Pitchside

FA Cup 7 truths – Ozil, Davies and a big NO to pink balls

Pitchside

What's wrong with this? Pink balls are not befitting of a cup final...

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Allow us to indulge in a rather tangential but nevertheless important point. What was a pink ball doing on the pitch? Of all the affronts to tradition foisted upon fans at Wembley – and with a 5pm kick-off, a blaring PA to drown out supporter chants prior to kick-off and a ludicrously overblown pryotechnic show, there are no shortage to choose from – this must be the most objectionable. The FA Cup final has long ceased to be the institution it once was, of that we can be certain, but there's no need to rub it in. It may be a minor aesthetic point, but a pink ball in a Wembley cup final? It's as out of place as Kenny Dalglish's tracksuit in the 2012 League Cup final against Cardiff. No, no, a thousand times no.

Arsenal were complacent, and almost paid for it

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The alarm bells were ringing prior to kick-off when Arsenal striker Yaya Sanogo chose to send a rather ill-advised tweet goading Jose Mourinho for failing to win a trophy and describing how he was relishing the chance to make some “history”. In the days preceding the final, Lukas Podolski had been speaking of “when I win the FA Cup” and claiming he had not heard of Matty Fryatt. It painted a picture of complacency and certainly it appeared Arsenal were not taking Hull altogether seriously when finding themselves 2-0 down after only eight minutes. If they thought they had the game won before kick-off, and the behaviour of some of their players suggested they had, then they were certainly punished for it before their impressive comeback.

The best FA Cup final of the ‘new Wembley’ era

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We’re not going to smother Arsenal v Hull with superlatives. However, it’d be wrong of us to let the low standards of the last eight years of centrepiece showdowns take some of the gleam from just how enjoyable the domestic season finale at Wembley truly was. The hot start from Hull hooked the neutral; the action was back-and-forth and free-flowing; there were several heart-in-mouth moments at 2-2, the game didn’t peter out in extra-time and of course, the atmosphere inside the stadium was sizzling on both sides. The best FA Cup final since Liverpool and West Ham’s 2006 classic was just the tonic the tournament’s flagging reputation needed.

Curtis Davies deserved his big day

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Don’t let his club colours fool you: Curtis Davies did more than enough in 2013/14 to warrant consideration for England’s World Cup squad in Brazil. Of course, not playing for a top six club didn’t help his slim chances, but how about leading his team out at Wembley and getting on the scoresheet? Few players deserved such a fantastic end to this season – and after watching Hull succumb to Arsenal’s fightback from 2-0 up, it’s fair to say Davies perhaps deserved more.

The magic of cup final day isn’t dead just yet

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Ridiculous prices, scheduling and a general lack of the must-see quality the FA Cup final possessed back in the 20th century meant a lot of neutrals were indifferent to the prospect of Hull v Arsenal. Many were planning on watching Barcelona and Atletico Madrid’s Liga title decider instead. Rest assured, however, that while the ‘cup magic’ has perhaps been placed on football’s endangered species list, it is far from dead. Exhibit A: Hull’s magnificent travelling support, who lit up the national stadium and surrounding area armed with old-school football rattles – symbolic of their traditional football spirit on their big day. More importantly, they didn’t lose their enthusiasm even when they lost it from two up – so, why should any of us?

Ramsey’s winning touch sums up Arsenal’s season

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The stadium decision to name Aaron Ramsey as the cup final’s man of the match was a little bit confusing. Outside of scoring the winner and making a fantastic tackle to prevent a Hull counter-attack shortly afterward, it was far from a vintage performance from the Welshman, who ended several Gunners attacks by firing well off-target during the match. However, it was fitting his contribution as big in the eyes of those rating the players as it was to the actual result, as it pretty much summed up the talismanic midfielder’s entire campaign. That extra touch of class and a match-winner when fit, sorely missed and irreplaceable when unfit or just not on his game. Ultimately, Arsene Wenger and Ramsey’s team-mates weren’t much without him, neither at Wembley nor throughout the campaign.

Mesut Ozil went missing

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One of the primary talking points across Arsenal's entire season has been the contribution of their record signing. Though he has been rather harshly treated in the press – first seasons in English football can be notoriously hard to navigate – his performance in the club's biggest game of the year left much to be desired; £42.5 million should buy you more than a half-hearted display in a cup final. On 37 minutes, as he gave the ball away carelessly, even the mild-mannered Aaron Ramsey threw up his arms in frustration at Ozil's inability to find the right pass. Hired to take the team onto the next level, he certainly failed to do that and Arsenal won the game after his removal when Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilsherre gave them much more penetration.

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