The hosts of the excellent Men In Blazers podcast joke about Arsene Wenger’s puffy parka by positing the theory that for every year Arsenal doesn’t win a trophy, he grows another ring on the parka. Which would be hilarious if it wasn’t so painfully, consistently true. Fellow FourFiveTwoer Jeremiah complained about all the injustices done to ManU in their 1-1 tie at the Bernebau, in an exciting game in which de Gea lived up to his hype and the whole squad looked like they could upend on the top three teams in the world when they have their Champions League return leg at Old Trafford. That’s all but saying, “Owww! This trophy’s too heavy!” or “There aren’t enough spots on the field for all our crafty and effective strikers to score at will on the Fulhams of the world!” or “We only got six minutes of extra time there when it certainly could have been seven or eight!” Really, United fans complaining about their about-to-be-double-winning-team are the worst.
Feel MY pain, United fans. I root for Arsenal, where fourth place is a trophy, where our best players celebrate trophies in Manchester or Barcelona, where we lose Round of 16 matches to teams in red Adidas jerseys (we got punked 4-0 in Milan last year and were bounced 4-3 on aggregate in Sisyphean, almost-but-not-quite-good-enough fashion; I assume we go down to Bayern quite badly this week — just call me psychic) … and where we lost to Bradford (Bradford!) on penalties to miss out on our Capital One Cup aspirations. (Yes, in our desperation for any sort of trophy, we had honest-to-God Capital One Cup aspirations.) The game featured this Gervinho miss, which was turned into a GIF that became an Internet sensation when everyone who hated Arsenal watched it with glee and everyone who loved Arsenal watched it because they’re masochistic and not-so-secretly hate Gervinho.
But then, Arsenal was putting together a not-terrible run for the FA Cup. This weekend, the Gunners had a favorable draw against Championship side (and former Prem League flops) Blackburn at the Emirates. They’d gone 34 games without losing a home FA Cup match. And the fourth round took out some Prem League sides — Spurs lost to Leeds, Liverpool lost to Oldham, Norwich was beaten by fifth-tier Luton Town … and Chelsea had to play a return leg at Brentford after a shocking tie.
But then the actual match happened. So much to rant about. Such as …
26. That’s the number of shots Arsenal took in the game. 12 were on goal. 9 were saved by Rovers keeper Jake Kean, who had the match of his life. Also, more math: Arsenal had 16 corners to Blackburn’s 2, and finished with 54% possession, though Wenger claimed it was 70 and it certainly felt like that for most of the game. (Note: most of the game was played on Arsenal’s end of the field.)
Gervinho’s miss. Against Bradford, it was a ball that he could have fallen into and scored, across the mouth of goal and past the keeper. Here, toward the end of the first half in the Blackburn game, it was a perfect through-ball from Rosicky — Gervinho did what should have been the hard part, in that he kept pace with the ball and evaded the keeper. To credit him, he didn’t launch it into orbit, but his attempt at finessing the ball into the net was feeble and wide. We liked him SO MUCH BETTER when he was away at the African Cup of Nations.
The triple sub. After some efforting from Ox, some great efforting from Rosicky (including a rip from 20 yards out that pinballed around the woodwork), and Gervinho’s what-the-fuckitude, Arsene brilliantly decided to use all three subs at once, taking off that trio of midfielders to put Walcott, Cazorla, and Jackie on. Surely a goal would come now!
(And of course, a minute later, it did, from Blackburn, on a smash-and-grab in which the brand new midfield was not yet set, Szcz punched a ball back into the middle, and Colin Kazim-Richards — a childhood Arsenal fan, by the way — drilled in the rebound. Rather than heading it away, Vermaelen decided to admire it from his position on the line.)
And then came the comical, predictable barrage of chances in the final 20 or so minutes, which included a foul on Walcott in the box that was instead called an offside, Diaby, Giroud, and Walcott all having chances turned away, and deep into stoppage time, a furious and potentially game-tying attack ending when Arteta (who can seemingly only make most PKs and free kicks from 30 yards away) chipped it into the side netting.
Soccer: lately, it hurts.
And speaking of hurts, here’s a gem from the Daily Mail about the ref: “Arsenal have now won only one of the last 20 games Mike Dean has refereed, including 17 League games and three cup ties. Dean took charge of their Capital One Cup exit at Bradford in December.” Hmmmmm. Not suspicious at all. Mike Dean, we don’t typically award two Barton Awards in a week, but I’m making you one out of papier-mache.
So, that’s the FA Cup for this year. Leeds, Luton, and MK Dons, my lower league crushes, all got bounced, I don’t hate myself enough to root for Millwall, can’t root for either Manchester or Chelsea … screw it, I’m going for the team that sounds like a 55-year-old man. C’mon, Barnsley!