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.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
News
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace