Yaya Sanogo makes the difference as 4-4-2 Arsenal end nine-year hoodoo in superb style

Arsenal 3 Hull City 2 (AET) – 2-0 Down, 3-2 Up, Aaron Ramsey Won Us The Cup

FA Cup

Saturday 17th May 2014 will go down forever as one of the best days of my life. I watched the 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2005 FA Cup Final victories on TV, but to be there at Wembley in 2014 where we ended our nine-year run without a trophy, equalled Manchester United’s record of 11 FA Cup wins and became the first team in 48 years to comeback from 2-0 down to win in the Cup Final was something pretty damn special.

It was all very Arsenal though and we found ourselves 2-0 down after just eight minutes as James Chester and Curtis Davies both scored on the back of set pieces to stun us in the early stages and give the underdogs a commanding lead.

We started slowly, looked anxious on the ball and reluctant to take risks going forward as Hull pressed us well up the pitch and we found it difficult to move the ball beyond our back four.

It could’ve been 3-0 too, as Alex Bruce saw a header beat Lukasz Fabianski, but Kieran Gibbs was fortunately on hand to head it clear off the line in a brutal opening 15 minutes at Wembley for us.

We were back in it though in the 17th minute, as Santi Cazorla won a free kick outside the Hull area and the Little Spaniard stepped up to brilliantly convert it, beating McGregor in goal to his left, nestling beautifully into the top corner. It’ll rightly go down as one of the great Cup Final goals.

Despite the awful start, it was always a positive that we still had 80 minutes to get back into the game and find a couple of goals, and Cazorla’s strike ensured we were half way there with 70 minutes still to go.

Arsenal upped the anti after this, but Hull did everything they could to disrupt the flow of the game, time wasting from the early stages strangely hoping they could run down the clock from the first half of the first half.

Into the second half and again we were sluggish out of the blocks, but fortunately this time around Hull were far too defensively minded to put us under any further pressure. Arsene Wenger made his first change in the 60th minute as Yaya Sanogo replaced Lukas Podolski, changing our formation to more of a 4-4-2 and this seemed to take us to another level as Sanogo added some pace plus another physical presence up top, which was probably something that Hull weren’t expecting.

We were cranking up the pressure and were unfortunate not to get a penalty in the game as Lee Probert four times denied reasonably penalty claims. Livermore handled the ball in the area, Giroud was thrown down by the neck by Tom Hundredstone, and twice Cazorla was fouled but Probert was having none of it as he struggled to manage the game and seemed unwilling to make big calls for either side.

After a long, tortuous wait, we were finally level in the 71st minute and it was Laurent Koscielny who turned the ball home as it fell to him deep inside the Hull area following a corner that probably shouldn’t have been given as the ball appeared to go out off Sanogo.

Oh well, you make your own luck and Arsenal were now in the driving seat having clawed ourselves back into it and we had momentum on our side, with Hull’s legs starting to fade as extra time approached.

Gibbs should’ve won it for us in regular time though as he blasted over from close range as Sanogo’s cross fell to him. Giroud also had a shot well saved and Sanogo fired one wide and as the game headed into extra time it looked like there was only one winner as the chances continued to come our way.

Giroud hit the bar off a Ramsey cross and Ramsey himself saw a shot into the side netting and several attempts fly over the bar. At half time of extra time Wenger played his last card, bringing on both Jack Wilshere and Tomas Rosicky for Mesut Ozil and Cazorla, and this turned into a bit of a master stroke as these two came on and drove us forward brilliantly, adding an extra zip to our game with Hull on their last legs.

The winning goal came in the 108th minute and it was some goal, too. With neat and patient build up play involving Wilshere and Sanogo, Giroud back heeled the ball to the on coming Ramsey who placed it first time past McGregor at his near post. It really was a world-class goal and will go down as one of the most important goals of his career.

Ramsey Gibbs FA Cup

We weren’t home and dry yet though as Hull had a couple of final late chances, firstly one as Per Mertesacker slipped on the ball allowing Aluko to take the ball down Hull’s left. Fabianski erratically sprinted off his line but failed to clear it, but Aluko’s shot went wide and we escaped ballsing up all of our good work.

Aluko then tested Fabianski with a good effort from range that forced our ‘keeper to make a smart stop low to his right, before Rosicky saw an effort cleared off the line by McShane shortly before the full time whistle was blown to confirm Arsenal as 2014 FA Cup winners.

And how good does that feel? Fucking amazing, that’s how. Yes it was a horrible game, we made it almost impossible for ourselves and really didn’t play too well, but fuck it. We won the game and we won the cup and that’s all that matters and all that shall be remembered.

The players deserve immense credit for keeping their heads and fighting their way back into it. They showed super character, never gave up and even though it was a very Arsenal start, it was even more an Arsenal finish. And the scenes at full time were absolutely incredible, notably Podolski showering Wenger in champagne.  

Up to the Royal Box at Wembley we went and Thomas Vermaelen lifted the trophy that the players spent the next hour parading around the ground before the players and fans alike departed the stadium, but celebrations went long into the night and continued earlier today at the bus parade in Islington, ending up at the stadium itself where the Cup was re-presented to thousands of fans who were there in fine voice and spirit.

It was the perfect end to a season that offered so much potential but was full of highs and lows, and with this win and the core of our squad staying there’s plenty of reason to be hugely optimistic about the future at Arsenal. Let’s hope now that Wenger gets it right this summer and uses this victory as a springboard to improve the squad to reach further glory. It’s not far away at all and now we have that belief that we can win trophies, it’ll be exciting to see what we can do from here.

Fittingly it was Aaron Ramsey who had the winning moment after the amazing season he’s had, but you’ve got to credit Wenger for the substitutions he made as they all positively affected the game. Sanogo came on and his movement off the ball was fantastic and really gave Hull an extra problem they struggled to cope with. The introduction of a fresh Rosicky and Wilshere for the final 15 minutes when Hull’s legs were all but gone was also another tactical masterstroke, with the former unfortunate not to score a fourth with the final kick of the game.

It was a day that exercised almost every emotion, from excitement to torment, nerves and agony, ecstasy and jubilation. Belief, relief and a hell of a lot of pride.

Ramsey Wilshere FA Cup

Days like yesterday really are special and they are what make football what it is. It provides a sense of belonging and family that I don’t think can be matched in any other sport in the world. I’m thrilled for the Manager, the players and my fellow Arsenal fans. We’re all in it together and we can all celebrate it together.

I hope you do and I hope you remember this feeling, as this is what it’s all about. Hopefully there’ll be many more experiences like this to come for us all to share.

Enjoy your summer. I’ll see you next season.

Matt Littlechild

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