Sunday, May 11, 2014

Carl Jenkinson lives the fan's dream

For the majority of Arsenal’s final Premier League game of the season at Norwich City, it felt like the dead rubber that it was. Norwich were virtually down and Arsenal were trying to not over-exert themselves before the FA Cup final. However in the second half, there were a few brilliant moments for Arsenal to close the league season.
There have been many ‘what if’ questions about Aaron Ramsey in the last few weeks, especially when the Gunners only finished seven points off the top of the table, and the 2-0 win at Carrow Road only served to provide another chance to ponder those questions. As Arsenal stepped up the tempo in the second half to try and get something from the game, Olivier Giroud found some space on the left and picked out the Welshman on the right side of the penalty area. Ramsey’s volley was sensational. No goalkeeper would have saved it as the ball went perfectly into the top corner. One TV angle from behind the goal showed how pure the strike of the ball was. He may have been missing at key times in the season with injury, but Ramsey is peaking again before the cup final.
If the Ramsey goal was a superb piece of skill, Arsenal’s second goal was one that was a beautiful moment in another way. Carl Jenkinson is living the fan’s dream just by playing in the Arsenal team. His family are Gooners and he grew up at Highbury. When the ball broke to him in the penalty area and he found the bottom corner, albeit via a deflection, the joy on his face was superb. He charged off, arms out-stretched, towards the travelling fans, as if he’d scored the winner in the cup final. It was just how any Arsenal fan would react when scoring for their boyhood club. Jenkinson is someone all fans can relate to, and to see him score his first goal was brilliant.
The final great moment at Carrow Road was the introduction off the substitute’s bench of Abou Diaby. The French midfielder is inspirational in the way he has fought back from numerous career great ending injuries, so to see him get some minutes was great. He’s a player that some think Arsenal should cut their losses on because of his injury record, but there were some good touches in his Norwich cameo, and a reminder that he has a presence in midfield that no other Arsenal player can provide. At his best, he can motor through midfield and glide past players. The response he got from the superb travelling fans was all a bit emotional. Even though it was a dead-rubber match, this was an uplifting moment.
The Arsenal team selection was interesting for the game, with Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla rested. Lukasz Fabianski started in goal, implying to me that Wojciech Szczesny will start at Wembley in the FA Cup final, despite not playing in the competition this season. It would be harsh on Fabianski, but when he’s virtually out the door this summer, I don’t have a problem with Arsene Wenger picking his number one at Wembley.
Bacary Sagna also started at centre-back, and put in a performance that reminded Arsenal fans how much he’ll be missed. He’s an exception defender, and his versatility is useful. As I said last week after the West Brom match, I really hope it isn’t a farewell, but the signs aren’t good.
Wenger generally picked a stronger team than I expected ahead of Wembley, but there didn’t appear to be any injuries, so it was positive that most of the key men for the final were able to sharpen their match fitness. Arsenal have won five in a row going into the final, so have momentum and form.
Even though he probably won’t play in the showpiece game, Arsenal also have a proper Gooner in the squad. After seeing his reaction to scoring at Carrow Road, it’s hard to fathom just how mental Carl Jenkinson would go if he did score the winner in the cup final. If he did, all Arsenal fans would be with him.