So here we are, FA Cup semi-final day, and the butterflies can officially start fluttering like the dickens.
I’ll be off to Wembley later for my first visit to the new old ground, and I can’t wait. My own band of gooners will be converging on Wembley from London, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, four merry old souls with years of experience under our belts.
Wembley 1.0 was iconic but decrepit – terrible facilities, sometimes far from the pitch, but still a wonderful ground. I can’t quite remember my first ever visit there – I went to a couple of pre-season Makita Cups and a turgid 1-0 England friendly defeat to Germany, but I think it was the League Cup final of 1988, when Arsenal missed a penalty at 2-1 and went on to lose 3-2 to Luton Town. The ground was still terraced then, and the capacity of 98,000 gave it a sensational atmosphere. I’ve often heard stories of the river of piss that would cascade down the old terraces at Wembley, but I don’t remember regretting not having gone in my waders. I just remember watching Arsenal throw the game away.
Incidentally, then First Division Luton Town are now non-league, a drop of four divisions; a pretty spectacular fall from grace. But I digress.
Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how Wembley 2.0 compares to Highbury 2.0. We’re lucky enough to have an amazing stadium ourselves so I’m half expecting Wembley to slightly less impressive as a result. I hope not though.
We all know about the problems we have at the back: Sagna joins the absent Gallas, Djourou, Almunia and Clichy, all of whom will be watching the game round at Tony Colbert’s house, while Gibbs is a doubt, rated at 80-20 to play.
It’s funny how we are all fretting over the fitness of a 19-year-old left-back who has made one start and two substitute appearances this season – but we are. Had we been asked which English player would make the breakthrough to the first team at the beginning of the season, few of us would have nailed our colours to the Gibbs mast. So well done that lad for getting this far – it’s a big achievement to have played a Champions League quarter-final and to be relied upon for an FA Cup semi-final with such little experience.
It’ll be a tough call today, it always is against Chelski, but it’s a winnable game with the forward firepower we have. Edging the midfield contest will always be hard against their old pros, but it can be done and I’m looking forward to a firecracker of a game. We will need to go out for goals, realistically. Sounds a bit obvious, but I think you know what I mean.
I’ll be Twittering a bit from the game and might add the odd pic here and there – maybe even a piece of audio if Wembley’s 3G network doesn’t fall down as embarrassingly as that at the Grove.
All that remains now is to offer the rip-roaring reds a big COME ON YOU.