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No fans… but an FA Cup final to cherish

Aubameyang the difference as Arsenal make it a memorable triumph at Wembley

06 August, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Nicolas Pépé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette with the FA Cup trophy at Wembley. PHOTO: STUART MacFARLANE/GETTY IMAGES

WITHOUT the fans being able to fill Wembley or hold street parties to celebrate the winning of the FA Cup, football is missing its energy.

There’s no denying that.

We can get philosophical about how it brings us all together in long Sunday supplement articles, make a comparison with religion if we must, or, as the BBC did, play mushy black and white montages to We’ll Meet Again.

But it’s simpler just to say that it’s not the same.

Having agreed on all that, it still remains that Arsenal’s success against Chelsea on Saturday was one of the sunniest of days.

Maybe the joy came out of carving out a winning finale from a season which has otherwise been so deflating, and just a week after the ridicule that met the final league placings.

Arsenal are an institution that does not like sacking managers.

The process can be slow, but any season in which a heave-ho in the hotseat is required feels like a dark moment.

Imagine how it must feel if you support a club that desperately chases success by firing an endless stream of managers.

Rescuing this season with a major trophy will either plant enthusiasm among Arsenal fans or be seen among our pessimists as papering over the cracks that we all know exist deep down. Don’t worry which side of that debate you are on. Just enjoy another red summer for now.

Because in a way, Arsenal fans will have enjoyed the Cup-winning moment more than Liverpool supporters celebrating their first league title in three decades. Liverpool’s ecstasy was deadened by being made to wait for the lockdown to pass so they could come back to finish a season which ended in a way that everybody already knew it would.

Humans enjoy suspense and adrenaline. It’s why the best theme park rides have a shock loop-da-loop on the rails.

Liverpool had none of that drama. Just a slow, drawn-out plod to picking up the trophy on a forgettable midweek night.

Instead, there’s nothing really better than seeing your team fight back from being behind to triumph in a cup final, even more so if you are the underdogs against rivals who self-identify as the “pride of London”.

It’s OK to be childish about it: you’ll have seen the people noting how many medals Eddie Nketiah has compared to the great Harry Kane.

There are days to switch social media on, and days to switch it off.

One lasting image was Olivier Giroud. Last year, he was shouting “thank you Arsenal” as he held up the Europa League trophy with his Chelsea football friends, but this year was possibly weeping in the stands, a sad-looking Rylan confused by what had had happened.

But, as enjoyable as Saturday evening was, that image and this final as a whole laid bare an uncomfortable truth: can we all agree now that Arsenal wasted too many years waiting for Theo Walcott and Giroud to come good?

Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has come close to filling the boots once worn by Thierry Henry in all these years.

And remember Henry was surrounded by fellow invincible galactico types.

Aubameyang is waiting on Nketiah to pass to him.

It was a match in which everybody played well, to the extent you wondered why they didn’t do so all season, but Aubameyang was the difference. We had Aubameyang, they had Giroud. Without him, this record triumph wouldn’t have happened.

It’s vulgar to say “pay him anything he wants”, but the sentiment will line all of the celebrations.

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