For the third season in four the Imps have been eliminated from the FA Cup following conceding five goals away from home, but unlike the previous two against Plymouth and Whitehawk respectively, the Imps can still have their heads held high after winning the hearts of the nation over the last few months.
Imps fans had hope going into the game at the Emirates and the XI Davids that started against the Goliaths of Arsenal more than held their own for 45 minutes, although Paul Farman had to produce two excellent saves, one of which I’d say was world class, to keep the Gunners out. Nathan Arnold could have given the Imps an unlikely lead as he jinked into the area, only to see his curling effort palmed wide by Cech. All appeared well for the Imps, but just seconds after six minutes of added on time was announced, Arsenal took the lead through a heavily deflected Walcott effort.
The moment changed the rest of the game and Arsenal produced a footballing masterclass in the second half. Arsenal are regulars in the last sixteen of the Champions League for a reason, they are a very good team. Regardless of recent form and their obvious lack of quality compared to the major teams in Europe, they are still one of the elite clubs in England. They hit the net a further four times in the second half and ended the game with a 77% possession rate. How are a club four divisions below realistically supposed to compete with that?
To sum up the quality in Arsenal’s squad, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went off injured midway through the first half, and on in his place came Mesut Özil, a World Cup winner with Germany. No-one can question the heart of any of the men in Imps shirts, but ultimately effort and endeavour is sometimes not a match for quality. We went in hope more than expectation.
In many ways our run in the FA Cup parallels Iceland’s in the European Championship during the summer. Iceland were the story of the tournament last summer and won over all of the neutrals. City’s FA Cup run has had a similar storyline, doing well against teams arguably better than them before coming up against a side that would beat them in 99 out of 100 meetings in the last sixteen stage and beating them, only to then come up against a world class side in the quarter finals and being found out.
However, there will not be a single person who supports the Imps with an sense of the understanding of football (I say that because someone posted this reaction to the game on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=5HQK6oRm6Yo) that would criticise the Imps. The club have exceeded all expectations already this season, and not just in the cup, with arguably the most important fact being that the club are just two points short of their highest points total since the club was last promoted in 1997/8.
Most importantly the run, combine with the league form, has seen a lot of fans become engaged with the club again. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I was a part-time fan because I still cared about the club and regularly kept up to date, but when you don’t live anywhere near the city (I’ve lived an average of over 100 miles away over the last four years) then you have to pick and choose which games you’ve go to, but those that live in the city have very little excuse. Whilst it may be frustrating for those who stuck by the club during the dark periods, getting fans back is great for several reasons.
I guess who’ll just have to win the double now that the treble is off!