Yesterday was a good day at the office for Arsenal and Mikel Arteta, beating Chelsea 2-1 thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lift the oldest cup competition in the world – English FA Cup, their 14th victory in 21st appearances, two more than any other team. Like I said in the blog yesterday, Arsenal needed to win to secure European football next and end a dismal season on a high, and they did just that.
It was fitting that club captain Aubameyang whose future is in the air showed exactly why he is the most important player for Arsenal. Wearing the iconic No 14 shirt worn by Arsenal great, Thierry Henry and scoring twice to lift the trophy for the 14th time was also iconic. It’s a little surprising that a player of Aubameyang quality has not won many trophies in his goal-scoring career.
That looks like it might change for the Gabonese international. People have often accused him of missing in big matches, but throughout his stay at Arsenal, playing with inferior teammates who are either afraid of playing against the big teams or are instructed by the coach to be cautious and not to be brave; that is changing with the way the club is playing under Arteta, especially in big games.
I watched Aubameyang and his strike partner Alexander Lacazzette last season tore Valencia apart in the Europa League semi-final but were toothless in the final against Chelsea. The occasion in Baku last year was huge, so too was yesterday in Wembley. Repeating what he did against Manchester City in the semi-final, scoring twice to knockout the host, and against Chelsea in the final tells its own story.
I’ve seen Chelsea fans making excuses that the referee Anthony Taylor was biased, I get it, when your team is at the receiving end, you need someone to blame. After the first 20 minutes where Chelsea looked sharp and Arsenal sloppy, the Gunners turned the game around and was commanding, dictating play, limiting Chelsea to zero-shot on target. That was telling, that could not have been the referee, but the decision to send-off Mateo Kovacic for a second foul on Granit Xhaka was unfortunate.
Aubameyang also made history by becoming the first African player to captain a team in the FA Cup final and also lift the trophy. He is so good that any team with such a clinical striker should be challenging for titles season after season. Now, the biggest challenge for Arsenal moving forward is to pay their captain whatever money he is asking for to keep him at the club. Report says he is demanding £250,000 a week, if Arsenal fails to keep him at the club, then I do not see any other striker in the transfer market with such number of goals who will be willing to join a rebuilding process.
I think I’ve said enough. Congratulations to Arsenal!
Back home, one might wonder what is happening in the Nigeria Professional Football League, NPFL, since the league was cancelled. I mean, the English Premier is set to begin in a month’s time, German Bundesliga and other leagues around the world are making plans to resume football, but the case is different in Nigeria.
The complete silence from football authorities is disturbing. The world has accepted to live with the coronavirus, European leagues have given the platform on how sporting activities should be conducted in a safe and secure approach, Nigeria and other African countries should adopt such models and move football forward.
I am saying this because I have very limited or no information at my disposal, maybe Mallam Shehu Dikko and the rest are working tirelessly to salvage the situation and see to it that when football returns, it returns in a very safe environment. Fingers crossed they are doing just that, but the country is waiting to hear from them and the authorities should break the silence.
That’s all from me today. It’s one of those Sundays without rain…yet. Enjoy the absence of rain while it lasts.
Till tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll have a blog for you. Thank you as always.
Have a nice day.
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