First, let me say how spoiled we are to actually win something. That terrible drought between the FA Cup in 2005 and the next trophy in 2014 was all anyone would talk about until Vermaelen lifted that trophy in Wembley last year. We act like it’s our right to have all the silverware but only two clubs in the EPL got to lift a trophy this season, us and the West London Scum. We went to three finals before that, the Champions League Final in 2006 and the League Cup Finals in 2007 & 2011. That day in February against Birmingham was my singular worst as a Gooner. At least I saw all those departures, Cesc, RVP, & so on, coming.
City, United, Spurs, and Liverpool, traditional powers, went home with nothing this season and we should be well aware that it’s awesome that we got to celebrate trophies two years in a row. Spurs haven’t won a major trophy since the League Cup in 2008 (who, honestly, counts the League Cups as a major trophy?) and Liverpool haven’t in three years, again the 2012 League Cup.
Alright enough of that gloomy stuff and on to smashing Aston Villa. While last year’s road to the cup felt shaky, barely beating Wigan (thanks Per) and almost losing the Final, this year we felt in control, even against United at Old Trafford (Nacho & Welbeck). The weight of nine trophy-less years was thrown off last season and Alexis’s enthusiasm infected us all.
The first surprise was Wenger picking Walcott. Of course he’d scored a hat-trick the week before but he’d hadn’t given him any minutes until then. Then, the walk out onto the immaculate Wembley pitch. All the Cincy Gooners, as well as kit-wearing supporters who don’t come out as often, are at the bar by this point and it is packed. There is only one Villa supporter; Mike buys him a beer. We are pumped. We talk about the chants we’ll sing. “Ooh to be a Gunnah,” “We’re by far the Greatest Team the World has ever Seen,” “Oh Santi Cazorla,” and “What do we think of Tottenham” are on the list. Kickoff! Ashley stands up on the bench and starts, “She Wore! She Wore! She Wore a Yellow Ribbon! She wore a yellow ribbon in the Merry Month of May…” We all sing. Shots – 1
The team is so switched on for this. From the first minute, it feels like we have eleven Alexises buzzing around. Koscielny’s header is palmed away. Ramsey fires over the bar. Walcott’s shot is blocked. Doubt begins to creep in. I’ve seen this film before. This is the one where Arsenal create all the chances but the opposition goalkeeper plays out of his skin and we lose 1-nil to a counter while we press for a winner.
A half an hour is gone and no breakthrough.The tension is there but we’re playing so well, we must score soon. They’re can’t play football against us when we’re playing like this so they stoop to kicking Alexis and Cazorla, especially ex-Spur Alan Hutton.Then finally Nacho bombs down the left, hits the by-line, and chips to Alexis. The Chilean climbs into the air, all 5 foot 6 inches of him, over Villa’s centerbacks and heads it back across goal. One bounce and bang, Theo rifles it home. The bar erupts with delight and chants of, “Theo! Theo! Theo!” Mike aggressively hugs everyone, knocking me into another fan. High fives are exchanged. We’ve finally broken through, right before halftime. Shots – 2
We start the second half just as aggressively as the first. Five minutes in, Alexis chases down a ball on the left side and brings it back towards goal. He wind up and shoots from thirty yards. It is the absolute best goal, maybe not ever, but in that moment. You know a goal is good when your first reaction is sheer amazement before the joy of getting another goal hits you. Everyone goes mental again. “Alexis Sanchez, baby!” More high fives. Shots – 3
We keep going. Alexis gets a second but its ruled offside. Cazorla has a strike palmed away by Given. And then the Captain leaps up and awkwardly heads the ball home off of his shoulder. Three-nil and we’re home free. There’s no coming back from this. To be honest, I didn’t even see this one happen. Things have gotten fuzzy from the overwhelming happiness of winning… and the beer… and the shots… Shots – 4
Villa fall to the ground twice wanting a penalty. Nothing given. Giroud, Jack, and Ox come on for Walcott, Özil, & Alexis. Cheers and applause from the bar for those departing the field and everyone is happy to finally have the Ox back. In stoppage time, he chases a ball down the right and crosses to the near post. A flick of the boot and Giroud has his goal. Immediately the ref blows his whistle three times. “Naaah Na Na Nanananaaah,Nanananaaah, GIROUD!” Shots – 5
We now have the most FA Cups of any club (12) and Arsène has the most of any modern manager since before radio (6). Mezut Özil has two cups in two years, Alexis Sanchez is the hero of the season, Theo has found redemption ( “I have been here a long time and this is the best group of players I have ever worked with and will continue to work with.”), and in a time of media training, wasted Jack won our heart again with a bit of banter (“What do we think of Tottenham,” “It’s happened again,” and “My Old Man”).
Things are definitely changing in Cincinnati. When I went to the FA Cup Final last year, it was emptier, getting a seat was easy. There are more people now and a big group of us know each other. The camaraderie makes this cup so much different than last year. I hope to get to know more of you.
Come On You Gunners!