Man at the match, Chary: Fabianski ushers Arsenal into the FA Cup final

A helter skelter match ended on penalties after full time and extra time couldn’t separate the Arsenal from the conquerors of Manchester City in the previous round, when Fabianski held his nerve to save the first two of five penalties so that four successful spot kicks from the good guys were enough to book a return trip to Wembley in May.

After a gap of over fourteen years between my last visit to Wembley to see Arsenal play and today I was hoping to see a victory for the Arsenal and although the build up to the game in the media and the Arsenal blogosphere ensured nerves kicked in a few pints at Mannion’s pub near the south entrance to Wembley helped settle those nerves.

Also plenty of Arsenal songs, not fit for a family blog, ensured a degree of alcohol induced bravado stayed with me till I took my seat in the upper tier behind the south goal, to the right of the managers dug outs.

As expected Wigan failed to sell their quota of tickets and many pockets/blocks of empty seats were visible in the Wigan end

In (some of) the blue corner - Wigan

In (some of) the blue corner – Wigan

Before kick off was the moments silence, although I heard applause also, to commemorate the tragic loss of life at an FA Cup semi final 25 years ago at Hillsboro, with 96 seats(to remember the 96 fatalities that day) kept empty.

Hillsborough 96 remembered

Hillsborough 96 remembered

The line up changes that were most significant were the addition of Rambo and Monreal (with the latter stepping in for Gibbs who was only fit enough for a bench place) and the replacement of Sanogo for Giroud, as seems to be the case for the FA Cup team selection with Fabianski the designated cup goalie.

From the start it was clear that Wigan’s form was on the up and Arsenal’s spluttering with no Arsenal player really catching the eye in the first half, except for flashes of Rambo’s tenacious drive with the ball when surging through the midfield. It was obvious the team have badly missed his forward motion in the midfield as without him it all looks very pedestrian, as several moans about our slow paced attacking attested to amongst the Arsenal supporters.

Something that did come across was that moaning about the team is not an age related thing or the preserve of the “I want it now” generation of youngsters. A pensioner next to me was totally negative all the way through the game and had decided we’d lose after seeing only ten minutes of the game; needless to say not one word of encouragement or singing for the team left his lips all the way through the game.

While Arsenal did create chances in the first half not too many clear cut chances were made, except for the cross that led to Sagna’s sliced shot over the bar, Wigan themselves looked hard working but not especially dangerous.

At the start of the second half as usual the boys in red and white upped the tempo and more free kicks corners accrued from the Ox who was growing in confidence or Santi who had seemed subdued in the first half.
It started to look like it could be one of “those days” when either the woodwork or a bit of good goal keeping was bound to keep the shots out when Arsenal appeared certain to score.

Inevitably a bit of controversy arrived to gift Wigan a goal, a foul on Monreal was not given and with the Arsenal players expecting a stop in play Wigan took advantage of the hesitancy to push into the penalty box and lead to the BFG making a penalty kick worthy challenge.

Indignation swept through the red end of Wembley due to frustration at the referee for not blowing for the foul or the injury and also slight annoyance at Wigan for not having kicked the ball out.
Monreal was taken off injured to be replaced by Gibbs and then eventually Gomez took a virtually unstoppable penalty, which Fabianski came close to keeping out, 1 nil to the Championship team.

As seems to be the case nowadays the Arsenal support is schizophrenic in that anger and dejection at the penalty was replaced by cheers at the restart trying to pick up the spirits of the players. However the jeers quickly returned when the Pod was subbed off when everyone thought the exasperating Sanogo would make way. The Pod had a quiet game while Sanogo seemed to show touches of skill which made you think “Where did that come from?” and then clumsy touches that would be maddening.

Olly came on and was greeted with, to the tune of the Van Judas “She said..” song:

“She said yes Giroud, she said yes”

While it’s hard to say he’s a top line striker it was immediately obvious Olly was better than Sanogo and his hold up play and flicks was leading to more and more dangerous attacks, including a header off the crossbar.

Finally a ball launched into the Wigan penalty area was diverted towards the BFG who bundled the ball into the net and atoned for his earlier penalty kick inducing mistake.

The relief was such that even the moaning pensioner stopped cursing he team although what he thought of my “F**k you Wigan” chant while the BFG celebrated in the goal in front of me, I’d rather not know.

Wigan heads dropped and they held on till full time despite Arsenal pushing for the winner in normal time, the Ox hitting the post and an acrobatic mid air goal line clearance from a Wigan defender when the red end were about to cheer the Gunner’s second goal.

Arsenal piling on the second half  pressure

Arsenal piling on the second half pressure

Annoyingly the referee blew for full time just when Olly was through and appeared to be held back by a Wigan defender which, if it had been an arsenal player doing the holding back, would have been a red for a professional foul.
Nonetheless the momentum was still with Arsenal and for both halves of injury time it was mainly Arsenal attacking, with Källström almost scoring with his first touch.

As with his appearance against Swansea Kim seems to have something about him that showed today also, a strength and precision in midfield that is probably what we need right now when, Flamini aside, our midfield is a tad lightweight and powder puff.

Wigan held on and the spectre of penalties came, the news that they would be taken in front of the Wigan end(the majority of photographers had been stationed at my end as it was the end Arsenal attacked and they scurried round the pitch to get to the other end) were greeted with moans of:

“We can’t even win the toss for the penalties!”

Beneath the raging tension in me I felt deep down there was a smidgen of hope in the calmness and authority Fabianski had shown in the game so far; an inkling that he could be the hero of the moment.

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

Fabianski psyching out Caldwell

The Championship side took the first penalty and although I was not a great penalty it still had to be saved, the Wigan player sinking to the ground in defeat, something even I could see from the other end of the stadium.

First up for the good guys was Arteta, who was coolness personified with a regulation, text book penalty.
Wigan again tried to score in the shoot out and failed again, a slightly better Fabianski save this time and the Arsenal support dared to hope again.

Källström converted our second penalty with the minimum of fuss and pressure was back on Wigan who finally managed to notch a successful spot kick.

Even though Olly’s successful spot kick was preceded by a second successful Wigan kick all it needed was for Arsenal’s fourth penalty to go in and it would be all over

Up stepped Santi, he scored then scurried to the corner to celebrate with the team, out of relief more than anything and only then could Arsenal supporters in Wembley breathe again.

Santi celebrates deciding pk

Santi celebrates deciding pk

An incredibly hard fought game ended with the Gunners victorious and a date at Wembley in May meant we can now sing the following in earnest:

“What did she wear ?
She wore, she wore,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
She wore a yellow ribbon,
In the merry month of May!
And when, I asked,
Oh why she wore that ribbon,
She said it’s for The Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!
Wembley,Wembley,
We’re the famous Arsenal,
And we’re going to Wembley!”

By 17th of May with more injured players returning, especially Özzy, and Rambo getting back to his best we can expect a better performance than today with confidence also returning bit by bit.

UTA !

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)

This entry was posted in Arsenal, Chary, Columnists and tagged , , , , , , on by .

About ChärybdÏß1966

As a product of 1970’s Essex I was only ever going to be Arsenal or West Ham – luckily the playground bullies in my junior school were Gooners so given the “choice” it had to be Arsenal. First Arsenal memories are of the Alan Sunderland 1979 FA Cup final when my dislike of ManUre started, which was then turned into an abhorrence by the battle of Old Trafford in the 90-91 season (“You can stick your 2 points up your Arse!”) and it to this day burns brightly as a hatred of all things Red Manc. Match day reporter for 7am where I hope to bring some of the atmosphere of the game and crowd to my reports – I will call the match as I see it at the time – but always from a Gooner’s point of view. Hate reporting on losses but luckily that doesn’t happen often. UTA! On Youtube and twitter as @charybdis1966.

26 thoughts on “Man at the match, Chary: Fabianski ushers Arsenal into the FA Cup final

  1. +5 Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    So glad your 14 year wait did not end up in utter disappointment Chary. At one point after the Wigan goal the camera cut to Arsene and I just felt so horrible for him. I was thinking there was no way it could possibly end this way for him could it? I almost lost all faith in what little of it I have left in whats good in the first place.

    How did Sanogo look like to you? Despite all his misses I liked what I saw from him today. I’ve seen players like Bobby and Henry struggle for a few games in this league (ok Henry caught up pretty quick but there was a short adjustment period) and then go on to be become legends. I’ve also seen talented players like Arshavin and Reyes blend in like they’ve always been a part of the team but then ultimately not work out one way or the other. Sanogo seems like a guy who is just taking time to settle in and I don’t think it’s foolish to hope that it’s one of those situations where once he gets one in, he will do fine.

    I was really disappointed with Santi today but he did bring us home at the end. We also have really special player in the Ox. He gets pushed around a lot but he stands his ground like none other I’ve seen at his age. I suspect one day people will refer to him and say someone is “as strong as the Ox…”

    Thanks for the write up. Great read as always.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966 Post author

      This Arsenal team certainly put us through the wringer don’t they nyc ? I’m still quite washed up from yesterday’s exertions and looking around at other gooner faces after the elation of Santi’s penalty you could see how spent and exhausted they were.

      Regarding Sanogo, he was a mixture – generally having a poor touch or the perception he couldn’t keep hold of the ball for long, then he’d do something quite amazing. The question is that will the good bits gradually become the norm as he improves or will he stay at the level ?

      What I can say is that at the moment he is only good enough to be our third striker,with Olly a good support striker and A N Other as our front line defence-terrorising hit man.

  2. Vote -1 Vote +1Wegman

    Lads, I’ve always wanted to know where that song came from. Was there an actual girl with a yellow ribbon in her hair, or is she (and the ribbon) symbolic? And if so, what do they represent?

    Also, is this an Arsenal specific song, or do lots of clubs sing this when they are going to Wembley Cup finals?

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1wegman

        Thanks Chary, I was curious about that for a while now, but sadly I haven’t come across this song in more recent years.

  3. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1goonerboy1974

    About the best review of the game i have read……….everybody appears to have swept the Monreal foul under the carpet(looked a bad injury)

    Agee Ozil will be back to grace Wembley we have missed him……..by god we have.

    Cmon u Gunners Red Machine

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966 Post author

      Thank you GB74, I never watch highlights or read any other reports so my fans eye view of the match doesn’t get contaminated.

      I’m feeling a lot better about having Özzy and Rambo back in our team, if only to give Santi a rest.

  4. Vote -1 Vote +1jax

    Bloody hell! I always thought that song was exclusive to us and now I discover we share it with the Hammers et al. I remember the 1950 shirts & the club was too classy to call them yellow, so decided on Old Gold. Try & work that into a song!

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1vic

    Your comments on negative supporters hit the nail on the head. Same story where I was. Constant negativity and not a single song or bit of support for the team from the people around me. Two guys almost started fighting when Podolski went off (right decision I thought). Shame they can’t use the energy to get behind the team. One man in front of me was playing candy crush on his phone during 2nd half and the couple directly ahead didn’t come back after half time! Embarrassing.

    But on the plus side, once we equalised a few more people started singing. Actually the young kids never stopped believing. Heroics from Fab and such relief when we got through. That’s all that matters now. Got to support the boys on Tuesday night. No more plastic fans.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966 Post author

      The thing I noticed Vic is that new/young fans tend to get blamed for being the moaners and the impatient ones.

      Tuesday night is now even more important given the Everton result yesterday and our slide down to the fifth.

  6. Pingback:

    Vote -1 Vote +1Wigan 1-1 Arsenal (2-4 on pens): The Guff | TMG App

  7. Vote -1 Vote +1Dr. Gooner

    Thanks for another great match report. Although I struggled through the entire 120 minutes on a halting, grainy feed, your report gives a different and very welcome perspective.

    I also think if I’m going to pay for the privilege of viewing a match either on my television or through a stream, I should have the option to turn off the infinitely irritating commentators who color the whole viewing experience, and not in a good way.

  8. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Zeddington

    Cheers for the match report Chary.

    I’m really curious about the reception to Sanogo. Every time he’s been on the pitch I’ve been somewhat impressed. Maybe this is just because I compare him to the utterly inept Giroud of 2014, but I find that he holds the ball up better, has a more physical presence, is faster, and finds himself in good positions generally. Yes, his touch was often poor yesterday, and as the game went on he sort of shrank. It’s also true that when Giroud comes on after 60 minutes or so and is still fresh, he looks good. But Arseblog and others paint this picture of Sanogo being radically out of his depth.

    What do you think? He’s clearly raw, but he looks like he’s certainly Premier League quality. I reckon if he were loaned to a bottom half side next season, he’d impress. Frankly, I’ve found that a Sanogo-as-is is preferable to a Giroud-as-is, and by that I mean exhausted and half-assed. The team looks better when Sanogo plays. He hasn’t scored for Arsenal yet, but as far as I remember he’s only played against minnows such as Liverpool, Everton, and Bayern Munich. For all our frustration with Wenger’s transfer policy, Sanogo deserves our support.

    1. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966 Post author

      You’re welcome Zedders; I foresee Sanogo as being a bit of an enigma at the moment as I can’t quite figure out what standard he is/will be.

      At the moment he still looks too raw to me and doesn’t have the composure that Olly does. If you cast your mind back to when Olly arrived and the summer of the Cutch Dunt’s declaration of independence Olly said he was bought to play alongside RvP so all this time later he’s been asked to take on the striker role on his own is reason for him to feel a little short changed.

      Despite fan frustration at his poor form due to running on empty I believe he still works hard and as a team player so for that reason he will get my support and yes I do like him.

      Sanogo could, as you say benefit from a loan spell to iron out the flaws in his game away from the attention he’ll get learning his trade playing for us.

  9. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Söng

    Keep up with your great match reports, they’re wonderful for us gooners who have to do our suffering from afar. For the match itself, I feel like the narrative by the pundits, bloggers, and most fans was 99% pre-written with only the result to be filled in. The narrative was that Arsenal would show their lack of heart and fight and Wigan, the plucky underdogs but the current holders, would draw on that winning experience to take the game to us. Regardless of the fact the we went through to the final, that seems to be the reaction and that we weren’t really worthy of the final. After reading most reports, you’d be surprised that it was Arsenal that outshot Wigan 27 to 9, forced Carson into 9 saves (including three excellent reaction saves) vs 2 for Fabianski, that it was Arsenal which hit the woodwork twice, and forced a clearance off the line. That Wigan were lucky to get a penalty when Monreal was fouled AND injured in the buildup to the penalty incident.

    I saw a match in which we played reasonably well and, except for some wayward finishing and a a good performance from Carson, a performance which could have won the game in regulation. I’m by no means saying Arsenal played a great game. I saw a team which clearly labored against poor recent form, ebbing confidence, and the huge weight of expectation. For long stretches, our passing was slow and wasteful. And yet, until the penalty shootout, which keeper had to work much harder to keep his team in the game? Which keeper had the woodwork or a defender to thank when he was beaten? Finally, following a potential knockout blow, I saw a team fighting desperately tooth and nail to draw level. I saw a team which knew they weren’t going to score a wonder goal but needed to force the ball over the line by dint of hard work, fight, and by any means necessary. Which they did. And I saw a team which held their nerve in the penalty shootout and made every penalty they took to advance.

    This result doesn’t erase the combined 20-4 scoreline in our away games against the current top 4. It does confirm that Arsenal have some fight and a certain degree of mental toughness while simultaneously raising questions about where this attitude and nerve were when we desperately needed it at other points of the season. I’m just going to enjoy the fact that we’re still in the hunt for silverware past the month of March.

    1. +3 Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966 Post author

      Well said Tee Song, what you’ve brought out reminds me of what occurred to me as I saw a conversation between a set of our fans and Wigan fans after the game. The Wigan guys were chiding us for celebrating after merely beating a Championship side in a semi final.

      That sums up the “win-win” scenario for them, and by association the anti arsenal elements in the media.

      If Arsenal had lost it would have confirmed their status as a former top 4 club on the slide who couldn’t beat a Championship side, never mind that Wigan had put out the bookies favourites for the Premier League title in the previous round.

      If Arsenal win they can be mocked for celebrating beating a Wigan side in the league below, a team that should dispose of with ease – “heads I win, tail you lose”.

      Arsenal have more than their fair share of detractors so we just have to expect this hypocritical bile from the media in fact we can look at the reaction to ManUre’s exit from the Champions League to how we were treated when we eliminated by Munich as well.

  10. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1caribkid

    Once again Chary, great write up and thanks for allowing us “foreign” fans to live the game vicariously through your eyes.

    As for Sanogo, all I see is a potentially good, young striker who may or may not make it. No way should he be our starting CF in an FA semi-final.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966

      You’re welcome Carib, I should have mentioned the atmosphere behind our goal after the game when some of our players came over to thank us for our support was exhilirating, a wall of red and white saluting our team, amazing stuff.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    So we’ll play Hull on the 19th and then we’ll see them at Wembley in May. Hopefully Hull will play a full strength squad Sat and we’ll beat them with whoever is healthy enough to suit up. Then come May, we’ll have some more returnees and give Hull a different look with a hoped for positive result.

    But first let’s give Big Sam an Arsenal welcome.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1clifffy

    Can only imagine how you could sit/stand through the ordeal.. But amazing write up for an amazing result…

    The folks who crib about way we won need to only look up the 2005 FA Cup final performance against Manchester United. Only about a single shot on goal with no corners..holding on to a 0-0 till extra time and a decisive full-house shootout..

    Its a cup game we will take the win anyday for the performance..

    Not to say that Arsenal was bad. Sanogo could have finished better with so many chances, Gibbo and Ox (who are the same person as far as FA is concerned) both hit the post..and we showed superior physical endurance. Ice cool penalties from Arteta and Kallstrom.

    Whats the close up on the latter…??? physciality and attitude is good.. but doesn’t have the pace..?

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1ChärybdÏß1966

    It was quite tiring/draining Cliffy, although that could have been partly due to the (attempted) singing and drinking in the pub beforehand.

    Kallstrom looked like he had some strength to stiffen up our midfield and a cool head so we could see some telling performances from him if required. Certainly if Flamini is not around he appears to be the next closest thing we have to a DM.

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