The Calvin Report: Bayern Munich next in Arsenal's defining season

Forthcoming matches will reveal if the Gunners have enough nerve and will

Birds are building their nests, spring bulbs are beginning to emerge and Arsenal still have a chance of winning a trophy. This is either an unintended consequence of global warming or a sign that football's law of probability is finally being fulfilled.

The FA Cup, the competition which last offered Arsène Wenger tangible reward for his philosophical approach to exaggerated expectation, is suddenly and tantalisingly within reach. A Wembley place is assured and, for the moment, revisionists and doubters are silent.

Mesut Özil was reinvented as a £42million player in unaccustomed sunshine. He scored the first goal, supplied the decisive pass for the fourth and gave a masterclass of instinctive, technically adept creative play. As so often occurs in such situations, the Emirates was seized by collective amnesia.

The home fans, or consumers as they will increasingly be known in an era of £1,000 season tickets, even gave their small, friendly German an ovation for chasing back to deny Kevin Mirallas towards the end of an even, but compelling first half.

They didn't care whether his freshness stemmed from a break at a feng shui course in Frankfurt or a caravan holiday in Clacton. He was playing with the authority and application they expect from a marquee signing.

Wenger, too, was delighted. "What I liked was that physically he looked regenerated. There was more power in his runs and he did a lot of dirty work for a player like him. He tracked back. When he behaves like that we have a better chance to win games."

Not even the Premier League's artful arrangement of the fixture schedule, which could almost have been designed to minimise the impact of the old trophy, could disguise the significance of the occasion.

Wenger's admission that a trophy is "vital" was revealing for both its clarity and timing. He knows retention of a Champions' League place is no longer enough. Jose Mourinho's jibe that he is "a specialist in failure" has, not for the first time, re-set the agenda.

A season still swings on its axis. Wenger was buoyed by the quality of yesterday's performance, but only the most implacable of optimists can foresee Arsenal overcoming their first-leg deficit against Bayern Munich in Germany on Tuesday. Forthcoming Premier League matches against Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City will reveal whether they have sufficient reserves of nerve and will.

Yet doubts sewn by familiar fallibility under fire at Stoke were eased by Arsenal's resilience in midfield, where Ross Barkley and James McCarthy offered a glimpse of Everton's potential under Roberto Martinez.

Özil was complemented perfectly by Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Since everything, for the rest of the season, will be placed into the context of the World Cup, the performances of Chamberlain and Barkley augured well for Roy Hodgson.

It may be fashionable to belittle the FA Cup, but the urgency with which both teams attacked the tie was revealing. This mattered, alright. Defeat was indigestible. The haste with which the 5,000 Everton fans melted towards the exits signalled the beginning of the end of their season.

Denied an extra 4,000 spaces, when seats were unforgivably empty, they were given hope by an equalising goal which owed everything to a superb run and delicately curled cross by Barkley, who may just find himself on the shopping list of his former manager David Moyes.

The scoreline flattered Arsenal, though Olivier Giroud, whom Wenger continues to insist is not on the naughty step, made a coherent case for being allowed to start against Bayern.

The renegotiation of the manager's contract, which expires in less than three months, threatens to run longer than The Mousetrap but tension will be eased by the prospect of two visits to Wembley.

He is not the type to require perspective, but it came anyway in the form of his erstwhile assistant Pat Rice who, in a moving half-time interview on the pitch, thanked the club and supporters for their support in his battle against cancer.

"I saw him before the match," said Wenger. "It looks like he is recovering well." Football may have its maddening moments, but it must never be mistaken for a matter of life and death.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project