22 May 2014

Thursday Throwdown: Arsenal - FA Cup Winners 2014

The Gunners were able to celebrate a trophy for the first time
at the Emirates Stadium
(Credit: David Holt, Flickr)
Sam: It's happened, Andy, it's finally happened. After nine long years, The Arsenal have lifted a trophy. They definitely didn't do it the easy way, though. Most neutrals - and some fans (and I have to say, myself included) - thought the Gunners would deal with Hull easily in the FA Cup final, but after two early Hull goals, Gooners were made to suffer. So having had a few days to recover, how do you feel now Andy?

Andy: I feel fantastic and nothing has been able to sour that mood, no matter how much some have tried. For years we heard all the "X amount of years since Arsenal won a trophy" jokes and though that exact wording is dead, the feeling is still alive and well. First it was "Arsenal needed extra time to beat Hull", then "it's just the FA Cup, which isn't as big a trophy anymore", then "well sure they won the FA Cup but they blew the league", and it'll be something else next week. But you know what? I don't care. At all. Arsenal won the FA Cup and even saying that sentence still sounds strange, new, and amazing to me. Have the detractors gotten to you or are you still riding the high?

Sam: I'm exactly the same. Though I have to say the detractors are beginning to annoy me a little. We've spent years being mocked for not winning a trophy and for Arsène Wenger's assertion that fourth place is a trophy, yet once we finally get that monkey off our back, everyone is dismissing it. The thing is, though, no one can ever take away that in 2014, Arsenal won the FA Cup and it ended their drought. I was listening to The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast the other day, and the guests raised the question of who'd had the better season: Arsenal or Liverpool? While they all argued Liverpool, Amy Lawrence, bless her, stood alone in saying Arsenal. I understand Liverpool improved vastly and challenged for the title, but they did it without any European football or a long run in either of the domestic cups, while Arsenal played 10 European matches and lead the league for the highest number of days, before coming from behind in dramatic fashion to win a trophy. All I've heard for nine years is that winning trophies is what top clubs do, so how did Arsenal not have the more successful season?

Anyway, rant over. I am still feeling very good. Sunday was a strange day, I felt like I should be out with my fellow Gooners reveling in our glory and reliving the moment, but instead it was almost a bit of a come-down. Let's hope the players felt similarly and will be desperate to recreate that feeling next season. Even now I want to experience that relief and joy that flowed through Lir when Aaron Ramsey scored the winner... When was the last time you experienced anything like that?

Andy: I'm sure the disingenuous naysayers (or worse: serious naysayers) spewing copy will eventually bother me as well, but it's going to take a little more than adjusted arguments when we're less than a week removed from winning the FA Cup. It will sound strange but the last similar moment for me was the match before against Wigan. Of course getting through the semifinal match pales in comparison to actually winning the thing, but it seems like that's the last time that stakes were that high for the Gunners.

Don't get me wrong, I loved slipping into that fourth spot ahead of Spurs last year; I loved beating Bayern Munich in Munich just like I loved the near impossible comeback win against AC Milan before that; I love those games that don't seem like they're going to turn out your way and then, somehow, they do because they give you hope that football can turn out OK when you didn't think it would anymore.

But all of those types of matches we've had over the last nine years have been for smaller potatoes. Cup advancement here, Champions League securing there; it's not the same as actually winning something and even though I can love Arsenal without the trophies, they sure make everything better.

Sam: You've hit the nail on the head there. Watching Arsenal under Wenger has always been a treat, but at some point you have to look past the beautiful football - and expert financial management - and cheer for a trophy. I was 16 years old in 2005, so over one-third of my life has passed since my club won a trophy. I remember the disappointments of Paris, Cardiff and Wembley (the League Cup was especially painful as I was studying in Manchester at time - imagine how much sh*t I took for that!) so much more strongly than the win in 2005. It was almost an alien experience, but it was hugely cathartic.

You mentioned about past comebacks, which got me thinking: perhaps the nature of the win on Saturday was why we celebrated so hard. Had Arsenal come out of the blocks and gone 2-0 up early on, it could have been a boring match. Hull would have had to attack to get anything from the game, in which case the Gunners would surely have exploited any space. Instead, Hull took the early lead and I was convinced they would park 11 buses to prevent Arsenal any space going forward. I was convinced it was over, and it probably would have been had Gibbs not cleared a header off the line at 0-2. To have that feeling, to feel like the drought would last at least one more year, to have to live through so much more grief, before Arsenal grabbed a late victory just when it looked like we might have to suffer through penalties ... I really think that the way it played it meant we celebrated louder, harder and for longer than we would have had we won easily. What do you think? Maybe I feel that way just because that's how it happened.

Andy: I think you're onto something there. Don't get me wrong, if Arsenal had won that match comfortably 3-0 I think we still would have been deliriously happy. We would have celebrated our goals, we would have sung to the glory of our players, and we would have drank toasts into the deep hours of the night.

But for it to happen this way; for it to be 0-2 before ten minutes were up and to need an extra time goal to win, combining the relief of avoiding penalties with the overall relief of winning... I almost think it had to happen that way. I differ with Bill Simmons on a variety of issues, but he's made the claim before that if a long suffering team is to break their curse, they need to do it in the most insane way possible. 

Now, Arsenal isn't long suffering, nor really suffering in the first place. That needs to be said so no Portsmouth fans fly to Boston to burn our homes down. The Gunners are still a powerful English team, they are in the Champions League every year, and they will be legitimate contenders for the title when the 2014-2015 season starts. But after nine years without titles and all the media narratives dialed up to 10, with all the fans of opposing clubs waiting to rub our noses in yet another defeat, maybe this was exactly the kind of win that we needed.

Sam: It could well be. Not just in the terms that the core of the squad now know what it takes and how it feels to win a trophy, but also have the experience of fighting back and knowing that they were successful in doing so. Perhaps it will fortify the squad going in to away matches against top-4 teams next season. I'm no psychologist, but as a fan I would like to think that this will be a strong launching point for the next campaign.

OK, well I think that pretty much ties it up for this week. Fear not, faithful readers: while the season may be over, we'll be blogging throughout the summer, so please stay tuned. If you want to receive updates, subscribe to the blog and the Boston Gooners Facebook and Twitter pages, and please get involved - let us know if you agree or disagree and get conversations flowing on social media.

For now, though, we'll leave you with this: Arsenal - FA Cup Winners 2014.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats to Arsenal 2014 -- after several years did not win the trophy... And if you need Arsenal jersey with the best quality, please visit http://samidzkisoccer.com -- thanks all...