So it’s FA Cup final day at last and Azman Shah of Arsenal Malaysia is representing Asia in our blogs from all continents. He talks about his pre-match plans, bucket-list ticking and why victory will be so special for Arsène Wenger.
A typical FA Cup final day starts with us going through a checklist for the event planned for our supporters. We ensure everything is ready to give the best experience to those attending the match-viewing parties. There will be a venue check a few hours before the event and then, cometh the hour, it is time to don my favourite FA Cup Final shirt for the match - Pires 2003.
My best memory of the FA Cup final is definitely those two wonder goals by Ray Parlour and Freddie Ljungberg when we beat Chelsea at Wembley in May 2002. But then last year’s final took my breath away. I can still remember the joy and jubilation when Aaron Ramsey poked that third goal in. It was like the whole world’s burden came off after nine painful years. There were some tears among those attending a special final event we organised in a local cinema. Yes, we watched every minute of the drama-filled game in ultra wide HD screen with Dolby sound systems. It was chanting all the way till the early morning hours!
"I am especially happy that Wenger brushed aside all the calls for his exit by yet again proving he is the best manager in the Premier League over the past two decades"
One of our veteran members fulfilled his dream of going to Wembley, watching the FA Cup final, watching Arsenal in an FA Cup final and celebrating Arsenal win the FA Cup. That’s four items he checked off his bucket list in one day after 39 years of supporting the Gunners.
The season as a whole has been one of great revival; with stability and performance par excellence on a consistent basis, especially since January. Many had written off the Gunners after their early-season stutter and now we can only imagine what could have been if so many key players had not been injured at the same time in those difficult months.
The Arsenal we have watched regularly in the second half of the season was reminiscent of the great sides of the early 2000s, opening up difficult opponents with breakthrough goals and creating a great run of victories.
I am especially happy that Wenger brushed aside all the calls for his exit by yet again proving he is the best manager in the Premier League over the past two decades, taking Arsenal to their 18th consecutive appearance in the Champions League.
I feel this will be a very tight game and we should win with the players, and current performances, in our squad. Aston Villa are certainly playing much better since Tim Sherwood took over with more purpose and balance in the team. Christian Benteke will provide a huge test for our centre-back pairing of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker. Villa’s midfield function as a unit and we need to win the battle in this area to win the war.
It would be a big achievement to defend the FA Cup. Winning it this year will mean a unique achievement for any top-tier side in the modern game - back-to-back FA Cup victories in two different decades.
And overtaking Manchester United as the holder of most FA Cup wins would be another feather in Arsène Wenger’s cap.
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