Simpsons references when I'm nervous. As suggested from the outset, I'm on tenter-hooks ahead of this FA Cup clash. As I enter the fifth decade of my life, this match feels even more-fraught with significance than I'd like to admit.
We're almost to the point that we can count down the hours instead of the days. The FA Cup final draws closer and closer, and with it, a tantalizing chance to achieve something glorious. The fact that we've beaten Spurs, Coventry, Liverpool, Everton, and cup-holders Wigan should do nothing to overshadow Hull's path to the final even if their run has seen them face sides largely from the lower divisions (save Sunderland). Adding just a touch of flavor to the proceedings, we'll face a former Spud on Saturday—Tom Huddlestone, whose goal against Sheffield United was vital in Hull's 5-3 semifinal win. Ahead of the final, Mr. Huddlestone had a few words about denying Arsenal on Saturday...
After years of seeing us treated as a bit of a feeder-club for others, it's nice to turn the tables, if only once in a while. This week's version has us treating none other than Real Madrid as just that kind of feeder-club. Having passed on Gonzalo Higuaín after Florentino Perez apparently upped the price from £22m to £35m, we flirted also with Ángel Di María before "settling" for Mesut. Along the way, there were rumors of Karim Benzema also making a move to Arsenal, but that never came to pass, but we've now come full-circle with suggestions that we're again after the French striker. Compared to the price-tags attached to others, such as Costa and Cavani, £30m feels like a bargain, and we all know how much Arsène loves to clip coupons and buy on the cheap.
14 May 2014
There are but a few days before the 2014 final, but it was 84 years ago that Hull had Arsenal on the ropes, leading 2-0 with only twenty minutes left in the 1930 semifinal. Parts of the story will sound depressingly similar—struggling against a lower side (Hull were to be relegated to the Third Division after the season), defensive lapses (a poor clearance leads to them scoring)—but other elements should feel more-inspiring. The fight-back in the final twenty minutes forced a replay, which Arsenal would win to advance to and then win the final over Huddersfield.
13 May 2014
Why not? If we were willing to offer £40m for Luis Suarez (yes, yes, plus one), why not up the offer just a touch for Cavani? Unlike that other Uruguayan, Cavani brings with him no baggage of the racist, bitey, divey, variety. What's more, he's apparently not happy with his role as second-fiddle to Zlatan, having to play wide instead of his preferred central position. Despite deferring to Zlatan, he's still found time to deliver 25 goals in 42 appearances. The fact that this represents a drop from his delivery while with Napoli should make the prospect of his moving to Arsenal all the more drool-inducing.
Tsk, tsk. So it seems that, despite a tolerably good season for Man City, Samir Nasri has been left out of the squad named by Didier Deschamps. More's the pity. If you enjoy wallowing in a bit of tawdriness, go check out his girlfriend's twitter feed. Highly amusing. However, I'm not here to wag my finger at Nasri or dwell at any length on why he should have stayed at Arsenal and how much better it could have been for us and how a midfield of Nasri, Ozil, Fabregas, and Ramsey would boss the Prem. He showed his colors and that's that. However, there is a cautionary tale at play there, one that offers just a bit of spiteful revenge but also some food for thought for other players on our radar—and in the French squad as well.
12 May 2014
It's been long-suspected and not yet confirmed, but to all outward appearances, Diego Costa is set to sign with Chelsea in a deal reported to be close to £32 million. Costa's agent Jorge Mendes also represents Jose Mourinho, so there's little to be shocked at there unless you dislike the smell of collusion. Elsewhere, Man U are said to be chasing Southampton's Luke Shaw, with a £27 million bid in the works. For as promising as he is at 18 years old, that's a princely sum that reflects potential almost than performance. However, I'm not here to suss out the relative wisdom or worth in these bids; I'm more concerned with how they reflect so poorly on us. We've long-known that Arsène is prudent to the point of madness, but if a fourth place finish is to mean anything, we should be spending money. Failing to do so would make a mockery of the fourth place finish.
With the Prem season over and only the FA Cup final standing between Arsenal and the transfer-window, the rumors have begun to fly. After a season that might disappoint many of the Arsenal faithful who had hoped for a Prem title, and for whom winning the FA Cup might feel like a bit of a consolation prize, the calls for Arsène to spend lavishly this summer are only going to increase in volume, frequency, and intensity. Win the Cup, and some will see it as a springboard for action. Lose the Cup, and others will see it as a clarion-call for action. Either way, Arsène must surely feel the pressure after the squad spent so much time in first place only to falter down the stretch. If he fails to do so, fan-frustration may very well boil over.
Like many of you, I was a bit confused and even disappointed to see that Łukasz Fabiański got the nod over Szczęsny against Norwich, assuming that it would deny Szcz a chance at the Golden Glove. Before the match, he had kept the same number of clean sheets as Chelsea's Petr Čech but had played more matches, which would hand the award to Čech. However, according to the Premier League's official twitter account, Čech and Szcz will share the award.
Petr Cech & Wojciech Szczesny share the Barclays Golden Glove. Most clean sheets: 16 - Cech, Szczesny 15 - Howard 14 - Lloris, Boruc
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 12, 2014
11 May 2014
Just when you thought a goal couldn't be more sublime, more stunning, more scintillating than the one that Jack Wilshere delivered against Norwich back in October, along comes no less than Carl Jenkinson to go one better. In a sequence similar to the one that saw Cazorla, Giroud, and Wilshere team up for a breath-taking sequence of touches, Jenkinson scored his first-ever goal for Arsenal and celebrated in a style befitting the moment. Okay, so it wasn't quite at the same level, coming as it did after Podolski's shot squibbed through a defender's legs before falling to Jenkinson's feet, and no, his finish may have lacked the cool nonchalance of Wilsheres, but—dammit—he scored. Carl Jenkinson, he of the left foot that's good for little more than standing on, scored. Anyone who tells you it matters little in a match in which both squads' positions were settled and that the goal therefore doesn't matter in the grand scheme can take a flying leap.