We were home again to Wigan on the weekend, looking for a measure of payback for the disappointing draw we managed in late December. From the opening whistle, Arsenal were quite obviously the better side, owning possession and besieging the Latics goal. Luckily for the visiting side, Ali Al Habsi was simply scintillating in goal, denying Robin van Persie numerous times, as well as Nasri, particularly from a deadeyed rocket from the edge of the box. The breakthrough came in the 22nd when Song set the red-hot Van Persie free into the left side of the box, and the Dutchman finished with a plumb. Er, aplomb. Anyhow, we went into halftime up 1-0, although we could have been 4 or 5 up had it not been for the outstanding Al Habsi.
The second half was again, all Arsenal. Van Persie doubled his total when a long ball from Cesc, perfectly weighted, found #10 in stride, and Robin's first touch put the ball past Al Habsi. It was one of the better goals Arsenal have scored this season and showed just what the Dutchman can do when he is on form. Arsenal remained fully in control of the match, and created a few more chances, when finally midfield maestro Alex Song slid a lovely ball into the path of Fabregas in the box, who was taken down from behind by Gary Caldwell. The Wigan man was sent off, the referee pointed to the spot, and Van Persie stepped up to complete his hat-trick. And promptly skied the ball over the goal. It was devastating for Robin of course, who had never scored a hat-trick, and must've felt just snakebitten. However, he would get his chance again when the run of play saw Cesc put Walcott in the area with a man to beat, but Theo unselfishly played the ball off for RVP, whose strike, despite Al Habsi's touch, rocketed inside the near post. It was Van Persie's first Arsenal hat trick, and was well-tested by some outstanding goalkeeping, if not defending, by the visitors. 3-0 is how it would end, another dominant Arsenal performance leading to our cup showdown.
We hosted Ipswich midweek in the Carling Cup semifinal, going in down 1-0 although still rather confident after recent efforts of the Gunners winning the match and the tie. What sums this match up best to me is one word: Patience. Despite being denied by good professional defending by Ipswich for over an hour, who didn't much look like attacking due to their goal advantage from the first leg, Arsenal in Sisyphian fashion kept taking possession, moving the ball up the pitch, working the defence to find a crack and trying the chance. Arsenal also had to contend with the Evil Mark Halsey (not to be confused with the Good Mark Halsey; there are two of them. Bet you didn't know that), who did everything in his power to keep the advantage going the visitors' way.
An hour had gone when Arsenal's persistence paid off. The outstanding Wilshere played a very long ball to find Bendtner racing up the left wing. The great Dane took a brilliant first touch to control it, another to drive to the left corner of the box, the third between his heels to cut right across the defender, another to settle, and a brilliantly curled strike to beat Martin Fulop at the Ipswich 'keeper's far post. It was a fantastic goal, surely the best that Bendtner has ever taken for Arsenal and a glimpse at just how good the Dane can be given the opportunity. He gets more than his share of stick from the fans, but credit where it's due, it was sublime.
That one brought the tie level at 1-1, but also really opened the floodgatesl; it wasn't long before we had our second. Arshavin won a corner in an endline scrum with a defender, and the much-maligned Russian took the kick himself. He managed to pick out a leaping Koscielny, who drilled his header home to give Arsenal a 2-1 advantage in the tie. Based on his goal celebration, I assume the French-Pole (Frole? Polench?) has knocked someone up, or intends to put on a great deal of weight this summer (which is infinitely more concerning... unless he knocked up a demon or something, and that demon came back to rain fire and blood over all the earth, slaughtering the innocents... that would be really bad). In any event it was a great cross, a fine header, and really broke the backs for Ipswich.
The icing on the cake came when Cesc broke against the Tractorboyz (see, it looks sillier that way, like a boy band) defenders, passed to Arshavin who cut right across el Capitan, then passed back to the trailing Cesc, who put the ball through Fulop's legs to score. 3-0 to the Arsenal for the win, 3-1 aggregate to win the tie and advance to a Wembley final. It's been a long time (not least because the construction of the new Wembley took fucking forever), and of course every ManUre, Chelski, Stratford Hotscum, Liverpool or other asshole fan will say that it's just the League Cup, that it's Mickey Mouse, and every other excuse used when you've been eliminated. The fact is it's a chance for real silverware for the first time in... how long has it been? Six years? Funny, seems longer. If only other fans or pundits would have pointed that out the entire time.
So we're alive in every competition still. Next up is League One side Huddersfield Town at the Grove in the FA Cup. Expect a heavily rotated side, which may include the recently returned Abou Diaby, Tom Rosick*coughcough*y, Sebastien Spaghetti, and some guy named Emmanuel Al-Mooney-Ah. Maybe he's related to Al-Habsi-Ah. That'd be nice. Anyway, kickoff is at 12pm Sunday in London, so whoever scheduled that is a dick. It not only ruins Sunday lunch for our friends lucky enough to be in N5, it also prevents me from getting to Blind Pig to watch, because that's SEVEN FUCKING AM IN NEW YORK. So if you know who scheduled this match at this time, kick him or her in the pills/taco, whichever is applicable.
In other news, and in all seriousness, Arsene has publicly confirmed that VoCheck Chesney (yes, I could spell it, but fuck Z's) is the Arsenal # 1, saying:
'At the moment Wojciech is number one,' Wenger said.
'He has done nothing for me to take him out, but I can rotate the goalkeepers.
'In the cups I play sometimes different goalkeepers
I think that's very comforting indeed. I will admit, I first read those quotes from a SKY Sports link titled "Wenger Wants Almunia to Fight," which went on to say "Arsene Wenger has challenged Manuel Almunia to reclaim the Arsenal number one tag..." which made me spit out my coffee and nearly shit myself. Luckily, after reading the direct quotes, I realized that Sky, despite losing retarded dinosaurs Gray and Keys (it's been done to death already, so all I'll say is they're idiots and good riddance), is not done torturing Arsenal fans. Which makes me believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jamie "Son of a Twitch" Redknapp is going to inherit one of those vacant posts. Anyway, VoCheck is our confirmed first-choice 'keeper, so hurrah!
That's all I've got for today. Enjoy the weekend, my red & white lovelies, and if we should knock off (C)HUDdersfield Town and then Everton on Tuesday night, just listen to the wind... I think you'll hear it speak the words of a mournful and forgotten Scot, whispering "TEK AH BOO SAHN!" Which is Scots for "Well done." I think.