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Friday, 11 August 2017

Not quite a Premier League preview 2017-18

Unfortunately I don't have the time to get a proper Premier League preview piece written in the traditional way today. I'm off to the game tonight so tempus fugit and all that. Instead of a proper preview I've listed below where I roughly think everyone might finish this season:

1. Manchester City - after all that money anything else would be a failure
2. Arsenal - I live in hope...
3. Manchester United - need Lukaku to miss fewer sitters
4. Chelsea - Conte won't be there in May unless something changes, but Costa might be
5. Scouse "This is our year" XI - Klopp to go at end of season
6. Everton - big money spent
7. London "This is our year" XI - things are not good in the Wembley Wanderers camp
8. West Ham - must be better than last season at home
9. Southampton - I keep backing them to go down so a different one this year
10. Newcastle - under Benitez I'd be shocked if they went down again
11. Watford - safe again
12. Leicester - might also see a new manager again
13. Burnley - if they can do as well at home again, need to pick up away points this year
14. West Brom - Pulis just signed a new contract so expert a sleepy time watching them
15. Crystal Palace - a battle but safe, could do with a couple of signings to stay up
16. Bournemouth - might need to survive by the skin of their teeth
17. Swansea City - could easily swap places with any of the bottom three
18. Stoke Rugby Football Club - bye bye, not missed
19. Brighton - can't see them staying up
20. Huddersfield Town - would be a welcome miracle for Herbert's old boys to stay up

Monday, 7 August 2017

Chelsea get Arsenal's care in the Community...Shield

It's always enjoyable at Wembley when you win. Yesterday Arsenal did just that and we were able to leave with the smiles of winners, even if it is just a friendly with a slight prestige about it. Given the players Arsenal were missing, and then Mertesacker getting injured fairly early on, it was a decent result against the Champions. The game itself wasn't entirely dissimilar to the FA Cup Final some ten weeks ago. Arsenal were the better side for most of the game, albeit not creating quite as much as we did back in May. However, we had more than the balance of the play with more possession, more shots and more territory than Chelsea did. The BBC website ran a match report stating Chelsea took a deserved lead having dominated the game - I can only assume whichever cretin wrote that has been given their cards this morning.
For me there were three star performers for Arsenal on the day. Nacho Monreal was outstanding yet again at the back and this was even more impressive when you consider he had to take over from the BFG in the centre when he took Cahill's elbow just above the eye. Monreal has really developed in to one of the very best players in the Arsenal team over the last couple of seasons and his consistency has been largely outstanding. Sead Kolasinac came on for Mertesacker and was put on to the left of the back three. He went on, in my view, to produce one of the most impressive debuts for Arsenal in recent years. You can't have failed to notice he is a bit of a "unit" and he certainly makes best use of his frame. The Bosnian looks strong and powerful but also showed no small amount of pace yesterday. To cap it off by attacking the aerial ball and scoring a deserved equaliser topped off a very good day for him. In front of them I was surprised to see Xhaka get the official man of the match award, especially as he was badly at fault in the build-up to Chelsea's goal - of course he provided the excellent free-kick for Kolasinac's goal. For me the best player on the pitch yesterday, and this will surprise many reading it, was Mohamed Elneny who surely produced his finest display in an Arsenal shirt. The Egyptian was everywhere and made tackles, won the ball, used it well and nearly scored too. With Xhaka being disciplined in his positional play at the base of the midfield Elneny's marauding play ahead of him, while keeping things simple with the ball, allowed Arsenal to pretty much dominate that area of the pitch.
My notable disappointments from yesterday were Bellerin, who seems to be going backwards right now, and Rob Holding who looked out of his depth for the first time. I thought he was really poor and tried to be far too clever with the ball at times. He also won little in the air at times yesterday and, for me, wouldn't get a start on Friday if Mertesacker is fit to play against Leicester.
Our new centre-forward was also in action and he hit the post at the end of a fine move he was heavily involved in but apart from that was rarely seen. With no Ozil or Alexis it was difficult to see how Arsenal would provide him the kind of chances he looks like he will need to score goals. Worryingly I don't see a player with express pace - there was one ball played into the channel for him in the second-half where David Luiz gave him a two yard start and then ran past Lacazette to take the ball. I hope he can hit the ground running when we get the Premier League started on Friday night.
In the main talking points from the game I thought, at the time, it was a dive from Willian while the slowed down TV pictures show Bellerin accidentally brush his leg with a knee - not a penalty but probably not a dive. Then there was the elbow on Mertesacker. Did Cahill deliberately do it? No. Did he lead with a swinging elbow? Yes. Is that dangerous and a red card? Yes. He did it again when he beat Xhaka to the header that set up their goal. Something to keep a watch over as the season gets going. And then the red card. Pedro knew exactly what he'd done and laid down pretending to be hurt as a result. Credit to the referee for taking no notice and making the right decision. 
So a trophy to start the season and a good day out for my family at Wembley yet again. I never tire of going there and there is nowhere better to win. Two trophies this year at the home of Tottenham - the gift that keeps on giving. 
It's not a bad way to get the season started. I am, however, concerned at the way certain non-playing members of the squad were, in Arsene Wenger's words, invited "to be part of it" while others weren't. Arsene says he has 33 players and that is too many. I probably agree but he is forcing out the wrong 6 or 7 and retaining some youngsters who, with the apparent exception of Reiss Nelson, are nowhere near good enough to play for Arsenal, at least not yet. Jack Wilshere should not be sitting at home watching when others are taken with the squad even though they're not fit to play. Jack isn't the only one and it must be driving a wedge between members of the team. It's not healthy and I believe we will end up regretting the way Wenger is treating the likes of Jack, Gibbs, Debuchy, Jenkinson, Lucas Perez etc.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Members Day - the difference in attitudes of players

I went to Members Day at the stadium yesterday with my wife and two boys. Overall it was an enjoyable day out for everyone, but not without faults. Given that Arsenal have been holding the event off and on at Emirates for the last 11 years (and a couple at Highbury before that if I remember right) you would think they'd have things right by now. The biggest annoyance on the day? The FA Cup was behind Block 7 in the North Bank for photos - these were being done for free, so an excellent initiative from the club. Of course the queues were long so it was a case of watch the training session or get a photo with the FA Cup for those of us who live far enough away that arriving at 1030 was out of the question. No matter, a steward told us we had until 1245. At 1225 I went to Block 7 (I was actually sitting just there in the stand) to find young children being turned away by one of Arsenal's many jobsworth employees as the queue they had was going to take them past 1245 and "I've got to get the Cup upstairs." I saw later on the official Facebook site that the FA Cup made its may to the "adults" Q&A player session in the hands of Aaron Ramsey. Now given that Members Day is essentially a family event I have to question why the FA Cup was taken away from the kids like that. Frankly it should have sat where it was until every child/family that wanted to had had their photo taken with it. Not just that, but the arrogance and attitude of the senior steward was unnecessary. 
The training session itself was, I am sure, slightly more relaxed than a normal day at Shenley. The players did a light warm-up, and a few passing drills, followed by a series of small sided games across, and then in one half, of the pitch. This meant we all got to see some action rather than just the players actually being coached. Ozil, Jenkinson, Chambers and Gabriel were working only with the fitness coach while Debuchy joined in the main group until it was time to play the "matches" at which point he appeared to be not allowed to be part of things. He cut a forlorn site standing next to one of the goals and watching on. Given Debuchy's quality as a footballer, and a man who has done well for the most part when playing for us, I found that hard to watch. Why ostracise a bloke who can genuinely do a job for us at either right-back or centre-back? Francis Coquelin was missing completely from training having got hurt on Saturday against Benfica, though I was also told later by a member of the staff that he wasn't at the training ground the day before either. Aaron Ramsey didn't train but, as I mentioned above, was actually at the stadium.
The open day, on the pitch at least, ended with the quite brilliant prize for 20+ Junior Gunners of playing against the 1st team on the Emirates pitch. The youngsters were given a day out at Highbury, arrived on the 1st team coach, used the away dressing-room, and also were given a full PUMA Arsenal away kit and trainers etc. It has to be the prize to end all prizes.
After all that we went to the Junior Gunners Q&A in one of the Club Level lounges. At that event we were joined by Theo Walcott, Shkodran Mustafi, Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, Olivier Giroud, Gabriel, Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez. The adults, well me at least, were as excited as the youngsters when the players came in to the room. My eldest won the chance to go on to the stage and play a small game with Calum Chambers which was great for him. There were some questions asked to the different players, none of which would be described as probing given that they came from the children. Walcott, Mustafi, Chambers and Wilshere were excellent, Kolasinac seemed a bit lost as he told us his English isn't great yet so Mustafi was translating everything in German for him, while Giroud, Sanchez and Gabriel acted like naughty schoolboys on the far end of the stage clearly not that interested in being there. Annoyingly when the event came to an end the players were rushed out of the room to stop the kids getting photos and autographs with them. This winds me up intensely for a number of reasons. Theo, Calum and Jack all seemed keen to stay and sign for everyone but they were virtually manhandled out by the Arsenal staff. Theo Walcott seemed genuinley embarrassed by the whole thing and I guess that tells you what a decent lad he really is. Quite why the young fans couldn't get the moment with their heroes I really can't fathom. When put in context with the fan events in China and Australia a couple of weeks back, and the access those fans got to the players, you have to wonder why it's only those of us who live here that seem to miss out at our fan events.

So now we move on to Sunday and the Charity Shield at Wembley. It's a strange kind of hybrid of a fixture, somewhere between a pre-season friendly and a competitive game. I read yesterday that Laurent Koscielny is free to play on Sunday but banned now from the first two Premier League games instead. I guess that means the FA are saying Sunday is a nothing game. Perhaps we can tell Sky that too and go back to not needing a penalty shootout if the game ends in a draw. Having been thrashed by Chelsea in China it will be a test for Arsenal and I think we will see something approaching a first-team at least at the start of the game. I will try and do a post following the game, depending on how time treats me on Sunday or Monday night.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Don't think we've got a problem?

I went to the game yesterday and got my first look at this new Arsenal squad in the flesh. I had enjoyed the game on the Saturday with some very decent attacking play on show against Benfica, but the defending had been largely woeful. Having seen some good football, however, I was really excited and looking forward to the Sevilla game. I took the family and we sat in Club Level as has become our tradition for the Emirates Cup.
What followed on the pitch was a familiarly frustrating sight of pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, give the ball away. I counted up two genuine shots on target in the whole game from Arsenal. There were a couple of efforts wide, or over the bar, but mostly it was the usual boring passing the ball to death while going nowhere. At the other end Sevilla passed the ball with a purpose, by which I mean their passing was intended to result in an effort at goal rather than making pretty patterns across the pitch. At the same time as this they showed that the "defence" employed by Arsenal yesterday was also totally inept with the notable exception of our most consistent player, Nacho Monreal.
It's time to lay out some facts here regarding our defence. We have three international footballers currently being forced out of the club in the shape of Debuchy, Jenkinson and Gibbs. Two of these lads are Arsenal through and through. Meanwhile we have had a pre-season of Wenger using Elneny and Maitland-Niles out of position at centre-back and, quite frankly, being damaged as a result. Neither of these two players are defenders and it has done them no favours to be ripped apart by Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Benfica and Sevilla in the last couple of weeks. We had Hector Bellerin back yesterday but all we saw proven down the right was that we look a whole lot better at both ends of the pitch when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain plays in his position - if Barcelona offered serious cash I'd be more than tempted to cash in on Bellerin, while keeping Debuchy and Jenkinson. On the other side I was impressed by Kolasinac, especially going forward, on Saturday. However, we showed that there is nothing there to cover him in the event of an injury unless Monreal is moved away from his highly effective role in the back three. Cohen Brammall is surely living the dream at Arsenal, and good luck to him for that, but the lad was so far out of his depth it was quite frightening yesterday. It's not his fault, he just isn't a top level footballer. What I've seen from him reminded me a lot of Glen Kamara and Ismael Benaccer when they played in the League Cup at Sheffield Wednesday. You have to wonder why Kieran Gibbs is being shown the door.
Of course the defence has largely been bereft of Holding, Chambers and Mustafi for the pre-season schedule. At the same time should we really be reliant on the promising, but mostly untested, Holding? Or Chambers and Mustafi who have failed to look the part during their Arsenal careers to date? There is also the worrying sign that Laurent Koscielny might have lost half a yard of pace - King Koscielny has always made the odd error at times when his concentration has slipped, but take away his speed and you have a Mertesacker without the ability to read the play. Worrying times for a defence that was already sub-standard.
At the top end of the pitch I was very pleased to see Lacazette get a goal yesterday. He grew in to the game but was having to move in to areas of the pitch he might not like to be just to get some service. As a result we saw some useful link play from him when coming wide, but this was at the expense of having anyone in the centre when the ball was moved on. Aaron Ramsey had a fine game, while Welbeck looked good in the first-half and non-existent in the second. Of course we are missing Alexis Sanchez at this point, but maybe that's something we ought to get used to - who knows how bad his flu might get?! And then we come to my favourite person, Mesut Ozil. That feeling of frustration I mentioned above is almost exclusively a result of him getting the ball. So many times he has possession of the football and you feel yourself thinking "right, now go at them!" What you get instead is a three yard pass to the nearest Arsenal player, usually one of the full-backs, while he trots off to find space to do it all over again when he gets the ball next time. Something that summed him, and the way Wenger has this Arsena team playing, came in injury-time. There we are, 2-1 behind, and Petr Cech comes charging forward to joint he players in the penalty-area for a corner. Ozil, having just passed up the opportunity to score down in front of us, is standing over the ball. He chooses to play it short and the ball never does get crossed in to the penalty area. Frustrated? Is it any wonder?
It's wrong, of course, to judge too much on pre-season games. Until recent years very few people even saw these games as they weren't televised - there wasn't much call for Southend v Arsenal, for example, to be on the box. As a result, if you weren't at the games then you only had a brief newspaper report to find out what went on. Following the pioneering Makita Tournament's, Amsterdam Tournament, and now the far-east and American "tour" matches there is a market to see these glamour friendlies so we all have a chance to see what's going on. Most of it remains irrelevant until the league starts, but that doesn't mean I can't be worried and annoyed already! Roll on Members Day this Thursday...will Alexis be there?

Monday, 10 July 2017

Wenger gives us a clue for the season

Well it seems like only yesterday that I wrote the final piece from last season. I didn't do the usual squad review pieces, end of season awards etc because time caught up with me and there seemed little point once I was finally able to find the time. So, that being the case, this is the first post in nearly two months since Arsene Wenger signed his new contract. The weather has been proper summer stuff and Arsenal have made two new signings in Sead Kolasinac and Alexander Lacazette. Exciting stuff, and now the squad have flown off to Australia ahead of the first pre-season game later this week in Sydney.
With the list of those travelling down under posted on the official Arsenal website it is clearer now what Arsene Wenger's plans are for 2017-18 with some notable absentees from the touring party. Forget Alexis, Mustafi, Bellerin, Holding and Chambers as they were all involved in tournaments so are not back from holiday until at least Emirates Cup weekend, I would think. However, some players have surely seen their Arsenal careers ended by the departure of the chartered plane with them still back in England. Wilshere, Cazorla and Zelalem are all injured, but Lucas Perez, Joel Campbell, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Wojciech Szczesny and Carl Jenkinson are surely at the end of the road with Arsenal. Given the extra games, and tighter schedule, that being in the Europa League brings I am really surprised at some of this. I really expected Szczesny might get a chance this season to regain his number one position, with Ospina leaving, but the Colombian is still here and the Pole isn't. Kieran Gibbs is obviously the one who Kolasinac has come to replace but, with Monreal highly effective on the left side of a back three I find that disappointing - Gibbs is Arsenal through and through. Similarly, Carl Jenkinson (as I've written before) has been badly done to both by the boss and the fans who seem to have forgotten he is really not as bad as the internet trolls would have them believe. With Debuchy finally taking the long walk there was surely room for the versatile Corporal to retain his place in the squad - another "homegrown" player towards the quota as well. The most disappointing, for me, is the fact that Lucas Perez now seems certain to leave the club. He was nothing short of brilliant in the few games he played, scored and created goals, yet somehow Wenger never wanted to give him his chance - why did he bother signing the lad?
There are the usual good few youngsters on the trip to Australia and China, with Maitland-Niles and Nelson already announced by Arsene Wenger as moving up to join the first-team squad this season. The likes of Joe Willock are maybe more of a surprise, but perhaps it's a small "could have been you" jab at his older brothers who both moved away from Arsenal. Eddie Nketiah is a prolific young centre-forward and looks the absolute business in front of goal when you get to see him play. The presence of Lacazette, Giroud, Welbeck, Walcott and Alexis makes it quite the traffic jam ahead of him, but this might just be a chance for him to show Arsene Wenger he has something special about him.
So the new season is already virtually upon us with the first friendly just a couple of days away. I'm going to the Seville game in the Emirates Cup, and to Wembley for the Charity Shield. I don't have Premier Sports, who I believe have live coverage of the pre-season games, so for anything I'm not at I will be relying on Arsenal Player for highlights or whole match re-runs etc. As ever, we are a couple of decent signings away from looking good, but the players on their way out concern me with the need for huge squad this season.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Keep calm and support Arsenal

Going nowhere

I'm still on a high from Saturday. Arsene Wenger being given a new contract is not enough to sour my mood so soon after one of the greatest wins in Arsenal history. As much I as didn't want him to get a new contract at Arsenal I am amazed at how many seem to actually let it have such a huge impact on their lives. I get angry about it when we lose, more so when we get a hammering like we've suffered far too much since the stadium move. I shout "Wenger Out" via this site. But it doesn't rule my life. My family is what rules my life, not my football club. After my family the thing I actually care about most is Arsenal, and I work only to pay for my family and to go to Arsenal and play/watch cricket. My job is important in that it's what provides the money but I could gladly do any other job that allowed me to pay for the things I genuinely live for. Arsenal giving Wenger a new contract is annoying to say the least and, but for the emotions still being strong from Wembley, I would probably have been apoplectic yesterday. However, by now I would have got over it and be looking forward. I'd actually be looking forward to forgetting about Arsenal for a couple of weeks until the fixtures come out.
I said on Twitter and Facebook on Tuesday that it's clearly the wrong decision as far as I'm concerned, and that the protests achieved exactly what I had said they would - sod-all. I also made the point that I would be going to support the team as usual next season because that's what being a supporter is supposed to be about. I've seen people like me, maybe even me personally, described as a "c**t" for airing that view. We are, apparently, the reason for the problems at Arsenal as we will keep paying our money to the club. My Dad has been going to watch Arsenal since the early 1950's, but apparently he's the problem at Arsenal for supporting the team. Okay. 
The thing I don't get with the more extreme elements of the Wenger Out "movement" is that they rightly criticise those who adore him for seeing Arsene as bigger than Arsenal. The phrase "Arsenal FC not Arsene FC" is an oft-seen mantra, and rightly so. However, what I am seeing now is those very same people falling in to the trap of seeing Wenger as bigger than Arsenal. If you decide to deliberately stop going and turn your back on Arsenal because of Arsene Wenger then you are absolutely 100% making him bigger than the club. I just don't get why you'd cut off your nose to spite your face that way. It simply defies logic.
I'll be renewing my season ticket after I've written this post and I will look forward to hopefully seeing some new signings over the summer, enjoy a decent pre-season, go to the Emirates Cup with the wife and kids, and then support the team (not the regime) once August comes around. I hope we play well and go for the Title, I hope we get to Wembley and win another cup, I hope we win the UEFA Cup having taken the tournament seriously enough to do so. Do I think it's likely we will win the Premier League? No. Do I think we have every chance of qualifying for the Champions League at the end of next season? Yes. Do I think we can win a trophy? Yes, of course - everyone wrote us off this season and look what happened on Saturday at Wembley.
There is an uncomfortable truth about Wenger that hits people like me straight between the eyes. I want him out because I think he is incapable of putting a team together across a whole season and winning the Premier League. However, Arsenal have won three trophies in four seasons. The FA Cup isn't some minor pre-season friendly effort, it is the real deal. We exist for days like last Saturday. Wenger, for all that is clearly wrong, need only point to the silverware. We can be as rabid in our disappointment (sheer hatred in some cases) but it matters not a jot. If you want to protest then do it against Kroenke but, I'll tell you this - if Arsenal surprise us next season and do well I can guarantee there will be no protests at all, just as there weren't at Manchester United in recent years.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Arsenal Football Club - FA Cup Winners 2017

FA Cup Winners 2017

What a truly unbelievable day it was at Wembley yesterday. We could pick holes in the fact that such a  performance has been missing for most of the time since Christmas, maybe even all season except for a game or two, but this is not the time for that kind of reflection. The only thing I want to reflect on today is the fact that Arsenal battered the Premier League Champions yesterday to win us our 13th FA Cup, and Arsene Wenger's 7th. From front to back, start to finish, and everything in between, it was simply a stunning display of commitment, pace, authority, tactical awareness and superb passing football. I said in the preview we might find chances few and far between and would need to be clinical. We ended up in a position where we should have won by at least three clear goals, such were the opportunities spurned, or unlucky to see bounce off the post, which is an absolute mark of the dominance Arsenal held over Chelsea at Wembley.

Pre-match fireworks

The atmosphere was great in the Arsenal end as the supporters really got behind the team. There was not even the merest hint of dissent despite a popular fanzine attempting to organise a protest against Kroenke - to have done this at an FA Cup Final would have been an embarrassing disgrace and, frankly, The Gooner editor ought to have a look at himself for trying to promote that on Friday. There was the usual pre-match rubbish put on by the FA in terms of the "ceremony" but really the fans aren't interested in that. Arsenal's coaches were particularly unimpressed at the Wembley groundstaff trying to force them off the pitch by turning on the sprinklers during the players warm-up. Abide With Me was as rousing and as emotional as ever. Then we had God Save The Queen and a one minute silence in memory of the victims in Manchester earlier in the week - one or two at the far end fancied getting their voices heard amid the quiet, but they were very quickly silenced by their own.

Play to the whistle, Chelsea!

Arsenal couldn't have made a better start to the game. We immediately controlled the football but not by passing it about among our centre-backs. The game was being played in the Chelsea half from the kick-off with Arsenal's players making theirs chase shadows. I don't think Kante and Matic really knew what had hit them in the opening few minutes as Xhaka and Ramsey controlled the midfield. The goal from Alexis after only three minutes made it a perfect opening, albeit amid controversy. When you see the replay it is impossible to understand how Mr Taylor (who was otherwise surprisingly fairly immaculate in the way he refereed the game) missed the handball by Sanchez. However, let's be quite clear here, according to the current reading of the offside law Aaron Ramsey was not offside when Alexis went in to score. You only have to look back a couple of weeks to Raheem Sterling not being given offside for Man City v Leiecester for precedent on this. My personal view is that it should be offside, but at the moment it isn't. Chelsea's players had pushed up to play keep Ramsey offside and that's why I think he has interfered with the play but, I'll say it again, the current law says not. Courtois was interviewed after the game saying he stopped coming for the ball as Ramsey was offside but that's a poor excuse - first lesson as a schoolboy footballer? Play to the whistle son!
Quite how Arsenal didn't get further goals in the first-half is hard to fathom. Cahill cleared on the line from Ozil, with Danny Welbeck a couple of inches away from turning it in anyway. Then Welbeck hit the post with a header and the ball rebounded against Ramsey and back off the post again. Welbeck again saw Cahill clear off the line after he had scrambled the ball past Courtois. Arsenal were stunningly good going forward. Equally they were exceptional in defence. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played a fine game as the left sided wing-back, Bellerin equally good on the other side. But it was the three centre-backs who excelled. I've seen the game back on TV this evening and in the first five minutes Rob Holding stands up to Costa's attempted bully-boy wind-up behaviour - that lad has got it, simple as that. Monreal and Mertesacker, meanwhile, were completely flawless throughout the 90 minutes. Alexis got given the official Man Of The Match award by Danny Murphy but it simply had to be either Nacho or the BFG who should have got it.
At half-time and 1-0 up you had to be happy if you were in our end. The only mild disappointment was borne out of the fear of having missed our chances to have basically put the game to bed.

Celebrating the winning goal on both sides of the pitch

Chelsea predictably had their best moments in the period immediately after half-time in terms of actually being on top. It was a ten minute spell where Arsenal gave up the ball far too cheaply and allowed Chelsea to attack. This is where Mertesacker absolutely came in to his own as he picked off pass after pass in to the Arsenal penalty-area. The BFG lacks pace but all those caps for Germany mean he is a good player and there are not many who read the play as well as he does. If he did have pace he would have been a peerless centre-half.
Once Arsenal got their foot on the ball a bit more we managed to press Chelsea back again. Danny Welbeck's running off the ball and harrying of the Chelsea defenders was crucial throughout his time on the pitch. David Luiz simply couldn't handle him and Welbeck wore out both him and Cahill. That meant that when Olivier Giroud came on he dominated both of them too as he was physically far too strong for the Chelsea pair to take the ball from him.
The red card for Moses was clearly spot on. His first booking was for a rugby tackle on Welbeck who had made him look a total mug. To then take that dive was nothing more than cheating and it was refreshing watching the game back to hear the BBC pundits refer to it as exactly that on the live broadcast (Jermaine Jenas made a point of not calling it cheating on the highlights) and actually condemn it for a change. Credit, of course, to the referee who had the perfect view. From my seat at the other end of Wembley I really couldn't say what had happened and my very real fear was that Oxlade-Chamberlain had clipped him. When he gave us the free-kick you realised immediately that he was going to have to send-off Moses.
Chelsea got their goal while down to ten men and it was poor from Ospina. Holding got a bit too tight to Costa which allowed him to get spun a little, but the mishit shot took a small deflection off Mertesacker. Nevertheless it should have been an easy save for a goalkeeper as agile as Ospina but he simply never pushed off his standing foot and then punched out at thin-air to help the ball in to the corner. At that point I think we all feared we'd blown a great opportunity.
Arsene Wenger then, of course, played the trump card. Welbeck had surely run his race as there was no other reason to replace him with Giroud. However, straight from the kick-off he made a lovely run in behind Cahill and Alexis found him with an exquisite pass. There is no way Giroud could have known exactly where Aaron Ramsey was but maybe playing together over a number of years gave him a vague idea that Rambo would be flying in to the penalty area. As the ball floated across the goal I had the perfect view with Ramsey right down in front of me. You kind of just knew as he went towards the ball that this was going to be a goal. When it went in there was an absolute wall of noise in the Arsenal end as things went totally mental. There is something about Wembley goals that is different and it's moments like that, as it was with the Boyo three years ago against Hull, which give us our reason to go to watch games in the flesh. I was celebrating it with both of my sons, my youngest seeing his first FA Cup Final at just 7 years-old. It was incredible. 
I have given Ramsey loads of criticism in these pages over the last few years. I believe it has been justified. However, yesterday he was back at his absolute best. He kept it simple, no flicks and back-heels, no suicide runs leaving us short in midfield. He paired perfectly with Xhaka, who played his best game since he arrived and is beginning to look a little more comfortable in the English game. For all the stick I give Ramsey he was already an Arsenal legend for his winning goal in 2014, so to do it twice merely cements his legacy as one of THE names in the history of Arsenal Football Club.

The Arsenal end at the final whistle

Mertesacker and Koscielny lift the FA Cup

In the last ten minutes it seemed that we should have scored every time we got the ball. Bellerin had a great individual effort where he sprinted past Luiz, Ozil did everything but score when he hit the post, the final ball was just over-hit a couple of times, and our dominance but no killer goal was keeping Chelsea in it. That meant there was time for Ospina to redeem himself with a stunning save to deny Costa a second equaliser and Monreal's reaction to the save will live long in the memory as he grabbed Ospina in congratulation at having his moment.

Me and my boys after the game

When the final whistle went the noise in the Arsenal end was even louder than before. Yes, there were tears for me and I know there were for both of my brothers and my Dad too. For me it was special like never before because both of my boys were there. I tried to explain to the youngest that he should take it all in as you never know when it will happen again and I think he understood - as he went to bed late last night he told me "I always want to remember this day Dad". For my eldest son he's getting quite used to it having been to his third FA Cup Final win at the age of only 11. I had to wait until I was 14 to see my first!

Captain and match-winner with the FA Cup

The celebrations of the players were really something yesterday. Each of the was clearly enjoying every minute and I think they knew they owed us something this season, as well as owing their Manager who has shown sometimes blind faith in them. Rob Holding, getting his first taste of the big-time, was literally dancing round the edge of the pitch to celebrate with the massed ranks of the Gooner Army at our end of the ground. Unfortunately the Wembley powers that be still haven't got the message regarding their horrible PA system - if they will insist on playing deafening music at least please put on Good Old Arsenal or something so we can sing along to it. 
It was noticeable in those celebrations how important Per Mertesacker is the leader of the group. There were two group photo opportunities and both of them saw Per ensuring that everyone involved with the first-team, who was in attendance on the pitch at least (Debuchy, Jenkinson and Sanogo were absent for some reason which wasn't right at all in my book) was in the pictures.

The players celebrating

Thanks Arsene - and goodbye..?

For Arsene Wenger there was clearly a personal vindication yesterday of all that he has done. As much as I would like to see him go, and what more perfect time than after a win like that, and as much stick as I give him, I couldn't help but be happy for the old man yesterday. He also seemed to be making the absolute most out of the celebrations and made a point, I believe, of showing the Cup to all three sides of the pitch we were on. He also did a lot of waving at us all. Was he waving goodbye? Maybe yesterday I thought, for the first time, that perhaps he is going to call it a day. If the does then he will go with my absolute gratitude for what he did for my football club. This season has been poor, but yesterday meant that it has actually been good - if you win a trophy then it's a good season. Give me 5th place and the FA Cup over 2nd place and no trophy any day, thanks very much. Arsene Wenger has provided me with the best football I've ever seen at varying times in his tenure. In recent seasons it has been something we have rarely seen, but it was there yesterday. He can point to having won 7 (SEVEN) FA Cups at Arsenal, with 3 in the last 4 seasons. For all that we moan, football is about trophies and he has managed Arsenal to them again. I can't and won't abuse him. I can't and won't join a protest against him. I want him to go, but I'm still happy every time he proves me wrong. We will know later this week what the future holds.

And so that's it for the season. We finish with silverware and that's good enough for me. The fact we did it in such great style, against the best team in England, makes it all the better. Football is wonderful thing. Arsenal is the most wonderful football thing of all bringing together, as it does for me, family and friends in the pursuit of loving our Club. And I bloody love winning the FA Cup!

The Arsenal.