Perhaps it took nine years - fine, I don't mind telling you that the wait hurt, and hurt badly. But, at the end of the day, Arsenal put the lid on what must now be considered a successful season by snatching the FA Cup from the hands of a Hull City side that tried to sit on a lead far, far too early.
The side that started mostly picked itself, with the exception of Lukasz Fabianski starting in place of Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Despite what happened in the first 8 minutes, I refuse to second-guess that. I've been saying for weeks that Fab had to start this game - you go with the guy who got you there.
There will be some who bemoan that decision given that Arsenal conceded twice in the first eight minutes, but neither one was entirely the goalkeeper's fault. The first, after just four minutes, was a risible collective failure of set-piece defending on the part of the entire team. Perhaps most at fault was Lukas Podolski though, who started jogging forward as soon as the corner came in. There was a bit of pinballing around, but Podolski should have been then to cover James Chester. Instead, the Welshman had all the time and space he wanted to divert an unstoppable shot past Fabianski and into the far corner.
I can't say that was entirely unpredictable, but going down by two goals just a few short minutes later was definitely not in the script. Still, we had no one to blame but ourselves. A Hill free kick was fired in, but should have been dealt with comfortably. Instead, it bounced around, and got fired in by Alex Bruce. Fabianski did well to make the save, but this is one of those instances that illustrate how fine the margins at this level. He did well to save it, but a better goalkeeper tips it around the post and out to safety. Instead, Fabianski hooked it back out into play, allowing Curtis Davies to bury the rebound. That wasn't entirely on the keeper as the defense should have been far more alert, but it's another indication that Szczesny has always been the better goalkeeper.
So, damn it. Two goals down, Hull rampant and people already writing our obituary. What people didn't realize though is that this isn't your older brother's Arsenal team. This is a far more resilient lot, who has come back from the brink of disaster before. All we needed was that one moment of magic to remind Hull who their betters were, and to remind the Arsenal that they were fully capable of turning this around.
It should be noted, of course, that Hull almost made it 3-0. If they had, that would have been the jig well and truly up. Arsenal were still reeling, and our lack of organization on set pieces almost did us in again. Bruce won a header and sent it to the far corner, but Kieran Gibbs was there to head it off the line. I have people who can back me up on this though - even in this darkest of moments, I still had absolute faith that we were going to win.
And, it was Bruce who got us back into it, He took a needless foul (not surprising, as Hull set their stall out to defend in the Mortal Kombat style whenever possible, aided and abetted by the fact that Lee Probert let them do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted) in a dangerous area, and Santi Cazorla stood over it. This was a moment that demanded a hero, and the little wizard didn't disappoint. He ran up and hit a brilliant effort, just underneath the crossbar. Three inches lower, and Allan MacGregor's dive would have kept that out. Instead, all he could do was get one-tenth of a fingertip on it on its way in. WHAT a goal, and what a brilliant time to score it.
Make no mistake, this was about where Hull decided to try and sit on their lead - and this was right around the time where I knew that we were going to win. The rest of the half was played out with Hull defending in numbers while Arsenal were utterly inept in their attempts to break them down, but I still knew that we could do it. By way of evidence, I present my Facebook post at halftime (with my pre-match post also as a bonus).
The second half started with complete Arsenal domination, but in that ineffective way we've come to know and loathe. Olivier Giroud dived in the area, though I don't know what he was playing at given that Motherless Bastard Lee Probert wasn't calling legitimate yellow-card worthy fouls, let alone dodgy dives in the penalty area.
We were screaming out for substitutions - I wanted Tomas Rosicky on badly, but instead it was Yaya Sanogo who came on for the horrendous Lukas Podoslki. I fear that especially given how bad he was in a game of this importance, this may have been his last match in an Arsenal shirt. I hope not, but my word, he was awful today.
Now, I don't mean to pile on the kid, but the fact that he had to play in a match of this magnitude was another damning indictment of the boss' abject failure in the January transfer window. I won't spend too much time on this on this happy occasion, but if you replaced him with Helen Keller shot up with Quaaludes, we probably win this in normal time.
Anyway, Sanogo did have a header that was blocked in the penalty area by the outstretched arm of Jake Livermore - but, Probert was bound and determined to not give us a penalty. Shitbag. Soon after, Cazorla was scythed down in the area by Davies, but again, Probert opted to not give us the penalty. It was frustrating, to say the least. We could have been 3-2 up at this point, instead, we were still chasing the game.
There was nothing Probert could do about our equalizer, though. Robert Meyler's tackle on Laurent Koscielny was bad enough were even this poor excuse of a match official had to call it. I forget if it was Santi or Mesut Ozil who fired in the free kick, but Bacary Sagna won the first header. Koscielny beat MacGregor to the ball, and poked it in for the equalizing goal.
Needless to say, there was absolute bedlam in O'Hanlon's.
From this point on, we weren't losing. The only distinction was whether we were going to win in normal time, extra time, or penalties.
Gibbs could have settled it seconds after the equalizer, but, well, the finish of a left back. Probert then failed to whistle for another penalty, then Giroud's effort was repelled by MacGregor.
So, extra time, then.
I do think that there should have been more substitutions well before the ones that we got. I think that Hull were reeling, and we could have won in normal time had we gotten an injection of energy in the 60th or even 75th minutes.
That wasn't to be though, so extra time beckoned.
Once the extra stanzas started, there was only one team in it. Now that I can look back with some degree of objectivity, Hull were clearly playing for penalties. The bad old version of us would have gotten them there, but not this group. No way. Giroud even could have won it early on in extra time, but his open header hit the crossbar.
No worries, though.
While I thought the subs should have come much sooner, I thought the ones that did happen at halftime of extra time were brilliant. Ozil and Cazorla (both knackered) came off, Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere came on. That injection of energy put us over the hump, and it isn't surprising that the go-ahead goal came scant minutes later. An Arsenal attack saw Giroud get the ball in the area - he backheeled it into the path of the onrushing Ramsey - and the Welshman was able to stab it in past MacGregor at his near post. The Scotsman had no chance, and at that point, really, the Cup was ours.
Well, that should have been the case, anyway. The cameras showed someone engraving Arsenal's name into the trophy as play was ongoing, an occurrence that gave me 87 consecutive heart attacks. And, of course, there was one last heart-in-throat moment. Look, I thought Fabianski had to play right from the off - you go with the guy who got you there. But, a long ball over the top eluded Per Mertesacker, and our Pole in goal ran way out to clean up. Unfortunately, he was much too slow, and Sone Aluko beat him to it. Frankly, he should have scored. But, thankfully, he's Sone Aluko and a bit shit, so he screwed his shot wide.
That was their moment.
Giroud could have iced it, but MacGregor saved his scuffed shot. Up the other end, Aluko had a strong effort on goal, and Fabiaski saw it late through a forest of bodies. He's going to catch a lot of shit for the time he came well off his line, but no one gets how fucking great that last save was. He caught and hold it, and that was that.
Arsenal's trophy drought is over. England's press is cordially invited to tongue-bathe the entire circumfrence of my balls.
I don't know what to even say beyond that. We have a trophy...the drought is finally over.
The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:
Fabianski 6, Gibbs 7, Koscielny 8, Mertesacker 7, Sagna 7, Arteta 7, Ramsey 8, Podolski 6 (Sanogo 4), Ozil 6 (Wilshere 7), Cazorla 7 (Rosicky 7), Giroud 7
Man of the Match: Jessica, you were right. Aaron Ramsey.