Before the Wigan semi-final, there was a lot of talk suggesting it was ‘game over’ for Wenger should Arsenal had not emerged victorious. While the manner of the victory was far from convincing, a result is a result.
Clearly, a lot of fans have lost the faith in the boss, judging by the volume of the jeers that followed Podolski’s substitution. I can’t say it made a lot of sense to remove one of Arsenal’s most clinical finishers from the fray when chasing a one-goal deficit. I was just as perplexed as anyone else.
I thought Giroud should have come on earlier, when Monreal’s injury forced him off. However, Wenger’s decision was vindicated as Monreal’s replacement, Gibbs, began making foraging runs up the left. That seemed to increase following the removal of The Pod, who is not a natural left winger anyway.
Yet, Poldy does get the odd good cross in, and a better finisher than Sanogo may have capitalised on what the German brings to the team. Quite why Sanogo was still on the pitch was the question, given his inability to finish. The phrase ‘month of Sundays’ came to mind when I wondered if he’d break his Arsenal duck.
The only player who looked capable of forging an equaliser was The Ox, Arsenal’s most threatening player. I should have guessed he’d get an assist to his name, at least, as Mertesacker rose late on to nod home. The Sack Boy showed great character to make up for his earlier lunge that led to Wigan’s successfully converted penalty. A natural captain, some might say!
Other characters stepped up to the plate as we triumphed on penalties. The much-maligned Fabianski justified his selection with two early penalty saves to put us in the driving seat. He hadn’t looked quite as composed during the match, when he raced off his line and committed the cardinal goalkeeping sin of not getting the ball. Nevertheless, it was an impressive showing from the Pole.
My loss of faith in this team meant I couldn’t imagine our selected penalty-takers scoring. Arteta was first up. Easy. Then Kallstrom strolled up smiling like Bob The Builder. Nordic cool encapsulated. Now Giroud, another sub. Gallic composure. Finally, Cazorla to put us into the final against Hull or Sheffield United. No need to worry. We take better pens than Germany on that showing. No let’s see if we can ‘educate Yorkshire’ and win something at last!
One word of caution: let’s not forget there’s a lot of hard work ahead to make sure we play Champions League football next season. A Wembley cup final is not normally conducive to competitive league performances, as players try to avoid injury at all costs. I fear that coveted 4th spot may be in serious jeopardy. I’ll take a trophy over a lucrative place in a competition we’ve never won though, if I have to choose. Being greedy I want both. And a change of manager at the end of the season might not go amiss, especially if it means Wenger bows out on a high.
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