RAMBLE: Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal

RAMBLE: Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal

Arsenal at home. First time in 15 years I’ve been able to say that.

When the 3-3 draw at the old Highbury relegated us from the top flight, I was a totally devastated 8 year old.

It was my first season following Wednesday as a match-going supporter and it’s safe to say it wasn’t an enjoyable one.

Saying that, not many seasons after that have been great either, but now the good times seem to be on their way back.

After years of poor efforts in the cup competitions, it makes a refreshing change for the spotlight to be on us instead of those from the other side of the city.

Wednesday are on a roll...

Wednesday are on a roll…

Fair play to them over the last few years, credit where it’s due but now the pendulum has swung the other way, at least on this occasion.

Five points from nine available since the break is a good return and gives us plenty of confidence – two well-earned points against teams who came down from the Premier League in Hull and QPR and three against a struggling Rotherham.

Going eight games unbeaten in all competitions shows the strength of the squad we now have compared to recent times.

PRE MATCH

Going into the game, I was excited about what the night would bring. I was going to enjoy it regardless of the outcome.

It was announced that Joe Wildsmith would be starting in goal with Westy being rested. While I didn’t necessarily agree with it at the time, I could see Carlos’ reasons behind the decision. With us having nothing to lose it made sense.

Joe is going to be a top keeper in the future, hopefully with us and the experience will do him good. We need to let him progress and develop.

Big night for Joe!

Big night for Joe!

It must be said that, when called upon, he hasn’t put a foot wrong and this will aid his development without a doubt. I’ve no problem with him being between the sticks.

As for the rest of the team, I wasn’t concerned. The team picked to play would be a strong XI as shown against Newcastle and QPR with the number of changes we made in those matches. This, in my opinion, was a bonus game.

The League encounter with Nottingham Forest at the weekend is far more important (and winnable) and that this game would be one the club and fans should enjoy.

As I was getting ready to set off, it was announced that Gary Hooper had signed on loan until mid-January.

We certainly kept that one quiet.

After what happened in the transfer window, I thought it was never going to happen so I was most pleasantly surprised. Maybe Michael Turner had a word with him…

It’s exactly what we’ve been looking for and he comes into a team that’s brimming with confidence. I expect us to kick on again from here! In my view, he’s the final piece in the jigsaw.

The teams were announced, and it was a strong Wednesday line-up.

SWFC: Wildsmith; Hunt, Loovens, Lees, Pudil; Hutchinson, Bannan, Lee; Wallace, João, Helan

Arsenal: Cech; Debuchy, Mertesacker, Chambers, Gibbs; Flamini, Kamara; Campbell, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi; Giroud

We made two changes from the Rotherham game which surprised me a little; I was expecting five or six. It was great to see us playing a pretty much full strength side. The other change, apart from Wildsmith, was a forced one – cup tied Forestieri out with Helan coming in.

It looked to me that we were playing 4-5-1/4-3-3 and going on the counter attack.

Arsenal were obviously going to rotate and understandably so – making 8 changes from the weekend – given they’re having a real go in the Premier League & also having Champions League commitments with a trip to Bayern Munich coming up. Even with the changes, it was littered with full internationals including a World Cup winner.

Arsenal: bigger fish to fry?

Arsenal: bigger fish to fry?

I got to the ground nice and early, mainly for the cheap food/hot drinks deals at £1, and also to avoid the obvious queues.

Hillsborough was filling up by the minute. The atmosphere was building.

The teams came out to a great cheer. A very loud “Hi Ho Sheffield Wednesday” set the tone.

And we were underway.

FIRST HALF

The first thing I saw was Arsenal were playing in a blue/turquoise away kit against our blue and white stripes. I don’t know the reason behind that but it made no sense to me.

The game didn’t start in a good way for Arsenal. Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a hamstring injury with Theo Walcott coming on. A like for like replacement and we all know what Walcott can do on his day.

Hutch gets stuck in

Hutch gets stuck in

10 minutes had passed and I was pleased with the start. We weren’t giving Arsenal a moments rest, getting stuck in and not giving them a lot of time on the ball. We were sitting deep and it was working. We were more than holding our own.

A few minutes later and Walcott went down with a calf strain, Arsenal’s problems were mounting. He later returned to the field but was subsequently replaced by the youngster Ismael Bennacer making a debut he probably didn’t expect.

Welcome to the big time Ismael. Not even 20 minutes on the clock and Arsenal had already made 2 subs.

It was great from our part of view – I thought it could help us push on and get a goal.

Just like Newcastle in the last round, we were so organised in all areas and looked difficult to break down.

We were on the front foot, making Arsenal look very ordinary at times.

26 gone and there was a lovely move involving Bannan and Pudil with the latter’s cut-back finding Wallace who smashed it into the bottom corner…

1-0 TO THE WEDNESDAY! GET IN THERE!

It was the sort of strike that could’ve hit row z. Wallace kept his calm and drilled it past Cech who had no chance.

WALLACE!

WALLACE!

I couldn’t believe it. We were beating Arsenal!

The atmosphere went up a notch. It was unbelievable.

If Hillsborough had a roof, it would’ve come off. It was bouncing.

Half an hour gone and Hutch got booked – again. He was lucky not to see red and it’s not for the first time. So well done to those who had 30 minutes on your bingo card.

That’s 9 bookings in 13 outings this season and 1 away from triggering a two-match ban. It’s a worry but aggression is part of his game, we can’t take that away from him.

The goal scorer battles with Per Mertesacker

The goal scorer battles with Per Mertesacker

A few minutes later, we got a free kick with João being taken out. Wallace took it and it curled just wide. So close!

Soon after, Arsenal had their first attack of the match when the young Iwobi shot into the side netting. It took them 37 minutes to have a shot on our goal.

We were soaking up the pressure and always looked dangerous on the counter attack.

Helan went on an amazing run and forced Cech into a smart save.

From the resulting corner, Bannan took it short to Wallace who delivered a fantastic ball into the box with João rising the highest to head home. Cech rooted to the spot.

2-0!!! SOMEONE PINCH ME!!!

Pandemonium.

I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. Arsenal were stunned.

Lucas João leads the celebrations

Lucas João leads the celebrations

Hillsborough was rocking. The decibels were rising.

This was a special moment for all Wednesdayites. We were on the brink of a famous victory!

We saw out the rest of the first half professionally which included 4 minutes of added time.

HALF TIME: WEDNESDAY 2-0 ARSENAL

Well well well. I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted this after 45 minutes. I most certainly didn’t.

It was a fantastic first half from Wednesday and a deserved 2-0 lead. We were playing the match, not the occasion. Arsenal weren’t able to cope with our play; there was no attacking outlet in the final third. They didn’t create one single chance.

We could ill-afford to sit back. The next goal would be crucial. 2-0 is a dangerous scoreline and I was nervous that Arsenal might nick a goal and then it might make us panic.

The players were back out. No changes made by either side and we were off.

SECOND HALF

We started the second half in the same way we ended the first, confident on the ball with a purpose going forward.

Bannan gained possession and tried his luck from 40 yards, only to shoot over. Given Bannan’s track record with finishing, it wasn’t a surprise. He’ll get a goal eventually, I’m sure of it.

Not long after that, Kieran Lee won a free kick in a dangerous position.

Bannan whipped it in to the far post, Lees put it back across goal and Hutch scrambled it in.

3 EFF-ING 0!!!

Was this actually happening?

Sam bundles home a third

Sam bundles home a third

Arsenal switched off once again – shocking defending. A fantastic well worked goal from our point of view but this was embarrassing. The senior pros were letting them down but I’m not taking anything away from us, we were playing superbly.

And to think Carlos only rated our chances of causing an upset at 10%. Did he not mean 110%?!

It was almost 4-0 shortly after with João heading wide from a Bannan cross.

An hour gone and Arsenal made their final sub, another youngster making his debut Kristian Bielik on in place of Kamara.

The tinkerman does it again

The tinkerman does it again

Credit must be given to the Arsenal fans singing “We love you Arsenal” for a lengthy spell. Fair play to them after watching what was being served up.

With 20 minutes left, Wildsmith had to be alert to deny Mertesacker after the big German rose above Jack Hunt at the back post as Arsenal briefly threatened to reduce the deficit.

It was his first real save of the night.

Bannan came off with 15 to go, getting a standing ovation from the crowd and he deserved it. What a shift he put in. He covered every blade of grass. Jose Semedo came on in his place.

I think Mr. Chansiri needs to sit down with Bannan as soon as possible and get that one year deal extended before anyone else has a chance to get him.

Hutch then went down injured which was a shame. He ran his socks off and gives his all to the team – an absolute workhorse. Lewis McGugan was the replacement.

The key to Wednesday's success?

The key to Wednesday’s success?

Arguably, the biggest applause of the evening came when João went off with Nuhiu coming on for the last few minutes. I’ve mentioned it before that João has the potential; we need to nurture him in the correct way. He’s getting better with every performance.

On Atdhe, he’s further down the pecking order now with the arrival of Hooper and it’s hard to see him get a starting shirt.

Joel Campbell volleyed wide in the dying minutes to sum up Arsenal’s frustration.

There was a carnival atmosphere inside the ground as the clock ticked away.

And that was that. An unbelievable night.

FULL TIME: WEDNESDAY 3-0 ARSENAL

I’m speechless. One of the best nights at Hillsborough in a long time. A classic “I was there” moment.

This has got to be the best and most stand out result in my lifetime. It beats our promotion winning games against Wycombe, Hartlepool and the 6-0 demolition of Leeds.

To pick a man of the match would be an injustice to the rest of the team. Every single player was up for it, all knowing their jobs and all executing their roles superbly. They cared and that affected the performance which got the crowd going – a terrific atmosphere.

Last season, Tottenham Hotspur came to town to take on United in the semi-finals and Bramall Lane was in full voice following a brave performance by the Blades. This time, it was our turn to pick up the mantel and show the passion the city of Sheffield still has for the game it founded.

Make no mistake: this was no smash and grab. We were brilliant on the night, getting to every ball first as the supporters roared their approval. We outplayed, outfought and outbattled Arsenal from start to finish.

We played with purpose, physical strength and plenty of organisation. At the game, you can see Carlos prowling his technical area ordering the players into shape.

A happy Wednesday camp right now

A happy Wednesday camp right now

He knows what’s best. He’s so different to other managers with his explanations and his methods. He’s a gentleman and says it how it is.

We’ve all grown to like him as a person. I was sceptical at first – we were going into the unknown – and now I believe that we’re going places.

I’m chuffed – I couldn’t be happier. The football we’re playing is fantastic, what a complete transformation. I think we’ll have more euphoria in the coming months.

I desperately hope that nights like this will make people return to Hillsborough. Good things are happening at this great club that I’m proud to support.

I have to mention Joe Wildsmith again, he had another superb game. He looked so cool, confident and looked completely unfazed by the occasion. We have to remember that he’s only 19 years old. I’m really happy for him, we haven’t had many players coming through the ranks and playing for the first team.

All in all, it was a poor night for Arsenal.

Given that they were on a great run themselves, it remains to be seen if this will have any effect on their momentum. Looking at the stats, Arsenal had over 71% possession over the course of the match but didn’t do anything with it. Bielik did alright when he came on but apart from that, I’m struggling to find any positives.

No wonder he looks brassed off...

No wonder he looks brassed off…

The early substitutions of the Ox and Walcott were damaging – they didn’t recover from that and we took full advantage.

Another stat that I didn’t know about was that Arsene Wenger has never won at Hillsborough as a manager. It’s been a bogey ground for Arsenal in recent years.

Unbelievable to think that signing Gary Hooper was the second best thing that happened on Tuesday! What a time to be a Wednesdayite right now.

If we carry on producing performances of such a high standard, it might not be that long before we are playing teams like Arsenal at the highest level again.

In the quarter finals, we’re taking on Stoke City at the Britannia.

Can we do it on a cold Tuesday night at Stoke? Yes we can.

Bring it on.

I don’t fear anyone and the players certainly shouldn’t.

Now, it’s back to the bread and butter on Saturday.

Just because we won against Arsenal, it doesn’t mean we have the right to beat Forest and I hope if we don’t get three points, people don’t get on Carlos’ back. No team in the Championship are a pushover and even though Forest aren’t doing that well this season, they won’t just roll over and die.

And people call Jose Mourinho the special one? No. That accolade belongs to Carlos Carvalhal.

Up the Owls!

Liam Kelly
Owls Alive
E-MAIL: admin@owlsalive.com
TWITTER: @OwlsAlive or @LiamK2292


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