All Guns Blazing: Forget Everton, Gooners must rally for Wigan showdown

A view of the pitch at Wembley Stadium.

A view of the pitch at Wembley Stadium. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Arsenal fan and football journalist Layth Yousif issues a call to arms ahead of Arsenal’s most important match of the season

Twitter went into meltdown about the same time our team did last Sunday at Goodison Park.

Yes, it was a poor performance against a vibrant, attacking display of tactical ingenuity which mixed subtlety with power. And yes, we are now looking over our shoulder when only last month we still dared to dream.

But now is not the time for recriminations. Now is the time to stand up and be counted as true Gooners. Now is the time to demonstrate what Arsenal fans have always traditionally shown – unmatched loyalty and devotion.

All that matters this week is the FA Cup semi-final against holders Wigan Athletic.

A Wembley trip is still to be savoured – despite the booming PA system that anaesthetises the senses, the overpriced food that makes you glad we have Piebury Corner, and the soul-sapping post-match queues.

For those of a certain vintage, FA Cup semi-finals evoke strong memories. I’ve attended enough of them to recall good and bad.

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Who can forget our 1993 FA Cup semi-final triumph, with Tony Adams running in behind the Spurs defence to avenge our painful 1991 loss to a pumped-up Gazza, in a defeat which still haunts me?

Or Chris Wreh’s goal versus Wolves at Villa Park on our way to a 1998 double? Or both semis at the same ground a year later against Manchester United, which triggered not only their late surge to the treble but revealed Ryan Giggs to be incredibly hirsute?

We should be in no doubt that Wigan will be a huge test. We need only to remember the underdogs that scar Arsenal’s proud FA Cup history, from defeat at Walsall in 1933 to losing at Wrexham in 1992.

I can’t recall being so miserable after a defeat as standing in that Racecourse Ground away end – although Paris ’95 and Nayim runs it close.

I interviewed journalist Patrick Barclay for The Gooner recently and he cautioned the team to beware of players like Nick Powell and Callum McManaman. I spoke with Sol Campbell last week who said it was all about respecting Wigan. We have been warned.

Our two trips so far to the ‘new’ Wembley leave a bitter taste. My friends and I plan to make a day of it this Saturday– as I’m sure you will be too. For all our sakes I hope it’s third time lucky.

It doesn’t bear thinking about otherwise, even for the most loyal fans in London.

Follow me @laythy29