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It’s been the worst kept secret, and now it’s not a secret at all – Wenger has signed up for another three years. If he lasts the distance, that’ll be a mighty 21 years at the helm, a phenomenal achievement in the want-it-now era. It’s a whole generation. Remarkable, in many ways.

I’m happy for him, and I’m glad he’s staying, because we’ve all seen him live the highs and lows in recent years (the lows being increasingly frequent). He’s looked almost ill through the pressure at times this season, so to see him as we saw him above warms the heart.

I suspect he did think of calling it a day, but Arsenal closed the gap on the leaders this year and won the cup. It’s a successful season by any benchmark and the side has matured. He wants to see this team through.

It’s a leaner, hungrier and more talented side than it has been for years, and with Park and Bendtner gone, I can’t think of many players who are at the club by some curious magic rather than thanks to ability. The side is on the right track.

I’d be lying if I didn’t have my reservations though. For all the consistency this season, we were badly shown up, in terms of approach as much as anything else, on three painful occasions. On all three days, we were despairingly slow out the blocks. As a side, without Walcott, we lack pace and more generally, a bit of power. Ozil aside, we’ve had several poor transfer windows.

All these things need to change, but Wenger is in a good place, and on a good platform, to do that. All of them can be addressed.

Whether he does push the boat out, and change, only time will tell. In times past he’s needed to, but hasn’t. History tells us he’s stubborn. All too often he’ll do a shimmy and pull a Kallstrom from the hat.

I hope, as I hope every summer, that this time things will be different, and that we’ll be bold and decisive. These are in all probability the last three years of his reign. Now’s the time to push on.

Over to you, Arsene. Onwards – and hopefully upwards – on the Wenger rollercoaster we go.

Basking

The last two weeks have mostly revolved around basking in cup glory. Just when you think it might all subside, up comes another excellent video and I’m off again, bouncing up and down at Wembley, all wide-eyed and happy.

Not much has happened since. We’ve lost Fabianski to Swansea (a good signing for them – though I thought he might go somewhere like Italy) and Sagna to TBC FC. But we knew both of those things anyway. The transfer wheels are spinning, and if you read what you believe, HMS Southampton is being shelled and torpedoed into submission. Women, children, 32-year-old strikers, left and right-backs into the lifeboats first.

(In all seriousness – I do feel sorry for Southampton. An excellent side that already has the wolves at the door. They won’t all leave, but whoever comes in next to manage them has a job on their hands manning the pumps).

But like I said before, I’m staying detached from this transfer hullabaloo. There’s too much smoke, and too many mirrors. Too much swooping and not enough action, too many come-and-get-me pleas and not enough signing on the dotted line.

We live in a world where footballers who want to leave cite a lack of attention on their birthday.

Swat it aside, folks, and ignore it.

Arsenal v Hull

Arsenal v Hull


Arsenal 3-2 Hull City

It started, as all good things do, with some peri-peri chicken.

Our little gang of five merry cup warriors met at lunch, seven tortuously long hours after I woke up. Fed, we then sidled off to a house of refreshment to soak up the atmosphere, and proceeded to hoover up a few looseners. There was a fantastic atmosphere where we were – West Hampstead – with flags draped over pubs, fans of both sides mingling, an open-top busload of vocal gooners rattling past.

It’s hard to explain cup final day to someone who hasn’t been to one, but it feels so different to your average game. A mixture of nerves, excitement, anticipation. Good spirits, and in this case, very warm spring air. The kind of atmosphere that makes memories.

Up Wembley Way and into the ground we went, lapping it up. Then we mostly went our separate ways – victims of the vagaries of cup final ticket lotteries.

Wembley Way

Band of the Welsh Guards – tick. Abide with Me – tick (though unlike previous years the lyrics weren’t on the big screens, which was a shame and meant that the massed ranks of fans mumbled along like John Redwood, only breaking into song when the hymn reached its eponymous end). National anthem – tick. Nerves utterly shredded – tick-a-rama with a hey nonny nonny.

Viewers of a nervous disposition might now wish to avert their eyes for the next paragraph.

Kick-off and, hello! We appear to be a goal down, a bit unlucky perhaps, so that’s alright, keep calm now (even though we’ve not really started yet), we’ll get a grip on thin…Whoa! That’ll be two goals, some wobbly defending, and oh no, that was Curtis Davies. That’s not remotely good. There’s a frothing conurbation of gold and black bobbing up and down, rubbing their eyes and not quite believing what they’re seeing. The same shock was being felt at our end of the ground too, only with a touch less bobbing and a distinct absence of froth.

It’s nearly three! Hold me tight, but there’s Kieran Gibbs to nod it off the line. It transpires we’re not good at starting early on Saturday, and nor do we steam off like a train late on Saturdays either. Finely tuned to Three O’Clock, that’s what it is.

Fair play to Hull, they were hurting us from set pieces and in the air, and we’d not really been in the game. We were massively on the back foot and we needed a moment of magic.

It came, by Jupiter, it came. Cazorla’s free kick wafted handsomely into the top-right of the goal. It was a hell of a goal – a goal fit for the occasion and what a time it was for Cazorla to pull a rabbit out of his hat. We needed that, desperately.

The rest of the half at last seemed more evenly matched, it felt like we’d steadied the ship at last, and there was still a long time to go. The goals were all so early, there was no room for too much sniping, though I did complain a bit about Giroud’s ever-flailing arms of despair.

The pendulum was swinging, and the introduction of Sanogo, all legs and no goals, made a real difference. He’s still like a giant puppy but he’s definitely got something about him, and we needed that energy badly. There were several good penalty shouts – Cazorla’s was clear from where I was – but I can’t remember the rest, to be honest. Nervous memory blurs abound.

Then up popped Koscielny, scorer of important goals, to swivel in the equaliser. Pandemonium. Muchos hugging and slapping other chaps on the back, while baring teeth, fists pumping like a failing two-cylinder engine, swearing like a fishwife. I was sitting next to my 15-year-old godson and I’m sure on several occasions he peered over at me and wondered if his mum and dad hadn’t made a desperately bad decision all those years ago.

Gibbs then Rosenthaled one over, it went to extra time, and we finally played our trump card by bringing both Wilshere and Rosicky on. We were in control now, both having a big effect on our movement and energy.

The next paragraph is about Welsh Jesus.

Giroud – and it’s getting late in the day now – saves his best till the end with a glorious backheel. It’s happening in a flash but Ramsey just thwonks it with the outside of his right boot and wheels off in glorious delight, tailed by someone who used to be Gibbs but who now appears to be a madman, no doubt thinking “you’ve saved my bacon”. Again, absolute pandemonium everywhere.

If Alan Sunderland and his megaperm is synonymous with 1979, then Aaron Ramsey is the man of 2014. Sorry, Santi, but he just is. He scored a goal of wonderful quality, at the most crucial time, and it won the cup for Arsenal.

Naturally, we’re talking about Arsenal here and we almost conspired to Arsenal it up, Mertesacker tripping, Fabianski coming out and not quite getting there and Hull flashing a shot wide. Gibbs was back in a flash, still no doubt thinking about his miss, but still.

And that was that – the cup was ours, and you can see what it meant to the players, to Wenger, to us. Of course I feel sorry for Hull – they played their part in a memorable final (I can say that now – wasn’t thinking it for large tracts of the match yesterday) and losing is never fun. They rattled us and they took us all the way. Their fans were great.

But we made it, we won. As I write this I’ve got the game replaying on the telly, my kids are waving two of the flags that were on the seats at the ground. This is what it’s all about.

We did it the hard way, but we’re back on the silver trail and how everyone needed that.

Remember this feeling. This is what football is all about.

We’ve won the FA Cup.

“Absolutely chuffing blinding”, I said right here in 2005 as Patrick Vieira lobbed his cup-winning grenade at Utd, “it really doesn’t get better than this”.

And that, looking back, was just a year after our Invincibles season, a mere two years since our last FA Cup win, and just three years after we’d won the double.

We were serial trophy winners then, and I was still bowled over; knocked sideways. Nine years on, and who’d have thought it then – we’ve not won a pot since. Come close a few times, sure – on various stages – but fallen short. There’s not been enough of the ‘chuffing’ and we’ve been deficient in the ‘blinding’ department to the tune of any.

So yes, it’s a laborious way of saying I’m excited. The cup’s never lost its allure for me, and if Twitter is my guide (my skittish guide) then the feeling is widespread.

Of course, this is Arsenal and it’s never that simple anyway. On tomorrow rides the future perception (and maybe even the future) of Arsene, of this promising squad that’s won nothing and of the hopes of millions of angst-ridden gooners.

I look back with generally good memories on my experience of FA Cup finals. I vaguely recall Brooking’s forehead killing us off in ‘80, but luckily I was young and at that point I was more into Star Wars figures.

I watched the ‘93 final from my then abode in Paris. It got messy after that game, if I recall, which I don’t, though I think someone may have put some washing up liquid in a fountain.

The first I went to was 1998, when we were far too good for Newcastle. I was in Cardiff in 2001, when the less said about the result the better, though it was warm and sunny. I was on holiday in New York in 2002 (schoolboy scheduling error), but I was present and correct in 2003 (in the rain, under the roof) to watch Le Bob make it three cups in six years. Then there was 2005. That’s not a bad record.

That brings us to now. It’s a one-off game, and as we all know they don’t always do what you want them to. All I ask, and I don’t think we got this in 2011, is a performance where the players are focused to within an inch of their lives, and give all they’ve got.

Wenger might dispute that, putting it down to bad luck and a bad error, but I remember watching the Birmingham players before that final huddling together and immensely focused, while ours sauntered about. I had a bad feeling from the off. We can’t afford any complacency at all.

The good news is, we’ve changed a lot since then, I think, in terms of character. Look at this from the Evening Standard on Thursday, and you’ll see who we had in our squad then.

Honestly, compare then and now. Sure, we’re still a way off where we want to be, and we’ve had some right mares this season, some truly baffling cave-ins, but look at that squad and look at ours now. I think we’re going in the right direction.

I’m so excited. As excited as I was in 2006 as we thundered down the Boulevard St Michel with Oxford Matt, Feverpitch and my brother Charlie, in a pick-up truck, flags dangling everywhere, windows down, playing Riddimkilla.

I’ve not been a Gunner Since ‘79. I’d say it was more like ‘80. But if you get tired of this, you’re in the wrong business. If you prefer fourth every year to this – to the nerves, the excitement, the flags draped from houses (and from Piebury Corner), the random people coming up to you at work and wishing you well, then have a long think.

I can’t wait. It’s the FA Cup final.

Come on you rip-roarers.

2014

Right hook:

“We are not on the market specifically at all.”

Left hook:

“I believe this year again you will have to wait until July 15 to start going.”

2010

Right hook:

“The World Cup will not affect our recruitment”

Left hook:

“It is dangerous to buy on the back of a World Cup. The prices are artificial and you have to bear in mind that anyone can have three weeks of glory.”

Compare and contrast, before breathing deeply and reminding yourself that the summer is long and packed with fun stuff. Wenger’s pronouncements on signings have the remarkable ability to get under everyone’s skin, so the best advice I can give – and I’m going to try to follow it myself – is just to not be driven to distraction by it. Not at all.

Transfer season is silly, misleading, stressful, packed with lies and counter-lies, and life is just too bloody short.

So I’m not falling for anything, not hanging on anyone’s words. I’m going to spend some more time with my family, watch the World Cup, enjoy Wimbledon, go to some cricket, have the odd glass of something cold and refreshing. I’m going to enjoy the summer.

[How long do you give me?]

FA Cup semi-final

FA Cup semi-final

There really is no need to tire yourself out over three or four hours by running a 26-mile marathon. You can do it far more effectively by watching Arsenal these days, and in half the time. I am exhausted.

We’re through to the cup final, and that’s the beautiful bottom line. But looking round at the faces in the crowd, as I periodically did, just confirmed to me that while football can be joy, ecstasy and bliss rolled into one, it can just as equally be about as fun as a trip to the dentist. There were blank faces, ashen faces, looks of fatalism, crossed arms of doom and wails of anguish.

It was painful to watch, for the most part. Seeing the team you love struggle so badly for form, for ideas, for pace. They looked leaden-footed; a very average side.

120 minutes of largely forgettable football, followed by the lottery of penalties. Fabianski has a good record with spot kicks – does he keep his place for the final now? I’d be a bit baffled if he did, given he’s off. It’s clear this team needs to win something to believe, and it’d be very harsh on Szczesny to miss out on his first chance to etch a trophy onto his goalpost. Those are the moments that make careers, the making of teams and players. Would it be harsh on Fabianski? Not really, he’s leaving.

We always hear how winning breeds winning, and I hope yesterday (though it was kind of a draw) goes some way to infusing the players with some confidence and belief. But with Arsenal, you just don’t know. We have the look of a team that wants the season to end now.

Overall though, the rapid ageing and hypertension aside, it was a good day. I woke up with cup fever and loved the atmosphere of the day, meeting friends, the cameraderie and the walk up Wembley Way. It’s remarkably evocative for a lifeless, tatty suburb, isn’t it?

We’re in the cup final. That feels good. There was an explosion of relief, of joy, but mostly relief when Cazorla scored the winning penalty. Then we all drifted out, spent. Dragging our tired minds and bodies with us.

“Why do we do this to ourselves?” I asked as I shuffled on the spot in a state of agitation, before the penalties.

“You said those very same words at Villa Park in 1999, shuffling on the spot” I was reminded.

Humans are silly creatures sometimes. We have an amazing knack of forgetting. And of coming back for more against our better judgement. That’s football but ye gods, it puts you through the mill.

I woke up at 6am, bright as a button, and football rarely does that to me these days.

It must be FA Cup semi-final day.

The days have long gone where this involves getting the car ready, hanging the scarves and flags from the windows and slipping @feverpitch’s mixtape into the trusty tape deck before heading off to Birmingham or Manchester.

Tube it is then.

By all accounts there will be 50,000 other Arsenal fans heading to Wembley, perhaps more, a phenomenally lop-sided game in terms of support. We might be permanently tormented by numerous anxieties but – let’s be frank here – that’s been our default position for years now. It’s never stopped us turning up in our thousands before and it clearly won’t today.

I’m excited, genuinely excited, by our tilt at the old jug. This is what it’s all about: we’re having a crack at something that really matters. It’s been far too long.

Ordinarily, a team lying fourth in the league and in the semi-final of the cup would be seen to be doing pretty well, but this is Arsenal and things are never that simple. The match takes place to a backdrop of dismal form, swathes of injured players and very real and reasonable doubts about the direction of the team and the manager’s future.

It’s a lethal combination when it comes to overall confidence, but it’s hardly baseless pessimism. We’re in a massive rut. Last season we tightened up and went on an impressive end-of-season run to secure the Fourth Cup. This year, we’ve ground to a halt and gone into reverse.

The cup though, lest we forget, has been an oasis of calm. We’ve beaten everything thrown at us with some applomb. So it will be interesting to see how the players start today. Will the shackles be off a bit, or will the nerves descend like a fog?

Forgive me for bringing it up, but I remember as I waited for the Carling Cup final to start in 2011 seeing the Birmingham players huddle in concentration, and compared it to our players who were all sauntering about laughing. That day, we were complacent and we paid for it.

I don’t think there’ll be any of that today. They’ll bust a gut. Today though it’s about dragging tired bodies and minds into some semblance of form. Not hurtling forward shapelessly. Defending stoutly. Back to basics, as Wenger has said. But above all, the players need to enjoy the day like the fans will.

Big day, massive day. Exciting day. Come on you rip-roarers!

Arsenal 1-1 Manchester City

It’s a mystery to me how the same team that keeled over and sank beneath the waves so spectacularly last weekend could, just a week later, give a passable impression of a side once again dining at the top table. I mix my metaphors like Arsenal mix their performances.

A far better display all round, with a rediscovery of better defensive resilience at its heart. If I try to work out what makes Arsenal tick I give myself a splitting headache, so I’ve given up trying. Much of our malaise has been in the mind, which is what makes it so hard to pinpoint. ‘Psychology – bloody hell’, to paraphrase a well-worn football saying.

In the circumstances, a draw was an excellent result. But frustrating too, if you look at the table, with us five points off the top, and wonder how things might have been different had we not gone full Light Brigade at Stamford Bridge.

We defended well, even with Sagna motoring forward to cross. It’s a shame the arm-waggling, shrugging Giroud could not be more effective, but he’s running on empty. There is no lead in the Giroud pencil (footballistically). Of course, Sagna chugging up the wing is a risky strategy, but there’s a very large Walcott-shaped hole on our right flank, so needs must.

In the midfield, Rosicky and Cazorla did well ahead of Arteta and Flamini. We worked harder off the ball, basically, and it showed.

The atmosphere was superb. It was really noisy and if you want to attribute that to the indomitable spirit of Arsenal fans, you’re very welcome to. Personally, I suspect an extra two and a half hours of beer had an effect…

We’re often accused of lacking tough, spiky players, which is odd given we have Flamini and Podolski. The former’s like a coiled spring, like a little yapping dog, and Podolski’s not scared to get in people’s faces either.

He’s an interesting conundrum is Podolski. His mistake led to City’s goal, and he often leaves enormous gaps on the left, making the full-back’s job harder, but there’s something about him I really like. He’s pretty quick, his crossing is excellent and he can score (should have scored yesterday, maybe, but Hart saved well). It’s been a very fitful season but he’s scored eight goals in twelve starts – good stats. So when the summer reckoning comes to pass, I hope he stays.

I leave you with this thought:

Diaby’s back in training this week.

Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal

“History will be kind to me”, said Winston Churchill, “for I intend to write it”.

Wenger, sadly, has no such luxury, and when the history books recount the amazing achievement of his 1,000th game, they will also tell of a man whose team put in possibly the most abject display of his entire 18-year tenure.

It was so lamentable as to almost defy words – sloppy, off the pace, too open, horribly naive, toothless and rudderless. And maybe the very worst thing is how easy it was for Chelsea. It was over – much as it had been at Anfield – after seven minutes. It was a cakewalk.

The timing of this performance could not have been any worse. With a pretty decent season behind us, Wenger will have been desperate to lay some kind of marker down. To say: Stick with me, this team is going places, we can compete at the top table. Instead, all the old questions about him and his team came flooding back. They gave up the title fight without so much as a by-your-leave.

For what it’s worth, I do think we have the core of an excellent side. But for us to have been beaten 6-3, 5-1 and 6-0 at our rivals tells you as much as you need to know about the fault lines that still remain unfixed. Until we can overcome that mental hoodoo, and set ourselves up better in these kinds of games, we are never going to make the leap. Those are the kinds of defeats you see once every ten years at a club like Arsenal. It’s happened three times in a season.

I feel sad for Wenger. Mourinho knew exactly what to do to break this team down but Wenger and his team had no answer. Arteta was overrun – why didn’t he play Flamini? Why play such open football, so high? What is going on with Giroud? I know it sounds absurd, but where is Bendtner? How naive do you have to be to try to deflect a ball in the box with your hand? Why has Szczesny started fumbling the ball?

I know we have Walcott, Wilshere, Ozil and Ramsey missing, and god knows they’d have made a difference, but no Arsenal team should be shipping that number of goals, irrespective of the circumstances. That was still a strong XI.

“A nightmare” is what Wenger said, after the game. It’s bad enough having Mourinho preening and peacocking at the best of times, so to feed him this kind of ammunition will have felt desperate for Arsene.

A truly baffling performance.

Now, to send the wrong man off is quite amazing. I’d be more angry had it had a material outcome on the game, but we were already 2-0 down and in full retreat. It is astonishing, none the less, especially so in the face of such vehement admissions and denials from Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain. Did the referee think they were lying, in front of millions? Where is the common sense here? That said, what was Oxlade-Chamberlain thinking?

Either way, it’s irrelevant. Yesterday was meant to be all about Wenger, and indeed it was. But for all the wrong reasons.

One final thing – I know I’m rambling. Narrow defeats are far easier to bounce back from than poundings like this. Remember how we played against Utd after our thumping at Anfield? We played cautiously, within ourselves and shorn of huge confidence. I imagine the same ‘healing process’ will apply this time round, which makes Tuesday’s game against Swansea harder than it needed to be.

Unhappy 1,000th, Arsene.

We’ve all been soaking in a Wenger wonderland over the last few days with the looming one-thousandth game of Le Boss’ Arsenal career.

I couldn’t let the moment pass without a few thoughts.

A thousand games in charge is a quite remarkable feat. Truly amazing – unrivalled at Arsenal, and probably never to be seen again anywhere in the Premier League. Football is so much shorter-term these days, but I think we need to get one thing straight. Wenger has not survived purely because he’s a yes man, or because he’s from a different era. He doesn’t hoodwink the board or pull the wool over the executives’ eyes. He’s survived because he’s a phenomenal manager.

While on the one hand I do agree with the general feeling that managers are not given enough time these days, it’s easy to forget that the best way of buying yourself time is by being good at what you do. And Wenger is that alright. He’s a dynastic manager, a man whose first years were so successful and radical that he bought himself all the goodwill he needed. Survival in football management is a bit about luck, but it’s also about ability, adaptability and resilience. It’s about intelligence, fitting in, and a stubborn will to succeed.

But make no bones about it, Wenger has lasted 1,000 games at Arsenal because he’s good. Not just good – he’s brilliant. Not many managers can do this. Nobody can blag it. Perhaps we won’t all see it till he’s gone. But I think in time, we will.

Of course, the second half of his reign has not been without its faults. It’s been consistent – impressively so – but trophy-less. Some things seem infuriatingly unfixed. Yet he’s still here, not purely on the gaseous vapours of past success, but because he does so much for Arsenal. And I think that is key to a wider understanding of Wenger.

I look at football, at its egoists, arrivistes, idiots and flash-in-the-pans, and then I see Wenger. He’s a figurehead at a club that has always prided itself in doing things the right way. He’s calm, educated, intelligent. I like what he stands for, just as I like what Arsenal stands for.

So well done Arsene – it’s an amazing landmark. I don’t always agree with you, and I often question you, but you are an easy man to respect and admire. (And I want to little-bit meet you.)

Incidentally, stable door, horse, bolt, my best Wenger XI is: Seaman, Dixon, Adams, Campbell, Cole, Pires, Vieira, Fabregas, Overmars, Henry, Bergkamp.

I include Dicko in this not because he epitomises Wenger, because really he’s a George Graham best XI kind of a bloke. Sagna or Lauren would have been better fits here. But I loved Lee Dixon’s determination, commitment, defensive nous (and that own goal against Coventry, come on, that was phenomenal).

Thinking about Dixon now brings up a good memory. When we were at Highbury, in the East Lower, we sat behind these two lads whose entire raison d’etre was to laugh, and to have a good laugh. They were such good value, but after the move to the Emirates they went one way and we another, and that was that.

But one of the fellas had a hilarious relationship with Lee Dixon. As far a I recall he liked him, but took it upon himself to wind him up whenever possible. Whenever Dixon came over to where we sat he’d always shout, “Oi, Dixon, you’re SHIT”. After a while, Dixon had clocked this and would look over with a grin. Then one game, the bloke behind told us he’d been at a charity golf game and, lo and behold, who had been there but Lee Dixon. So, rather than break a habit of a lifetime, from across the fairway came the famous battle-cry. “Oi, Dixon, you’re SHIT”. Superb.

Incidentally – and I wish I could remember his name now – one of the lads behind told me once at half-time that before coming to Arsenal, he’d been a Luton fan. Naturally, we were all taken aback by this so I asked him how he had come to support Arsenal.

He looked at me, sighed, and said, “I just got tired of being beaten up”.

Arsenal 4-1 Everton

And so to our first FA Cup semi-final in five years. Ah yes, Wembley. The stroll up Wembley Way, my Kenny Sansom flat cap, a mixtape by FeverPitch, Alan Sunderland’s megaperm (I swear I do not believe that), Charlie George lying prostrate, Charlie Nicholas’s mullet, Andy Linighan’s bloody-headed header, Overmars bursting through.

(I prefer those memories to Trevor Brooking, Gazza, Winterburn missing a penalty against Luton, overpriced inedible food and a spectacular defensive howler that led to anger and mental scarring in 2011, if that’s alright with you).

I know, I know, it’s not the final – I’d prefer the semi-final to be at a neutral club ground like it always was – but the powers that be need to pay back the mortgage so Wembley it is. Wemberleeeeee.

Let’s be dramatic about it: beating Everton was huge. After the Stoke no-show, it was massive. We’re off the pace in the league, we’ve got to climb Mount Bayern without crampons, so yesterday was so important in so many ways. We’re one game from our first cup final since 2005, for a start. That’s good enough for me, but an excellent win is the kind of confidence boost we needed too. Lose that and the rest of the season would have stared us in the face, gurning. So make no bones about it – that was a big result.

I can say this now we’ve won, but it was an excellent cup tie. My brother said as the game started that he hoped Sanogo would score, as he needed a goal to give him belief. But when the goal did come – nice and early, keep it up Arsenal – it went to another player who needed one arguably even more. Questioned by many, a little off-colour, booed on international week, Ozil popped up and with one deft left foot kicked off an excellent performance that culminated in a delicious assist for Giroud’s second. An excellent performance in the spring sunshine (it’s amazing what a few gamma rays can do).

Sanogo had a shot, The Ox another, and we should really have capitalised on our lead, but the first half ended with Everton playing well and they got a tap in that set up a tense second half. As I say, a good game.

The game swerved our way with the penalty. The Ox again, this time running forcefully on the edge of the box right in front of where we sit (he must know this, he perhaps notices us, I like to think he does), was felled by the outstretched leg of Barry Gareth. Penno every day.

Here come the Arteta – he’s the lyrical gangster – and boom, cool as you like he scores. Except he doesn’t because of some perceived infringement by Giroud. What’s that all about? Annoying, because I’d already cheered heartily, pumped my fist at several innocent people and raised my son skywards. Up he comes again though, same coolness, different direction, goal.

Then the denoument, two goals from the excellent Giroud thanks to more good work from Ozil and the energy of Rosicky. It is perhaps an unfair comparison, but seeing Giroud next to Sanogo makes you appreciate the stuff he does that Sanogo cannot yet do. He finds space, holds and distributes the ball, and is deceptively quick-footed. For me, a fit and firing Giroud is key to any kind of momentum for us between now and May. When he’s good, he’s very good (18 goals this season is not too bad at all). Sanogo is willing but not ready. As for Bendtner – I have no idea where he’s got to.

So a great win and a needed shot in the arm. Now for Munich…

As an aside, I took my 5-year-old to his first game yesterday and not surprisingly, he loved it (despite a few wriggles of boredom in the first half). He may be too young to remember it in years to come but I now have the photograhic evidence to prove it… One thing that did make me laugh though is something he whispered in my ear during the ding-dong second half. “Daddy, is it true dodos are extinct?” Kids are so wonderfully random and hard to fathom.

A bit like Arsenal then. But it all came together yesterday and you could see what it meant to fans and players alike.