The FA Cup Final pitted winners of both the Premiership and the Nationwide
First Division titles -- Arsenal versus Coventry City. 78,000 spectators
thronged Wembley for the FA Cup Final match. There was a sea of red and
blue around the stadium grounds. Coventry had only won the FA Cup once back
in 1987. They are hoping to add that to their First Division title. The
first 10 minutes was a seesaw affair in the midfield with neither side making
a breakthrough. In the 13th minute, Saviola managed to squeeze a shot towards
goal but was punched out by Hedman. The ball fell at the feet of Joe Cole.
GOAL! Cole made no mistake from 15 yards out. On the half-hour, another
defensive error allowed Vieira space to place his shot but Hedman was equal
in parrying the shot. The ball fell at Joe Cole's feet again. GOAL! A splitting
image of the first goal! Just before half time, Joe Cole swung in a cross
towards Saviola. Hedman misjudged the arc of the ball and left Saviola with
the easy tap in. GOAL! There was no mistake about it. Arsenal had won the
Cup despite having another half to go. It has always been the same ever
since I took over the side. With us winning the titles before others had
a chance to take it away from us. The second half was just a formal affair
as Arsenal displayed their skills in front of the crowd. After the match,
Steve McMahon, the Coventry manager jokingly said that the FA should carve
our name at the base of the trophy for next season's competition.
Wigan's JJB Stadium was the place where a thrilling encounter took place
between the home team and Arsenal. We had 3 games to go to score 7 goals
in order to break the 101-goal barrier, which we set in my first season
in charge. Wigan started strongly as they are still within reach of a UEFA
Cup slot. It took them 38 minutes to break through our defence and score
past Sean Allaway. The second half started in the same manner as Wigan dominated
the match. It wasn't long before Wigan doubled their lead in the 71st minute
through Mats Stromo. But Henry who was chasing after the Golden Boot award
scored in the 73rd minute. Thus equalling Lee Peacock's 22 goals in the
league this season. 7 minutes later, Wigan scored again through Alvaro Olguin.
3-1 to Wigan with 10 minutes to go and the ticket to the UEFA competition
was in their hands. However, 10 minutes is a long time in football and the
next 10 minutes saw a marvelous comeback by Arsenal. In the 89th minute,
Fotheringham scored to pull Arsenal to a goal behind Wigan and I felt that
that was the best we could do. Just into injury time, Ian Reed held on the
ball before sending it towards Henry inside the area. GOAL! The equaliser!
Wigan threw everything at attack as their ticket was slipping out of their
hands. Another superb play by super sub Ian Reed allowed Henry to sneak
through Wigan's defence. Henry looked up before attempting to chip the ball
over the onrushing keeper. GOAL! We have turned the match around! 4-3 to
Arsenal! And it was Henry's 24th league goal. [ScreenShot]
Javier Saviola scored Arsenal's 100th goal in the league before Calaio equalised Arsenal's 2000/01 record with goal No. 101 against Manchester City. 2 further goals by Junior Elliott and Adam Cook gave us the record of 103 goals scored in the league. Rafael Van der Vaart was voted as Players' Young Player of the Year award. David Noble won the Player of the Month award for April whereas Robert Clare won the Young Player of the Month award for May. Thierry Henry finished as Golden Boot award winner with 24 goals. The 2004/05 final season standings : Arsenal(98), Southampton(82), Leeds United(73), Bristol City(67) and Liverpool(64).
The nightmare that I was worried of at the start of the season didn't
materialise. The new additions to the squad such as Rafael Van der Vaart
and Antonio Cassano together with the promoted David Noble and Emmanuel
Calaio played well. The team managed to combine well and played together
as a team despite losing a few regulars to other teams. But the worrying
thing was that we didn't have enough challengers for the title and for
the domestic cups. Southampton gave us some resistance but it wasn't enough.
The thrashing of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United showed that
we were leagues ahead of the others. This is quite unhealthy for the team
as we wouldn't be sure about our potential. As for the Youth side, the
latest crop of youngsters are beginning to show their true potential and
we would be seeing more of them in the coming season.
Next up, the European Cup Final against Ajax Amsterdam. Ajax had Christian
Vieri in their team and he is their most dangerous player. Although past
records favour us in this match but I've come to the conclusion that past
meetings account for nothing when it comes to Finals such as this. The
match was surprisingly held at a place nearby - Wembley Stadium. 90,000
fans made up of mostly Arsenal fans were at the stadium to witness Arsenal's
attempt of equaling the mighty Real Madrid of the 50s record of 5 consecutive
European Cup titles.
The weather was just perfect for a game of this magnitude. Both teams
started strongly with Ajax having the upper hand in the early few minutes.
Ajax with their brand of total football and Arsenal's attacking flow of
football was indeed a sight to behold and the crowd was treated to the
best football ever witnessed on the pitch by both teams. Fast and furious
would be the word to describe both teams. Arsenal finally had a breakthrough
when Joe Cole found Saviola in the area. Saviola controlled the ball well
before unleashing a shot. GOAL! His 40th goal of the season. 7 minutes
later, Woodgate's clearance found Ljungberg who proceeded to bring the
ball into the area. He shoots. GOAL! Play began to flow form one end to
the other with both goalkeepers having a tough time keeping their team
in the game. But in the 37th minute, it was beyond Ajax's means to get
back into the game. Pasanen knocked Saviola to the ground inside the area.
Penalty! Henry stepped up. GOAL! 3-0 to Arsenal and the game is as good
as over. The start of the second half was as exciting as the first. Despite
the fact that they have lost the game, Ajax still played well and weren't
going to let disappointment cloud their game play. We responded well too
and never gave up in our attacks. Ajax knew that it was a lost cause when
Pasanen was sent off for his second yellow card. We never did manage to
take advantage of that and the game ended 3-0 to Arsenal. 5 consecutive
titles for Arsenal! [ScreenShot]
The European campaign yielded 17 games in which we won 16 games and drawn
1. Goal scored was at 49 goals and we conceded 9. It was the best campaign
record I've ever had with Arsenal.