It was torturous to say the least, wasn’t it but we are Arsenal and it would have been so unlike us not to mess it up and make life difficult for ourselves. But we won that’s all that matters, Fabianski may not have fully proven himself in Arsenal colours but he would have certainly endeared himself to the Arsenal fans with this match- winning, season saving performance. Boy, that was as close as we could get.
Phew, Arsenal are in the final defeating Wigan Athletic 4-2(1-1 AET) on penalties and Arsene Wenger would have been a relieved man. I am certainly relieved that I didn’t get any nervous breakdown watching our laboured and lackadaisical display.
Arsene Wenger made four changes to the starting lineup, Sanogo was the surprise inclusion, both Ramsey and Oxlade- Chamberlain started. We made a bright start and Sanogo flicked the ball onto the Ox on the edge of the box but the ball rebounded off the Englishman into the arms of Scott Carson. Minutes later Cazorla released the Ox down the right and the former Southampton man delivered in a beautiful cross that Sanogo headed down straight into Carson. We were monopolizing the ball, passing around and recycling possession. Ramsey lifted a glorious ball towards Oxlade- Chamberlain but Carson blocked the pass out for a corner. Wigan had the odd moment or two, McManaman jetted past Vermaelen as if he wasn’t there and sent in a dangerous ball into the 6 yard box which Mertesacker did well to clear. Sanogo had a golden chance to put Arsenal in the lead when he was put clean through on goal by Podolski but his first touch let him down.
There were no changes at half time and Arsenal seemed to play a tad better. Just when it looked we were building some momentum, Mertesacker tripped Mcmanaman in the box, penalty to Wigan. Monreal was injured in the build up, he had to taken off and replaced by Gibbs. Jordi Gomez made no mistake and the Championship side went 1-0 up against Champions League regulars.
Arsenal fans would have feared the worst and the tension was creeping from the stands onto the pitch. Arsene Wenger made a substitution on came Giroud for Podolski. The change that somewhat surprisingly brought out a cacophony of boos from the Arsenal faithful. It was an interesting change as well, we went two up top and we suddenly were a threat from corners and set pieces.
Arsenal were unlucky when Sagna’s header struck the woodwork and it was increasingly looking like one of those days when everything conspired against us. Fortunately it wasn’t to be. Cazorla crossed one into the box after the initial corner was cleared, Sanogo laid it on to Oxlade Chamberlain on the edge box whose scruffy shot found Mertesacker and he headed it from close range. Sheer relief for the German as evident from his celebration. Massive goal for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. Gunners went into delirium.
Arsenal were really up for it and Giroud’s low powerful shot was well saved by Carson. Mertesacker couldn’t keep his header on target and at full time both teams were level and the game kicked into extra time. Arsenal started on the ascendancy and Sanogo missed a great cross from Ramsey who did well to create space for him. Arsenal had hearts in their mouths when Collison fired a header just wide. Fatigue understandably crept in and players were starting to feel their legs. Kallstrom replaced Ramsey and the Swede had something of a half chance to win it for Arsenal. That would have been some entry. Ox rattled the crossbar with a fantastic effort and that was it and the semifinal had to be decided by penalty shootout. No, I didn’t fret.
Fabianski saved the first two spot kicks and Arsenal scored from the first two, Arteta and Kallstrom made no mistake. Wigan finally got one when Beausejour rifled one in, Giroud made it 3-1. Wigan had to score if they had to stay in the tie and McArthur delivered but if Arsenal score, they progress, Santi shot right into the middle of the net and there was jubilation all around. Arsenal are in the FA Cup final. Arsene Wenger’s relief was palpable and the players celebration says it all. Arsenal, eh. COYG
FT: Arsenal 1- Wigan Athletic 1(Arsenal win 4-2 on Penalties)
Arteta -Scores Caldwell- Saved
Kallstrom – Scores Collison-Saved
Giroud – Scores Beausejour -Scores
Cazorla – Scores McArthur-Scores