The last time we played a cup final it was 2005, Patrick Vieira’s last kick for Arsenal was to win the FA Cup for us. 2011 will be the year when Arsenal will once again contest in that stage of any competition. Whether this will be the stepping stone for us to achieve more and once again fill up the trophy cabinet still remains to be seen.
What is does give is a massive boost of confidence to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. No longer will they be touted as a team with the potential. All the growing and gaining of experience is past us. These players are here for a good number of seasons now and majority of the first teamers have had more than 200 appearances for the club. That being said, this is not us if we don’t do it the hard way.
Ipswich came with a plan. To defend their solitary goal lead by parking the bus. They are no Manchester City but they did put in a hell of an effort. We came out of the blocks with real intent. From the kick-off we held control of the game and basically camped inside Ipswich’s half. Wenger also showed the 60,000 fans that he meant business by naming almost the same side that beat Wigan a few days back. Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner and Andrey Arshavin were the only changes, replacing Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Samir Nasri.
As we’ve seen from numerous other games, possession does not necessarily translate into goal. While we huffed and puffed, there were no end product. Even when we did beat the keeper, the crossbar came to their rescue. Robin Van Persie failed to complete a carbon copy of the goal he scored at Elland Road. Bendtner again the supplier of the teasing cross.
Tension and anxiety grew as the minutes ticks away. Bacary Sagna was taken off for concussion after a heavy collision with Wojciech Szczesny. Emmanuel Eboue joined the party and it is nights like this where we needs his marauding runs on the right but he showed little attacking intent all night and was happy to let his team mates do that. Half time came and still we were a goal behind. I don’t know about the players but I was starting to sweat.
They say that there is a lot more work involved when a team is chasing the ball compared to the team that is having the ball. Ipswich stayed true to this belief and their resolve crumbled at the hour mark. Tiredness can lead to dissipation of concentration. As the away side lost their shape, Arsenal’s movement did all the hard work.
Jack Wilshere found Bendtner on the left side and played a delightful through ball to him. Those who said that the Danish international has the control of a Bull in a China Shop will have to think twice after seeing what happened next. Bendtner killed the ball with his first touch and step inside with his second. His third touch was a right foot curler right into the bottom corner, past the unsighted Marton Fulop.
We can see clearly how a run of games can do wonders to certain players. It takes some longer than others to get into groove. Bendtner has shown just that, increasingly becoming more and more like the player he is with Denmark, with every passing game. It was a calm composed finish. Not looking for power but sufficient pace with the extra ingredient being the accuracy of the shot itself.
Immediately you could see heads drop in the Championship side. They have defended valiantly for 135 minutes of football against a side that is challenging for the Premiership title. The goal took its toll on them and before long, the second goal arrived. Arshavin’s provided another glimpse of his better work ethics and managed to win the corner after pressuring an Ipswich player.
He took the ensuing corner and placed it nicely for Laurent Koscielny to head home his second goal of the season. The Russian has taken quite a number of corners in the game but none came off. It takes a big man to continue to persevere despite earlier disappointments. I can’t remember the last time we scored direct from a corner. So, this has to be my favourite goal of the night.
Captain, Cesc Fabregas provided the icing on the cake and thus giving me a win on the Asian handicap. He was continually kicked by the lower league side but refuse to stoop to their level. Arshavin again the instigator, cutting infield before relaying a pass to the on-rushing Fabregas coming from the blind side. A finish right between the legs of Fulop prompted the home fans to start singing their Wembley song.
The victory was all that mattered but it did not escape me that we toiled for an hour before finding the breakthrough. Any other day, and I would be worried about such situation, knowing full well the ability of the team to have all the ball only to find themselves going a goal down. But such is the current confidence and resoluteness of this Arsenal team, I had no such fears. This was another clean sheet to boot.
It will be another full month before we play at Wembley. Time to put aside this competition and concentrate on the other 3.