Arsenal vs Lincoln City FA Cup Match Thoughts
Arsenal played very Arsenal-y and competently at the Emirates today, securing a 5–0 victory over non-league Lincoln City and papering over the cracks in the club’s foundation for the next few days. Midfield “Jack of all Cards” Granit Xhaka picked up a stupid yellow for a terrible, late challenge. Theo Walcott forced the best save of the first half from Lincoln keeper Paul Farman and opened the scoring in stoppage time, showing off his cool finishing when under minimal pressure. Alexis Sanchez orchestrated several brilliant moves for Arsenal and grabbed a fantastic fourth goal with a curling shot from just outside the penalty area. The win set up Arsenal for a memorable and humiliating cup defeat to Chelsea. All that remains to be seen is if that will be in the semi or the final. Either way it will be at WEMBLEY because the FA is still trying to convince people that holding semifinals at neutral grounds is a good idea.
As I am want to do, I almost forgot to wake up for this game. Lying in bed last night texting people and pondering the futility of existence, I somehow had the presence of mind to set a 9am alarm to wake up for some West Coast Futbol. I rolled out of bed at 9:10, brewed a tiny cup of coffee, threw it in a mason jar, and drove over to 442 Soccer Bar. I first went to 442 for the Sutton match a month ago and was charmed by the unpretentious setup, and the clear passion of both the staff and patrons.
442 is run by a delightful Bosnian man named Mohammed who converted his former grocery store, Taste of Europe, into the bar. Mo used to play for the Croatian football club Rijeka in the 60s or 70s? I haven’t got the full story yet. He also calls all women “nice lady” and local brewer Lompoc brews up the Nice Lady Pale Ale in his honor. While Mo certainly has an old world style of gender relations (see the bar’s one-star Yelp reviews), many people seem to find it charming. Coming from the Bay Area, I find Oregon in general to be a little old school in that respect. When I was there watching the Sutton match I did entirely too much talking about how I was Serbian, which clearly rankled him, yet he still gave me a free glass of slivovitz after I spotted a bottle on the bar. I’m never going to lose the Serbian pride, but I fully respect why a Bosnian expat wouldn’t be that thrilled to chat with me about it. I spent that day drinking pints of Nice Lady with a couple 50-something Portland professionals who were huge soccer fanatics and chatting with Mo.
I arrived this morning about ten minutes into the game. There were about a dozen other Arsenal fans inside already which created a nice, casual atmosphere for a 9:30am kickoff. The interior of the bar is adorned with all manner of football scarves, flags, and jerseys, including a huge number of jerseys of Bosnian players. Bosnians excepted, they don’t play favorites at 442. There’s a huge Celtic flag hanging right next to a Rangers flag. Soccer in America is inclusive!
I ordered a lepinja and a side of ajvar for my breakfast, and settled in. The first half was a complete nightmare for a fan, as Arsenal lacked tempo and Lincoln crafted one or two half-chances. Thankfully, Lincoln forward Matt Rhead spent most of the half flat on his ass while I screamed “stay down, fat man!” at the television, giving Theo Walcott the opportunity to break the deadlock in the 46th minute. A guy who came in and sat at the table with me in the middle of the first half noted he had been an Arsenal fan since 1994, which I took as an invitation to yell my Arsenalpinions at him while he checked social media on his phone most of the game. He said he was rooting for the upset to further heap the pressure on Arsene Wenger to leave the club. I told him I hoped Arsenal scored at least five and that I guarantee Wenger will sign another two-year deal soon enough. I don’t think that’s the best move for the club long term, but I don’t really care either. I understand both sides.
I ordered a Nice Lady for the second half and enjoyed my dreams coming true with a four-goal performance. The two Arsenal fans at the bar in kits and scarves did the “WE’VE WON IT TWELVE TIMES” and “WE’RE GOING TO WEMBLEY” chants, which were good for a laugh. I suggested to the guy sitting at the table with me that the main goal for the summer was making sure we sell Alexis to PSG instead of Manchester City. We also had a great time making fun of Aaron Ramsey all game, or as he called him, “Chicken with his head cut off Ramsey.” Arsenal weren’t particularly impressive in the second half, but Lincoln were awful and got deservedly smashed. When it comes to my team there is no magic in the underdog story or a close, thrilling game. All I want are blowouts, Blowouts, BLOWOUTS, BABY! Lincoln are clearly a quality side for their level and best of luck to them, though.
On my way out I stopped to say hi to Mo, who was chatting up a cute female Arsenal fan with jet black hair. I told him that eating his lepinja the first time I was here inspired me to make it twice myself, with fantastic results. The bartender joked that I should watch out or Mo would offer me a job. As I am currently unemployed, I seriously considered pressing that point to see if he needed a baker with zero professional experience. Mo asked if I was coming back for the game tonight and told me I must be a Blazers fan now because of the BOSNIAN BEAST! I actually do love Nurkic and thought it was a fantastic trade from the get go. I’m happy for Nurkic and for Portland that he’s doing really well here. I also told Mo that I hoped it would be good for business. Lots of new people must be coming in to try cevapi, right? He said he already shot a local news spot with Nurkic yesterday! I can’t find it online yet, but that is must-see TV for me. As I post this I’m considering taking him up on his offer to come back. It seems like a solid night to get drunk.