How could that exciting display not trigger memories of magnificent Arsenal victories at Wembley?
Arsenal dispatched West Ham in a thrilling third round tie and by doing so continued Wenger’s excellent record of never having been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round.
Surely when we win a match the manager’s team selection should be regarded as the correct one? It seems to make sense with hindsight: a strong back line, a chance for the young Firebrands to strut their stuff in the middle of the park and an attack that had, on one hand, an opportunity to regain some confidence while on the other an opportunity to make more of a mark and all having a chance to prove to Wenger that there would be no need to enter into the transfer market during this window.
Well, that may have been the theory; the trouble is that the defence was not solid with Silvestre doing an impersonation of a boxer out of breath and on the ropes for the majority of the game. Two of the young Firebrands were committing that oh so youthful sin of believing their own hype and failing to do the one thing that got them there in the team in the first place – doing the simple things well. Nothing demonstrates this better than Wilshire dribbling the ball in our own area and losing it which almost cost us a goal. The withering look that Gallas gave him after would scare small children from here to France.
West Ham sensing that we were having a bad day at the office came onto us with all the gusto of a man having been condemned to death and given the opportunity escape or perhaps more accurately having been widely expected to be knocked out but presented with the slim possibility of staying in the competition. We were pants in the first half: a couple of scuffed chances topped off with some school boy defending by Silvestre sending us into the break one nil down and no less than we deserved.
Wenger obviously sat the young guns down in the break and reminded them that their destiny is to become the best midfield that Arsenal had ever produced because they came out with far more belief but unfortunately still not enough cutting-edge to even the game up.
Changes had to be made and on the hour Wenger sent on Nasri and Diaby: the effect was not so much that the team moved up a gear it was more like they put the keys in the ignition and started the engine up for the first time.
The Gallic duo changed everything, not quite as dramaticly as Cesc coming on against Villa but it has to be noticed that Wenger is improving at this substitution malarkey.
Sagna, Silvestre and Song, who was my man of the match by a country mile, all pushed up; Vela was sent out to the wing which gave us width for the first time; Eduardo was given a ginger suit with a long nose and a bushy tail and told to stand in the box, while Ramsey freed from the responsibility of having to mop up other peoples mess could concentrate on driving forward into West Ham’s penalty box and scoring goals and that, as you know, is exactly what he did: the nimblest piece of interplay between Vela and Ramsey resulted in the Welsh Wonder Kid firing a low drive past the helpless Robert Green to even the score.
West Ham’s heads went down and it became a competition of men against boys, only now it was our men against their boys, we were totally dominant.
The winner came from a fine cross from Vela into the penalty area for Eduardo to out jump Upson and send a looping header into the top corner. This goal not only won the match but it put an end to this nonsense of signing yet another over rated ex-Arsenal player. The smile on the face of the Fox in the Box said everything we needed to know about just how important it was for him to score and the relief it gave him.
The tie was ours West Ham were sent scurrying back to their places and all that was left to do was play a bit of exhibition football until the final whistle.
Fabianski: is obviously going to be our number one goal keeper next year, kept us in the tie with a brilliant save just before half time. 8
Sagna: crap crossing as usual but we scored more goals than they did so I guess that’s all that counts. 7
Gallas: always good nowadays but why was he risked? 7.5
Vermaelen: I would have preferred to have known that he was doing an add for a Belgian beer at home rather than risking himself in East London. 7.5
Silvestre: in his defence, the West Ham’s goal was off side. 6
Wilshire: the idea that he will get games at a team that will be fighting for their lives in the not too distant future like Burnley makes me laugh. 5.5
Song: I have one request: come back soon and safe. 9
Ramsey: ohhh we like Ramsey, sprang to life when the dynamic Gallic duo came on and made everyone’s afternoon. 8
Merida: totally out of his depth but how do you improve unless you play. 6
Eduardo: needed that goal badly. 7.5
Vela: the young Mexican’s attitude has changed from a person who expected to glide into the first team when he first arrived to one who seems to be prepared to fight for it, improved enormously when he moved out to the wing. 7
Which brings me to the question above: who says that the magic of the FA cup is dead?
I do — it left me as I made the long, lonely walk from the Stade de France back into the centre of Paris with the memory of being one up and the image of Thierry Henry being one on one with Valdes; he missed. It still hurts; I want to win that one more than I want us to win anything else and I don’t want our players arriving at the next final more tired than they need to be from unnecessary exertions in the now almost insignificant FA Cup. By beating West Ham we are forced to go to Stoke a couple of weeks before the CL re-starts and by doing so we risk fatigue at best and injury at worst. I would have preferred a completely CC team and worked on the basis that if the kids swam they swam and if they sank they sank.