Being an Arsenal fan at the moment, it would be easy for me to retreat into self-indulgent woe for how awful a season it has been or how our club is in decline, a lot of fans are. But unlike a lot of fans, I am grateful for what we’ve got and know a lot of fans out there would love to have our club status.
Which brings me on to my favourite Arsenal memory, I have a wealth of choices available and a lot of great memories. Yes there have been bad times, think Michael Owen’s brace in 2001 or Ryan Giggs twirling his white United top as he turned away after scoring that wonder goal. To balance that, I have memories of Vieira’s last touch in an Arsenal shirt in the 2005 final over United, making CR7 cry in a match we were second best throughout. Or there was our comeback against Hull in the 2014 final and most recently Sanchez’ thunderbolt against a wretched Villa in 2015.
I have chosen the 2002 FA Cup Final win over Chelsea as my favourite moment, perhaps as a symbol of contrast and change. Tony Adams and Patrick Vieira were finishing their careers just as John Terry was starting his. Arsenal were still in their pomp and in their last few seasons at Highbury just as Abrahmovic was shortly to unleash his billions upon Chelsea. It was a day that belonged to the Gunners with their ruthless finishing and world class group of proven winners. Just a few years later though it was Chelsea who took over this mantle and Arsenal who were cast into the shadows. Even this weekend, despite this being forecast as a season of great potential, Arsenal have struggled to shake off the hoodoo. I don’t think there are many Gooners feeling ultra-confident for tomorrow.
Anyway, it was day I remember well as my best mate of the time, Joe was a huge Chelsea fan and we both sat in his front room watching the match on a warm day in Torquay. Ljungberg had his signature red hair and he was joined by the likes of Sol Campbell, Vieira, Henry and Lauren. Chelsea were far from talentless themselves though, with a young Lampard, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and the aforementioned Terry starting on the bench. Both teams failed to ignite in the first half but it was Arsenal who found their rhythm first as they got into their passing groove. Chelsea improved and the match remained goalless until mid-way through the second half when Ray Parlour shimmied forward and found enough space to curl past Cudicini. Wenger immediately introduced Edu for Bergkamp to sure things up but he needn’t have bothered as the match was practically ended minutes later.
Freddie Ljungberg in space took on and with surprising ease beat John Terry, running in field and sidefooting a curling effort beautifully past Cudicini giving him no chance. Every youngster who had come to the stadium with dyed red in their hair were immediately justified and wouldn’t look foolish on the way back home. For me this was the stand out moment, Ljungberg’s goal which left my friendship with Joe at an all time low, we soon recovered mind. How I wish for a similar result to that of 15 years ago tomorrow!