I have found it pretty amazing how I have managed to keep an emotional lid on today's FA cup final, well until yesterday that is. I have been so busy with everything else in non football life that I had taken a 'put final in jar until the day' approach. Well my friends, the nerves are well and truly here now, that unique blend of excitement and terror. Exciterror or Territment, actually none of those because they sound utterly ridiculous.
I would like to thank Arsenal for being so classy and considerate by the way, I'll tell you why. My son who is 8 next week has been getting more and more into Arsenal and football in general. I need to get him to put as much focus into his school work as he does about our squad, positions and shirt numbers.
I, as I am sure you can relate to, was quite the nervous wreck leading up to the match against Hull City last season as so much was riding on the game. The trophy drought, Birmingham City, being favourites on top of everything else meant that I was the complete opposite to how I have been feeling going into the Villa final.
My constant and probably quite random outbursts of 'we really cannot lose this game' did not go unheard. On cup final day I along with a few Gooner friends went to watch the game at another friend of ours where we consumed plenty of beverages and food, pre match it was all going so well and the spirits were high until we of course went 2-0 down, nearly 3 but for a Gibbs clearance off the line.
It was that point where I received a phone call from Mrs Lean telling me to try and refrain from passing on my football stresses to Lean junior in future. He had moved into the kitchen to get away from his younger sister who was winding him up and obviously didn't understand the seriousness of the situation. By gee it was serious. Sitting on his own upset at what he had seen on TV. 'This is a match Arsenal have to win' he told his mother desperately trying to fight back the tears.
So not only do I have to deal with the fact that we are losing 2-0 but now I am feeling guilty that my son is upset and I am not there to comfort him. Luckily he had returned in time for Cazorla's bending free kick to pull one back and you know how the rest of the game turned out.
At full time the joy at winning the cup was huge but it wasn't quite complete as I wasn't with my boy to celebrate the ups and downs of the game we love so much. I remember telling my friends that the next time we are in a cup final, I shall make sure I am watching with him.
So thank you Arsenal for being considerate enough to immediately get back into a cup final on my behalf. Remarkably kind of you.
This year Mean Lean JR's football obsession has taken another step forward. I am a football obsessive, more than anyone I know, yet I find myself having to try and change the topic when it comes to my son because he doesn't stop banging on about football.
I was hunting around for cup final tickets, needless to say with no luck so I enquired on Twitter about what the Emirates screening was like. The response I got back was all very positive and very much recommended so I grabbed us a couple of tickets for that. Needless to say he is very excited about it, I just hope we can have the same outcome as last year if not the same journey.. please!
So onto the game, how are you feeling about it? Obviously I am bricking it as I am sure 95% of you guys are. It doesn't matter who the opposition is your mind tends to jump to their strengths and nothing else. I was very impressed with them against Liverpool in the last round, they played the football and showed great courage that day so it makes you wonder if they will approach the game today in the same way. Initially I thought that might suit us and allow us the space in behind but I remembered just how we struggle with teams disrupting our game.
The guessing doesn't stop there though, we need to work out who will play for us and that will determine how we ourselves approach the game. Theo Walcott bagged a hat trick in the last game, can you really leave out someone who made a big impact from the bench to then follow up with a hat trick? I'm not sure you can, especially if Aston Villa do try and be brave and play high up the pitch but Wenger's recent comments were very interesting. For those who haven't heard them yet, he was basically talking up the substitutes and the importance of them when the time is right.
When you start with Theo Walcott as your striker, you don't have much scope for upping the gears if need be. Plus I am not sure if Oliver Giroud is an impact player from the bench. Yes he has scored a few goals from the bench in the past but when opposition legs are tiring, who do you think would make a bigger impact, Theo or Giroud?
"Look!" as Arsène would say, I haven't the foggiest. I've been flip flopping all over the place with this one. Genuinely I don't know which way the manager will go or in fact how I'd prefer he go (MLKB = Mean Lean knows best)
Ok, I've decided. I reckon Arsène will play the long game and start with Giroud for the reasons outlined above but not only that, if you leave Giroud out of the side then Villa become even stronger from set pieces, especially with the dinosaur looking Benteke. Let's hope our centre backs don't think the safest way to avoid a dinosaur is to stand still.
As well as Wilshere has looked of late, he will almost certainly be on the bench and will be needed late on if the game is stretched.
Dennis knows what he will do in between the sticks, Arsène probably knows as well to be fair. I thought Ospina would start as he started the last league game but the reliable Twitter tells me that Szczesny will start, given that I always believe Twitter then I'm going with that.
So I think we will look like this..
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
When Arsène says the bench is important, he could well mean that Walcott and Wilshere could get some joy in the second half or extra time should it become needed.
Usually when we come up against a striker regardless of how fast or skilful he is, I'm always confident he will fit snuggly into Koscielny's pocket and that has often been the case whether that be Suarez or Agüero etc but when the striker is a hulking dinosour then it's a little different isn't it? Benteke doesn't actually fit into Koscielny's pocket.
We need to prevent Benteke from attacking crosses, I don't know how you do that I am just putting that out there. This is why I am a blogger and not a manager but yeah can we stop him from jumping above Monreal and Bellerin to head into the goal please?
I know I am living in a dream world and stuff but for once in our lives, can we win this but win it the easy way? You know like our league results against them this season. That would be nice. 3-0 away and 5-0 at home but you just know it will be nothing like that. At all!
I keep thinking back to the Reading game and the amazing amounts of energy they had to stop us playing. Aston Villa will be nothing like the team that lost in their last two league games, they have been saving everything up for this one so we are going to have to match them. And take our chances when they come.
Right, got to go, had so much else to say but time has run out for me. Enjoy the game if you can, hopefully we can all enjoy the celebrations post match should we do the business. Fingers crossed that happens.
Not sure what the deal is with the post match Q&A but the Podcast is likely to be up either this evening or tomorrow.
UP THE ARSENAL!