Arsenal cruised to their record-breaking 12th FA Cup win on Saturday without a single Arsenal fan having a heart attack during the 90 minutes of the Wembley showpiece.
It was weird.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get a ticket for Wembley (although two of our writers were and their photos from the day can be seen on the Daily Cannon instagram) so made do with one for the screening the Emirates along with just under 40,000 other Arsenal fans.
Rising at 5am to catch a flight over from Belfast, I was unsettled by how nervous I didn’t feel. Even as kick-off approached I had an odd feeling of certainty around the game. It wasn’t like last season when we were all racked with nerves, knowing that we were just 90 (or 120) minutes away from ending our trophy drought or blowing it spectacularly a la Birmingham in the League Cup final.
This game felt different.
There was pressure on the Gunners as favourites, but it was different from what we experienced last season and it showed, mostly by not going two goals down and looking like we were going to Arsenal it up at any point.
There’s no need for me to go over the match point by point. Theo’s opener, Alexis’s screamer, Per’s header and Oli’s deft flick are all burned into our brains, four goals that we managed to score that gave the scoreline some sort of correlation with how totally and utterly dominant we were over Aston Villa for the entire game.
It was a thing of beauty.
At the screening, the fans didn’t even wait for the final whistle before they invaded the pitch, joy overflowing, but even that seemed different to the invasion that had occurred last season. On that occasion it had been an outpouring of relief, an end to the incessant narrative that counted the years without an Arsenal trophy in a way the media have never done for any other side (have they started the clock on Manchester United yet?).
It was a massive middle finger to those who had berated us for years without truly grasping the enormity of what Arsenal as a club had been doing for the past decade.
2015’s win was not that. It was a marker. It was the club making a statement that they are finally back from the years of austerity.
And what a statement it was!