2005: Viera sprints forward and slots the ball high and past a diving Carrol from the penalty spot. Arsenal have beaten Manchester United on penalties and as the tall Frenchman veers away to celebrate with his teammates, I’m not sure that any of the fans in the stadium that day believed it would be 9 years before such elation could be felt again. Indeed that Wembley would be the name for an altogether different stadium.
Seems only fitting then doesn’t it to bookmark the barren spell with another FA Cup final? A chance to silence the critics so to speak, but more importantly, a chance for Wenger to show that his eye-catching brand of football can still hold firm in the modern game. There’s no doubting it’s a game with a lot at stake, but perhaps none more so than for the manager who must be desperate to get this over-sized gorilla off his back and see out the remainder of his time at Arsenal on a high.
So, as it’s Arsenal’s biggest game in years, we couldn’t just take it lightly, so for this preview we’ve drafted in a hardcore Hull fan to give us the inside track on Saturday’s opponents. The usual rabble are also here to discuss our path to the FA Cup and chances of silverware this weekend. As the nerves are kicking in, hopefully this will provide some light distraction…
Where to start? Well, 5 weeks after that 5-3 semi-final blockbuster, the ‘Tigers’ (Hull City AFC) will once again descend their orange army on London in a bid to win the FA Cup…what an impossible thought.
History will tell you Hull City enjoy a Wembley day out. A Dean Windass volley in the Championship Play-Off Final in 2008, sending Hull to the Premiership for the first time in its (then) 104-year history, will be fresh in the fans memories and will put the Tigers in a buoyant mood. It’s the time old cliché, but what’s there to lose?
First things first, this is no banker for Arsenal. Let’s just take a moment to remember one Obafemi Martins – not nice granted, but pin that scoreline up on the wall pre match and remind this team it’s a job far from done.
The league win in Hull a couple of weeks ago provides a nice psychological advantage sure, but as we know it all goes out the window for a Cup final.
Too right. The tigers shouldn’t be underestimated; the Birmingham fiasco still stands strong in the memory and a similar slip up (or cock-up at the back!) would be devastating.
The Premier League game against Hull showed that an on song Arsenal will always be too strong for the Tigers, who produced more of a whimper than a roar at the KC. What’s more, the returning Ramsey and Ozil have lifted the squad in recent weeks and with their influence and intricate football we should be much better placed to create chances. This is a team desperate for a trophy after limping out of the title race (quite literally) and if they each learn their lines properly the script is set for a scintillating Saturday.
Don’t remind me! It was a mad March for Arsenal when the wheels came off with tough away games and injuries to key players, a run that even sent Wenger tumbling at the train station! When push came to shove in the big games we lacked tactical nous and a bit of extra quality in the final third. That’s one for Wenger to mull over in the next few months as you feel some quality signings in the right areas and we are not far away from really challenging at the top! Back to the cup final though and if we were to lose it would be au revoir for Mr Wenger! Unfortunately that’s the precarious nature of his position at the moment. Football’s a fickle business.
Maybe if we had bought a striker last summer after months of trying to get that ‘Villa’ in Spain or the £40 million and £1 Luis Suarez, to then losing out on Higuain, who knows we might have had a say in the title race! Giroud has been good at what he has done this season, scoring on and off the pitch, but he isn’t world class for me!
There is no doubt this team has been sucker punched by a series of injuries; the sick bay seems to have been chock-a-block since Christmas, and it is hard to envisage any squad surviving at the top after losing players like Ramsey, Ozil and Walcott. With that in mind, and accounting for the anxiety that accompanied the season opener, fourth spot with ten points daylight from Tottenham doesn’t seem the worst result, right?
Hull face somewhat of a crisis themselves this week with key players cup tied, so the proverbial boot is on the other foot. In fact, neither Long or Jelavíc will be lacing up this weekend.
An obvious blow to Hull is their 2 cup-tied January signings which will leave the City attack a little lacking, so Bruce will almost certainly be looking to keep the game as tight as a camel’s arse in a sandstorm! One to watch out for is Sone Aluko whose pace could surprise a few of the Arsenal boys and result in some dangerous free-kicks on the edge of the area. Tom Huddlestone will be only too happy to oblige against his old nemesis if given the chance of converting one!
As Bruce says, “The pressure will be on Arsenal because they have not won anything for a while.”
So Bruce is playing it down. Hull is only a ’little horse’, more of a My Little Pony if truth be told, but we did see how dangerous another little horse was this season.
If you believe in statistics, of the 8 games played against the top 4 this season, Hull have lost 7, conceded 16 goals, and scored just 3, all coming in an impressive 3-1 win against Liverpool. So it’s decided then. The impossible can’t happen…can it?
Victory in the cup for Arsenal will mark a significant milestone for the club, laying down a solid foundation for future silverware and finally putting to bed the (mostly sub par) jokes about the state of the team trophy room.
It’s around this time that those fans who have stumped up in the thousands for tickets to the game must really be hoping they get to see Arsenal lift a trophy. I’m a little more optimistic and think this could be the start of a new era for the boys, so my money will be spent on beers and throat sweets this time around.
I can’t say I have a problem with Hull as a team and I certainly think this game will throw up the usual drama that accompanies such occasions. Wenger has looked close to cracking numerous times, but much like the team this season, has addressed issues and kicked on again. I wonder what a trophy would do for his confidence and not just the players on the field? Lessons must have been learnt and come Saturday at 17.30pm (not an early kick-off thank goodness!) we need to put in a performance akin to those first 20 minutes against Bayern Munich at home. We can mix it with the best, but now it’s time to be the best and win a trophy, 9 years on…
In truth, realistic Hull fans will settle for cheesy chips, a nice cuppa and a fun day out, dreaming of next season’s Europa League away trips to far-flung corners of Europe with the inevitable booze-up, missed flight and Friday morning hung-over phone call to the boss blaming Dave for whole thing. But when the day comes and the players walk out past that famous trophy/the oldest football cup in the world, even the most realistic Tigers fans will sense a chance of glory.
Hull’s official slogan – Dare to Dream
Arsenal won’t have a better chance of lifting that all elusive trophy and ending the 9 year wait for silverware! It’s going to be a great day and hopefully an even better night celebrating the win! Hull City will of course be up for it on the day but I feel Wenger and his band of merry men will tame the Tigers under the Wembley arch! With key players returning and with Ramsey carrying on from where he left off before his injury you just feel it’s going to be our day! Win the FA cup and hopefully this will inspire us onto winning more trophies next season! COYG!!!
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