*eyes open at 6am*. It’s the cup final, baby! Best write a preview then.
Cup runneth over
Though the river marked â€˜league titlesâ€™ ran dry many years ago, leaving an arid wadi of frustration, the one labelled â€˜FA Cupâ€™ continues to bubble along nicely.
In fact, while Wengerâ€™s record in the League Cup final (P2, L2) and in European finals (P2, L2) leaves a lot to be desired, heâ€™s made up for it in the FA Cup with an astonishing six wins.
The last time we lost in the FA Cup final – his only defeat to date – was in 2001, when quite frankly we woz robbed anyway.
That record comes under severe scrutiny today against Chelsea, who have Lazarused their way out of last seasonâ€™s doldrums under the tutelage of the impressive Conte.
The two sides are coming at this from wildly different places, if weâ€™re honest. For us, winning it would be a positive end to an arduous season where all the usual weaknesses took their turns to make an appearance. It could be Wengerâ€™s justification for a new deal – or it could be a way to bow out on a high (and maybe the best chance he will now have to do that). We still do not know and it seems utterly bizarre that this could be Wengerâ€™s last game, but we wouldnâ€™t know and couldnâ€™t say goodbye. (Spoiler: it probably isnâ€™t).
For Chelsea, already riding the crest of a wave, itâ€™s a chance to win their second double, so itâ€™s safe to assume theyâ€™ll be sufficiently motivated.
They will be favourites, a view reinforced by an untimely dose of defensive misfortune for us – added to yesterday with the news that Cech will be replaced by Ospina. A â€œslight knockâ€ in training led to this decision, apparently, though itâ€™s slight enough for Cech to be devastated. If this is Wenger being stubborn and keeping his promise to â€˜cup keeperâ€™ Ospina, it wouldnâ€™t surprise me. But this kind of sentimentality is madness on a day where weâ€™re already without Koscielny, Mustafi and Gabriel.
It could be a bluff. Iâ€™m a hardened cynic, but honouring a departing keeperâ€™s promise does feel a bit textbook Wenger. Or it could just be that he’s genuinely encumbered by injury and is not fit to start, in which case maybe I’m reading too much into it.
I’ve got a lovely Per
In front of Ospina, who has not played for eight weeks, will be Per Mertesacker, who has not started a match in about 56 weeks. Rob Holding, who has made just 16 starts for Arsenal, will join him and Nacho Monreal, a left-back, will make up the three.
Weâ€™ll probably see Bellerin on the right and Ox or Gibbs on the left, and the rest of the team picks itself, bar striker. It should be Welbeck, but this is Arsene Wenger weâ€™re talking about so donâ€™t stick money on it.
But look, weâ€™ve finally hit some form and itâ€™s a one-off Wembley final, in glorious May sunshine, so while we wonâ€™t be everyoneâ€™s favourites, weâ€™re hardly starry-eyed underdogs here.
Iâ€™ve always loved the cup, and the good fortune to have seen so many finals in my time does not lessen my love of it in any way. The atmosphere, the anticipation, the nerves, the mates coming together from far and wide; steeling yourself for joy or despair – itâ€™s got the lot and I canâ€™t wait.
For those of you who are either travelling or at a loss at how to fill the pre-match hours, warm yourself up by curling your lug-holes round Arseblogâ€™s pre-match live podcast, (where we all scoff at the thought of Cech missing out).
The nerves are well and truly kicking in, so thatâ€™s your lot. Come on you rip-roaring reds!