Arsenal v Hull City
Kick off: May 17, 2014 5.00 PM BST
WE WON A BLOODY TROPHY!
Wow. I have had to wait since 2005 to say that.
What else to say? It was another unforgettable nail-biting experience for every Gooner on the planet and every extraterrestrial with a good taste for football. We avoided taking a short-cut again and opted for a longer and more exciting way to the trophy. Now, Arsenal share top-spot with Manchester United with eleven FA Cup victories each.
Arsene Wenger opted for his best team at the moment. Fabianski has been in better shape than Szczesny lately while the rest of the team picked itself – Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs-Arteta, Ramsey-Santi, Özil, Podolski-Giroud.
Despite the fact Arsenal have been on a winning streak with five victories in the last five league matches (including a 3:0 victory against today’s opponents), they made – as Arsene Wenger himself said – a demonstration on how not to start an FA Cup final. After just 9 minutes of the game we were two goals down. A few seconds after Curtis Davies had doubled the lead for the Tigers there was a huge deja vu feeling going through my head. All the ingredients of our failures in the last nine years seemed to arrive at Wembley – a collapse when it mattered the most, a unique ability to shoot ourselves in the foot, poor set-piece-defending, pathetic refereeing and a lackluster creative department. To make it worse, Tom Huddlestone, a player who wasn’t good enough to stay at Spuds, was involved in both goals.
The first goal came after a corner. Huddlestone’s volley was deflected to the right corner of Fabianski’s goal by James Chester. The Pole could have reacted better but he could do nothing five minutes later when Curties Davies doubled the Tigers’ lead. It was another set-piece for Steve Bruce’s side – they took it much closer to our goal than where the foul had happened though – and our defence couldn’t deal with our opponents’ again. Alex Bruce’s header was denied by the post but Davies seized the rebound due to the fact Fabianski was on the ground while trying to save Bruce’s shot. Bruce could have made his father Steve proud very soon after that but Gibbs cleared his shot off the line.
Arsenal had entered the game slowly but after millions of wasted free-kicks in the last couple of years, it was Santi Cazorla’s effort that returned the Gunners from the abyss of failure. The Spaniard earned a free-kick for himself in a perfect position for a right-footer. The ambidextrous Spaniard sent the rasping shot to the left side of McGregor’s goal. The Tigers’ keeper could have reacted better but it was a really well-taken free-kick, the first Arsenal have scored since Podolski’s effort against Stoke in February 2013.
That goal added an impulse to the team. We actually started to look active even if our passing in the final third was worse than terrible. And, when the pass was right, Özil air-balled the chance. Podolski and Ramsey had their efforts too. Then, Giroud pick-pocketed a Hull defender and reached the byline before sending a low-cross for an on-coming Podolski. The German was one step too slow which is a perfect description of his performance.
After an hour, Wenger introduced Yaya Sanogo in place of Lukas Podolski. The French youngster is a classic striker which meant Arsenal changed formation to more of a 4-4-2 – it was something between 4-1-3-2 and 4-1-2-1-2. It almost paid off immediately but Probert didn’t see (or didn’t want to see) Sanogo’s header stopped by Livermore’s hand. It was one of four penalties Arsenal should have been awarded.
Still, it was a combination of Giroud and Sanogo that lead to our equalizer with twelve minutes to go. Giroud made a great move down the left flank and sent a low-cross for Sanogo on the near post. The youngster tried to divert the ball into the net but didn’t make it. We got a corner. Cazorla took it, Sagna was better in the aerial duel, the ball fell to Koscielny who made a clever finish to make it 2:2.
We went for our third goal but it simply wouldn’t go in. Gibbs had a sitter that could have spared some nerves but it went way over the bar after Sanogo created a chance. Giroud had two shots saved by McGregor, it simply wouldn’t end before the extra-time.
In extra-time, Giroud was close to scoring again but his header was denied by the crossbar. Ramsey had another shot but it didn’t want in…yet.
In the second half of extra-time, Wenger decided to replace Cazorla and Özil with Wilshere and Rosicky. Only four minutes after the change, Arsenal took the lead. Giroud made a brilliant back-heel pass into the path of Ramsey. The Welshman drove it to the left side of McGregor’s net to make it 3:2. It was a great goal that crowned the glorious season for Aaron Ramsey.
However, Hull – just like the bad guys from the movies – almost replied instantly but Aluko couldn’t find the net from a tight angle after rounding Fabianski. It was Mertesacker’s slip that allowed the chance for Aluko so the Pole had to leave his goal in order to narrow the angle. Aluko tried again but Fabianski saved it. Yaya Sanogo had a great chance to get his first goal for Arsenal in the final but McGregor saved his shot. Arsenal had one more chance but Rosicky didn’t pass the ball on time to finish a counter-attack.
It is the end of the season, the end of our trophy drought and the end of an era (Nike). After nine years of Odyssey we managed to win a trophy without leaving London once during the journey. Every single player and manager deserve praises for their work in the FA Cup. It requires a special mental strength to come back from being two goals down in such a big game. Furthermore, we had to beat Spuds, Liverpool and Everton to the final which makes this Arsenal success even bigger.
This should be the first of many successes in the forthcoming period. With required reinforcements, the return of injured players (Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain) and correction of the flaws, this team can win the league and maybe even the Champions League as well!
on winning the FA Cup…
It is a relief and a happiness because of course we were under severe pressure to win today and we didn’t start well. Hull started strong and you could see we were hesitant and then we responded well. We made a demonstration on how to respond to being 2-0 down, and a demonstration on how not to start an FA Cup final! In the end it finished well so it is a big, big moment of happiness and we waited a long time for that. The happiness is linked sometimes with the suffering and the time you have to wait, so that is maybe why it was a great moment at the end of the game.
on fearing the worst at 2-0 down…
I was shocked. They looked dangerous on every set piece, we were hesitant and you wonder if the shock for the team will not be too hard. But this team has a special spirit and a special togetherness and I knew they would try to respond. It was important for us to get back to 2-1 before half time, then not to rush our game and keep calm and structured. Overall in the second half we had many chances.
on Cazorla’s free kick…
The mental aspect is very important in a game like that when everyone expects you to win. When you are 2-0 down of course you are under pressure – everyone thinks you have won the game before it started. But the cup final in England is special, you saw it last year and saw it again this year. It was an important moment in the life of this team, because to lose today would certainly have been a major setback. To win will be a good platform to build on to come back even stronger next year.
on how it compares to previous cup wins…
It was more important today than all the others. We have made twice the double, so you have already won [the league] so you are not under the pressure that we were under today. I have won it now five times, it is not too bad!
on winning most FA Cups with Sir Alex Ferguson…
I am in good company! Looking back at it, at our our run, it was amazingly difficult because we played Tottenham, Liverpool, Everton, Wigan in the semi-final – which was very difficult – and today. If you playa against any Premier League team they can pass the ball, they can create chances, they can score from set pieces and we have seen that today.
on a new contract…
That normally should happen, yes. We are in very normal circumstances now. It was never a question of leaving, it was a question of doing the right job to this club.
on what team can do next season…
You have to accept that the Premier League is very tough. If you look at the top four this year, you do not have Man Utd, no Tottenham, no Everton – all these clubs have invested a huge amount of money and the clubs who won the Premier League have invested an incredible amount of money so it is difficult to beat them. But we try.
on Aaron Ramsey’s performance…
He was not in the team of the year in England, so don’t tell me that. And he was also not in the writers’ team of the year and I think he deserved to be in there. He popped up at the right time again today.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Gibbs
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