Well, how about yesterday’s FA Cup draw and subsequent shock defeat by Wigan of Moneychester City? Hands up who thought that might happen when the draw was made at 4pm (rhetorical question. If you’ve raised your hand, you’re a cheeky little pork pie-er)?
I’d mentally already prepared myself that we were going to be lining up against City in the semi finals and, as my fellow Suburban Goonerite Ben said on Twitter “what happens now?”. It felt weird. It felt like that scene at the end of I, Robot with Will Smith where Sonny the robot is standing on a hill looking over a sea of other robots with a new world appearing. Not that I’m getting carried away with my imagery or hyperbolic statements, but nobody was preparing to face Wigan in the semi finals.
I’d made peace with the fact that we’d already played three of the top six to get to this stage, so it would only be natural that we should face another one of them before a final beckoned.
If this all sounds a little bit too rapturous and over the top then I apologise, but it is hard not to look at the teams still left in the competition and not feel an overwhelming sense that this is the best chance of silverware since…gulp…Birmingham City in the League Cup in 2011.
I was there that fateful day. When we didn’t show up and contrived to shoot ourselves in the foot. That memory of Kos and Szcz blundering in unison to gift Martins Birmingham’s victory has been etched into my brain and even as I write this I am feeling butterflies in my stomach about buggering this up again. On that day I think the whole world had it as a forgone conclusion that we would be ending our trophy drought. Indeed, as I chugged along the short distance from Uxbridge to Wembley Park tube station on the rickety old Met Line trains, I was excited and pleased at the prospect of shoving that ‘trophy drought’ rhetoric that had been peddled by the media right where the sun refuses to shine.
As fans we were complacent. As a team I think the players were complacent. As a collective we were complacent that day. That’s why I hope we won’t make the same mistake again. Much like those rickety old Met Line trains that I used to have to get, our confidence and mental fragility as a team has been reduced and much like the new Met Line trains that replaced them, our squad is stronger, our players appear to have more about them and the two chief protagonists that day have evolved beyond recognition to be two of the best players in their positions in the country.
When we play Wigan on 12 or 13 April, I certainly won’t be planning what I’m going to be doing on cup final day. I’ll be worrying about the possibility of us being defeated by Wigan and having the Moneychester City treatment dished out by Uwe Rosler’s team. I hope the Arsenal players that take to the field that day have the same mentality. Those that weren’t there new to listen to the Koscienly’s, the Szczesny’s and the Wilshere’s that were and use the feeling of those painful memories to be a springboard to success.
All eyes are now turning towards Mission Impossible II tomorrow night as we face Bayern Munich in the Allianz and it was a topic that was part of the discussion between Steve, Ben and our guest Dean for the evening. One of the positives from Saturday’s result, as Ben pointed out, is that remaining in the FA Cup has released a bit of pressure from the possibility of defeat and being knocked out of the Champions League. The players know they have plenty to play for and aren’t expected to win and so who knows? They might just show that sequels can be better than originals with another win by two goals in Munich. If you want to have a listen to the pod, check out the Podcast page in the menu section at the top.
Anyway, back to the game tomorrow, for which Arsene has said the win against Everton is the perfect tonic. And he’s right. Not only as a team, but as individuals, we had plenty of very good performances that will build confidence up before we play the European Champions. Heck, maybe even the penalty miss coupled with a goal and an assist will give Özil the potent mix of anger and fire in the belly, along with desire and confidence to have the game of his life against the German champions.
There was a banner from Redaction on Saturday that said ‘believe’ that sat proudly on the North Bank. After this weekends results, let’s hope the players all do.
Catch you tomorrow with a match preview.