Arsenal-Manchester City: FA Cup Semi-final. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Season-Saver on the Line at Wembley

For Both Wenger and Guardiola?

A Chance for Redemption and a Place in the Cup Final for Two of England’s Biggest Clubs and Their Managers.

This year’s FA Cup is different.  At the semi-final stage there are no minnows nor Cinderella stories.  The top two Premier League teams, Chelsea and Spurs, with just 4 points separating them in the table, played their derby today.  It was an end to end affair with Chelsea now looking very good for a domestic double after their 4-2 win.

Arsenal and ManCity will battle tomorrow for the chance to play Chelsea in the final, but, in truth, it’s a match that will also have a bearing on the league run-in.  The winner should get a huge confidence lift ahead of their remaining league games.  City are in the better position there, sitting in 4th place some 7 points ahead of the Gunners (although we have a game in hand).  It’s not determinative, of course, but football is not played in a vacuum, and both teams have tough matches yet to play.

Unfortunately, in the modern era of huge money in English football, The FA Cup is not quite the prize it once was.  Just ask Louis van Gaal, the former Manchester United manager, who, last season, lifted the trophy as he was simultaneously being replaced by that most mercenary of managers, Jose Mourinho.  The cup was not enough and Van Gaal was adjudged a failure for failing to bring Champions League football back to Old Trafford with a top 4 finish.

Pep Guardiola, in his first year on the other side of Manchester, has echoed Arsene Wenger’s sentiment that finishing in the top 4 is the more important prize.  Still, if you make the trip to the national stadium, why not go for the trophy that you can actually hold in your hands and lift above your head?  Getting this far leads to some fixture congestion for the run-in, but there will be only one extra match–the final–and it will come after the European places have been settled.  In disappointing seasons for both men, playing in that extra match will be an opportunity to put some gloss on their campaigns and take another stab at Chelsea who very well may have already lifted the league prize.

Guardiola’s team must be seen as favorites coming into the match.  After a mid-season dip that saw their title challenge fade–and witnessed a desultory exit from the CL to AS Monaco–they have found better form in recent weeks, punctuated by last weekend’s 3-nil victory at Southampton.  That match saw the return of Captain Vincent Kompany in central defense and his set-piece goal–not to mention the clean sheet–reminded Blue-Mooners just how much he’s been missed.  That part of City’s team has been the weak link.  35 league goals against (compared to Chelsea’s 27 and Spurs’ 22) probably tells the tale of how Pep’s first attempt to conquer English football fell by the wayside.

Of course, Arsenal’s 40 goals shipped in league play tells an even sadder tale and helps explain why we’re on the outside (of the top 4 places) and looking in.  It might also explain Wenger’s decision, a week ago at Middlesbrough, to make a major tactical shift by playing three at the back.  Even though it was against the lowest scoring of all PL teams, it did not yield a clean-sheet nor a particularly convincing performance.  Luckily, Arsenal showed that small bit of extra quality in front of goal and were able to eke out a 2-1 win at the Riverside to finally take some road points after four consecutive away defeats.

The unveiling of the tactical change–especially against such a poor attacking opponent–must have been a rehearsal for the more difficult tasks ahead, and, hopefully, with an extra week to practice it, the 3-4-3 will perform a bit better this weekend as well as in matches to come.  As such, I think we’ll see it again along with an unchanged first 11.





Substitutes: Martinez, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Elneny, Iwobi, Walcott

Or maybe not.  It’s possible that Wenger was merely trying out some new ideas while giving rests to some of his players ahead of the congested run-in schedule.  He could rotate again–and revert to his more familiar 4-2-3-1 formation–for the semi-final.  Let’s remember that this one could go to extra time (and penalties) if there’s an even scoreline after 90 minutes.  Then, on Wednesday night, we host defending league champions (and recently revived) Leicester City before traveling up the Seven Sisters Road for a North London derby at White Hart Lane next Sunday.  Arsenal’s squad depth seems strong and this could be the time of the season when it needs to be fully deployed.

Wenger might also keep the three central defenders but opt for some subtle tweaks given that City present a rather different challenge than Boro did.  Starting Hector Bellerin (and his new hair-do) as a wing-back (in place of the Ox) might help slow down Leroy Sane who has scored against us in both league matches this season.  Likewise, at the other wing-back position, the pace of Kieran Gibbs could be favored over Nacho Monreal’s attributes.  Playing Francis Coquelin or Mohamed Elneny in central midfield (in place of Aaron Ramsey and/or Granit Xhaka) might aid our defensive solidity or help maintain possession against a team that should be far more capable of keeping the ball themselves.  On the other hand, if we are planning to cede the bulk of possession to City, using Theo Walcott as a front man might be preferred to the slower (but bigger) presence of Olivier Giroud.  A final idea might be to get back to a recipe for success from the first half of the season and try Alexis at center forward and reinstate Alex Iwobi as his support on the left.  I’ll stand behind my prediction for an unchanged first 11 (and the Boro match being a rehearsal for this one) but, as always what (t** f***) do I know?  Who do you think Wenger will play and how would you approach this one if you could replace the man himself?

Replacing Wenger… Hmmm…

That subject–and the troubles surrounding our club that it represents–will hopefully be put to one side.  Supporters who opt to travel across town to the National Stadium might choose to put the banners down and support the team to their fullest.  Maybe a few might even opt to wear a yellow ribbon in their hair.  It’s not the merry month of May but it sure would be sweet to win ourselves a return visit at that time.

Go on then…

by 17highburyterrace

80 thoughts on “Arsenal-Manchester City: FA Cup Semi-final. Match Preview, Predicted Line-up. Season-Saver on the Line at Wembley

  • Brilliant preview Seventeenho that got me all fired up. Muchos Gracias. Question is whether your prediction of the same eleven and formation is correct… and I have my doubts, but, like you, wtfdik?! No doubt it is going to be a tactical battle and let’s see who will come out best, and especially the second half changes are likely to make the difference. For me it is a must start for Elneny, the calm passer with great physical and athletic presence. Next to Elneny, I would play Xhaka and on the wings I would go for solid ball passers and receivers, like Rambo, Iwobi and Welbeck, with Ozil and Alexis in more advanced positions. Against Citeh, we have to play compact and play with concentration, so the mental preparation is key. I have a good feeling about this one for some bizarre reason.

  • Leroy Mane is some hybrid between Leroy Sane and Sadio Mane, I guess? 😛

    Using the fastest players up front should be a recipe for a victory over Man City. Leicester City have had one of rare bright moments under Ranieri this season when Vardy scored a hat-trick in a 4:2 victory. In that story, Giroud has no place in the starting line-up.

    Theo has scored in both league matches against City this season but they have Sane who has done the same for City. With our defence being in an experimental phase and quite a few times tested by arguably the worst attack in the league, I doubt that Wenger will keep going with three at back. It’s more likely he’ll switch back to 4 in the defence with Kos and Gabster as our central defenders, Bellerin’s hair-cut and Kieran’s right foot on the full-back positions. Our central midfield is likely to keep the same personnel again – Xhaka and Rambo with Mesut on No.10 with a possibility that we go with Mesut either on the bench (because we won’t have the ball for most of the time) or on either wing. In that case, either Chambermaid or Elnanny would babysit Xhaka and Rambo in the middle. Alexis in the attack.


    Bellerin’s Haircut Kos Gabster Gibbs’ Right Foot

    Xhaka Rambo Elnanny/Chambermaid

    Theo Alexis Ozil



    Bells Lolo Beautiful Gabrielle Nacho

    Xhaka Rambo


    Theo Alexis Ox

  • Sorry Admir about confusing the names… On the other hand, I don’t think you can call it a hair-cut. If anything, Hector has added some stuff up there… Otherwise, I like what you’re saying about speed up front. To me, it’s all about movement and interchanging to keep the pitch spread. IMO, Alexis remains too static keeping the others plowing very predictable furrows. Put him at the #9 and he’ll initiate more movement, I think, but do you really want to build everything around a guy who is playing his final 7 or 8 matches in the shirt?

    Anyhow, that’s for the manager to worry about. I hope you’re right about your feeling on this one TA… My guess is that–no matter what the manager does–he’ll get it wrong. We shall see, however, and that’s why they play the games…

  • Glad you enjoyed the links 17tino, I try to pick out the most intelligent and relevant, but you’ll have to trust me on that. 😉

    As for your line-up, it seems, on the face of it, the obvious choice, but City will provide more technical and different tactical problems to the industrial approach of Boro and will our C/M’s be up to providing the shield our C/B’s need, be there 3 or 2 at the back?
    Previous experience doesn’t fill me with too much confidence on that particular facet of our team I’m afraid. And the prospect of all those runners in sky blue flooding through our midfield fills me with dread.

    The good news for me is that I will be there, expecting disappointment but hoping for joy.
    If I can I’ll email any pics I think might be interesting to TA…

    The last time I went to Wembley with such low expectations was 1987 and I’ll certainly settle for a similar result.
    Retsub, was you there in 1987, what a day it was mate?

  • HT,
    A professional preview that considered all angles. I guess it’s a subtle reflection of our present state of feeling unsure about things.

    The right tactics against Manc can only be arrived at after factoring in their style that imposes itself on teams. They are a quick passing team so our emphases should be a MF with more passive defenders which rules Coq out and places Ox on the balance. Xhaka, Ramsey and Eln appear the best trio being also good passers of the ball for beating the City high press.

    However, to balance our reactive with the proactive part of our strategy, Elneny should be replaced by Ox who has a far superior proactive ability.

    Because of injuries Gabriel starts at CD but he should be instructed to feel free with first time clearances as he cannot handle intricate ball passing under pressure of City high press.

    My line up prediction in a 4:3:3 is :-


  • Cech
    Bel holding Koz Nacho
    Rambo Xhaka Elneny Welbeck/Iwobi
    —————– Ozil ——————

    Would be my eleven

  • Great preview HT. A nervous day ahead for me today. Like TA I’ve got some hopes (without any clear foundations for them), but its been a season with so many disappointments.

    The back line question is a conundrum. Listening to yesterday’s game with all the set pieces the spuds had and their aerial strength, playing them feels a time for a back 3 and Giroud, or else we will be hammered through set piece goals. Citeh though are another matter. They don’t defend but they attack at pace. I’m not sure I feel ready for us to revert to our back 4 (less Mustafi) with any confidence. And if we did I’d be minded to give Holding the nod ahead of Gabby. The back 3, with a strong (mobile and pacy) midfield seems a better option, with out and out pace up front.

    Was Theo dropped last time out or rested? I don’t fancy him as our RW with a back 3 – he wont give any sort of cover. And cover will be needed against Citeh. But we could give him another run out up front in place of Giroud? At least part of a fluid front 3 with Ozil and Sanchez. The pace there and the prospect of some space given Citeh’s style of play could be our best chance.

    I’m not sure is see Elneny given the run out that you do TA. Is he ahead of Rambo or his cover, in the manager’s mind? I suspect the latter. But he would give us more protection in the mid-field I agree. But our challenge all season has been to work out how to reconnect our defence with the attack, without Santi. Neither Xhaka nor Rambo provide a direct replacement. But both have more forward moving, linking inclinations, and this I guess is what Wenger is trying to harness.

    As with others WTFDIK. Fingers crossed and not long to wait.

  • Team news

    Manchester City: Bravo; Navas, Kompany, Otamendi, Clichy; Fernandinho, Toure; De Bruyne, Silva, Sane; Aguero. Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Fernando, Kolarov, Delph, Sterling, Iheanacho.

    Arsenal: Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Holding; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, Xhaka, Monreal; Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud. Subs: Martinez, Bellerin, Gibbs, Coquelin, Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck.

    Referee: Craig Pawson.

  • Nice preview 17. There is a lot to like about the attacking diversity a 5-2-3/3-4-3 setup offers (i.e. crosses from the wing backs to a target man CF and angled dribbles and long range shots from the inverted wingers) without compromising the defensive structure of the team.

    That said, a 5-2-3/3-4-3 setup, with Arsenal’s current midfield cohort, still fails to address the central midfield transitional and defensive issues that have plagued Arsenal’s season.

    A comparison between Chelsea’s central midfield duo of Kante and Matic and Arsenal’s most frequently selected central midfield pairing of Coquelin and Xhaka, highlights Arsenal’s central midfield failings:

    – Kante (3.5 tackles and 2.4 interceptions per game) has this season outperformed Coquelin (2.9 tackles and 2 interceptions per game) in terms of defensive production but not by as much as many would lead you to believe. In terms of their comparative offensive contributions, while their per game forward dribbles are not too dissimilar (1.1 v 0.7 in favour of Kante), the big difference is in their respective transitional passing, with Kante averaging 4 accurate long passes per game and Coquelin only averaging 1.1. The problem for Arsenal is the alternatives to Coquelin, Ramsey (1.2), Elneny (1.5) and Ox (1.4) have not proved their worth as effective transitional passers of the ball either and their respective defensive contributions are well below that of Coquelin.

    – In terms of Xhaka’s performances this season in contrast to Matic, Xhaka is the clear winner defensively, with 2.6 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game in contrast to Matic who is averaging 1.6 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game. Offensively, Xhaka is again the clear winner with a per game average of 5.4 accurate long passes and 0.7 forward dribbles in contrast to Matic’s still respectable 4.2 accurate long passes and 0.6 forward dribbles per game.

    The above comparisons clearly highlight why Wenger has been unable to find an appropriate combination to fill the 2 CDM positions (be it in a 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3 setup or a 5-2-3/3-4-3 setup). Put simply, Coquelin, Ramsey, Elneny and Ox have failed to demonstrate that they have the long range transitional passing skills to perform effectively in that role and all bar Coquelin have similarly failed to demonstrate that they can deliver the required defensive performances.

    It’s for that reason I think Arsenal are better off playing with three CDMs at least until the club can recruit one or two CDMs with that necessary skills combination.

    On that basis and with Perez still out injured, the starting line up I would like to see versus Man City is:

    GK: Cech
    RB: Debuchy
    CB: Mustafi
    CB: Koscielny
    LB: Monreal
    LCDM: Xhaka
    CDM: Coquelin
    RCDM: Ox
    RW: Alexis
    CF: Giroud
    LW: Ozil

    Like usual, in that setup I’m envisaging:

    1. Alexis and Ozil staying wide and forward along side Giroud in the CF role and trying to deliver accurate early crosses for Giroud to attack.

    2. The back seven (i.e. the back four and 3 CDMs) predominantly sitting deep, focusing on maintaining their defensive structure and shape, staying compact, tackling and intercepting.

    3. The Ox and Xhaka being Arsenal’s primary outlets to transition the ball from defence to attack and doing so predominantly by executing long range passes into the channels for Alexis and Ozil respectively.

    4. If and when Arsenal are able to monopolise possession in the opposition’s half I’d like the see purposeful build up play with the primary aim of creating opportunities for Monreal and Ozil on the left and Sanchez and Debuchy on the right to deliver accurate crosses for Giroud to attack. Failing that I’d like to see Arsenal focus on creating long range shooting opportunities for Xhaka and Ox.

    Just to clarify in case there is any confusion, I in no way expect Wenger to select the above team. That is simply the team I would like to see play, based upon my own research on player performances, the successful tactic employed by numerous recent Premier League champions and how i think those tactics could be adapted to best suit the strengths and weaknesses of the players which comprise Arsenal’s current squad.

    Hopeful rather than expectant of Arsenal getting a result in this one.

  • Thanks for the comments, fellas…

    Half-way through the first half and David Silva has to come out after a challenge from Gabriel… City are hogging the possession but we’ve had a couple of decent moves forward ourselves… Overall, we’re massing a lot of bodies behind and clearly thinking about defending first…

    Alexis, not playing well early, goes in the book for a very tackle down at our end….

  • Let off for Arsenal as Sane’s cross is called for going over and behind the top of our goal… Replay suggests it probably never quite went out and that the ball in our net should’ve been a goal…

  • Half time comes with a City FK headed away by Alexis…

    It’s been a cagey game thus far and our best way forward seems to be via set pieces. Kos actually had a ball in their net but it was flagged off. Lots of whistles in this one (but none in the penalty box…) so not much flow to the match. Almost all the decent ball movement there has been has been from the blue team, though we’ve had a couple of moves that got it forward. Overall, both teams seem determined to keep their shape and prioritize defending…

    Anybody around? Any other thoughts?…

  • Great comments, especially from Debuchy’s best friend. AB is as always bang on the money.

    We are showing them too much respect and Giroud is way too isolated. Mesut or Alexis need to play closer to him and the wing backs need to push higher to make this formation work. Some fine attacking work by Ox and Nacho is working hard too.

  • Hey TA… Glad to know I’m not totally (get it?…) on my own here…

    Agreed about the forward(s) being too isolated… Not as sure about the too much respect element. We look fairly comfortable defending which I like…

    2nd half looks a bit more attacking thus far and we’ve won a couple of corners and a FK and Claudio Bravo almost did his thing to gift us one…

  • City goal on the counter… Bad all around…Ramsey with the giveaway deep, Nacho wrong side of El Kun and Cech in no man’s land backed off the slightly heavy 2nd to last touch…

  • Ozil shoots wide and now we have to come out at them… Very regrettable that we got burnt by (maybe) committing too many players forward..

  • Fernandinho goes in the book for a cynical tackle on Xhaka…

    We’re pushing a bit and get another corner…comes to nothing, of course, but at least we look like we’re trying… City playing even more on the break could be trouble…

  • NACHO!!!! Levels it with the angled one timer on the cross from the Ox…

    1-1 Game on….

  • The goal was with his chocolate (right) foot as well…

    City getting more of the ball now but we seem up for it…

    Ooh… Cech gets a finger and puts Yaya’s blast onto the post… Very close there…

  • Nice break there and Rambo’s lifted ball finds Ozil… But he wants it on his left foot and the chance is lost…

    Agreed about Giroud….

    Gabby has to make a fine sliding tackle… And the frame of the goal saves us again! Fernandinho from the corner kick….

    Giroud off, DW on…

  • Whoa, good chance there but Ozil’s pass is under the feet of DW…

  • DW on his own, beats the defender but the high angled shot curls past the far post… Getting quite end to end now… Yaya’s dive goes unrewarded…

  • Extra time… Gotta pull an espresso for my wife who just woke up…

  • And somehow we’re still in it.. On to extra time then.

    Pretty incredible how wasteful Ozil has been today. He’s working hard and trying to make things happen but the final ball has been seriously lacking.

  • Hey Frozen… Long time…

    All City here in the early part of ET…

  • Ox goes by Sane easily and his early cross almost finds Rambo’s head…

    Better there but DW after beating his man can’t wedge it in for a teammate… Corner headed over by a very open Holding…. Argh…

  • Double switch from City… El Kun and Fernandinho out, Fernando and Delph in… 4-6-0 for City now?…

  • DW wins a FK near the corner and ALeXIS puts it home (after DW whiffed it…)

    2-1 Arsenal….

  • A bit of pushing and shoving and Delph seems to be the initiator…Gets yellow… Before that, Holding did very well to put Sterling’s cross out for a corner….

    Here come’s the Bells and his new ‘do… Ox out…

  • 1st half of ET done… That was a great chance for DW on the lifted ball from Ozil…

  • Ox our MOTM by some distance. Think he just may have found his position..

    Let’s see this out now.

  • City use their 4th sub…Iheanacho for somebody…

    2nd half of ET on…

  • Oooh… Another scary break from City but Delph is just put off Bells and out for a corner… Which is headed behind for a goal kick… Living dangerously there…

  • DW can’t quite keep the ball down at their end and then DeBruyne shoots just wide from a tough angle…

    Kinda looked like a Pen there on Bellerin…Waved off, of course…

  • Nice break started by Bells but both Alexis and Ozil take turns falling down and it comes to naught…

  • Whoa, scorpion touch from Ozil to get another break going but he needs a right footed finish and gets caught in the box. Wants a pen he’s never gonna get…

    Other end, Yaya static but almost curls one in at the far post…

  • Gotta say, the 3 at the back seemed solid… (Counting the woodwork it was maybe 4 at the back…) Biggest worry all day was on the break…

    The guy I thought did quite well was… Gabriel…

  • We are still coming to grips with the new formation but I am happy the team dug deep and we were lucky, or unlucky, to have a few penalty calls against us and for us uncalled.

    It was a little underwhelming, and we needed a spark to bring us to life.

    Next up Chelski in the final.


  • Holding is our rock which I had called for him to be playing regularly, but I think he is still young.

    Gabby did well too, and we were slow with Ollie up front.

  • Like I said above, I thought the 3 at the back looked solid–when fully set up. On the break, not so much…

    Liverpool look set to drop points to Crystal Palace at Anfield… ManU, however, won at Burnley…

  • Excellent display from the team and the manager. Enormous result and it would have been even if the circumstances were kinder to him and the team.

    Winning the cup would be a happy end to an awful season. It would also (hopefully) set up another match against Chelsea at the beginning of the next season. If the regulations are the same they had been 16 years ago, if we lose v Chelsea, Spuds would play CS v Chavs.

  • I tried to send some pics, but it wasn’t working, so sorry about that.

    Great performance from the team, grit, determination, all that we ask for from our players, with the skill as well.
    I’ve got a sore throat, I haven’t shouted and sung at a game like that for years, I couldn’t watch the second part of added time, it was just too much.
    Retsub, you would have loved it mate…

    Happy Days 😀

  • The atmosphere must be huge over there Kev. I watched it Live on the telly and I must say the crowd support is just fantastic.

    Now let us focus on winning our remaining 5 league games.

  • It was brilliant 84, it was almost an outpouring mate, as if the fans were letting rip after months of frustration. But the players played their part, they were self motivated and fed off of the crowd, the crowd fed off of the players and it just whipped itself up, even after City took the lead.
    The team and the crowd need each other, but the players have to show that they care 84. If they do that the fans will follow them all the way…

  • Great stuff Kev glad you enjoyed it. It must have been a miserable trip back to Manchester. Took us a while to get going but the boys did us proud today. Very pleased for Gabriel he’s taken a lot of stick recently, but thought he was a lion today. And Rob Holding finished the game without a hair out of place

  • I felt that most of the game the front 3 are walking, and the back 7 were doing a hell lot of defending but no good through balls to the top.

    We just played the ball sideways, so not much front balls to my liking. If we are to be incisive and play better footy, we need more forward balls.

    I still feel that Ox’s best position is central midfield. There were times he lost the ball, and his ball distribution is almost 50% accurate. However, there were moments of brilliance, and it is good to see his ball reaching the foot of his fellow winger on the other side of the pitch.

    I wish to see more attacking play, which we can ill afford to if we play like we were just focusing on defend most of the game.

    Having 3 at the back with 2 rampaging wingers means that your central attacking midfielder is now moved to the left or right. Ollie, Sanchez and Ozil were at times caught out of position as they were too high up the pitch, or too wide, and we were blessed that Citeh didn’t manage to score more.

  • Brilliant effort by the boys and Manager!

    Defensively, I thought Gabriel and Koscielny were excellent and I thought Holding’s no nonsense approach was very intelligent for a player with limited first team experience and playing in a big match. Monreal was also once again very good defensively and, unlike his performance versus Middlesbrough, he produced some attacking end product (namely the goal and 4 crosses). On the other flank, I thought the Ox didn’t have too much to do defensively and put in an awesome display offensively, with eight crosses and six dribbles (MOTM for me).

    In midfield, I thought Xhaka and Ramsey struggled to stop Toure and Fernandinho, in particular. Offensively though I thought Ramsey’s transitional passing was much better and while Xhaka’s output in that regard was a little less than usual it was still good. That is probably the best transitional passing performance I’ve seen from an Arsenal central midfield duo all season.

    Further forward, I though Ozil and Alexis’ forward dribbles were good, though their actual goal attempts needed to be much better. As for Giroud, I thought he dominated Kompany and Otamendi aerially. That said, his movement in the box when Ox or Monreal crossed the ball needed to be a bit sharper. If Arsenal persist with the 5-2-3/3-4-3 setup we saw versus Middlesborough and Man City and Ox continues to deliver quality crosses into the box the goals will come from the big Frenchman.

    Overall great performance from the team.

  • Waldo, good comments.

    About Ollie, I feel that he needs to position himself better. At one point he didn’t even run due to his foot being knackered by the challenges, but he should have done better.

    I watched the comments made by Gunnerblog’s youtube post, and he mentioned that although Ollie wasn’t fast and tracking down the defense well, his aerial threats were all for us to see and that he is still a good squad player. Welbeck came on and terrorised the defense extensively, except that he did not score, when he should have put a couple in the back of the net.

  • Really good point JK about Giroud’s positioning inside the box. With his physical strength, aerial dominance and touch, I really believe that if he can time his runs inside the box so that he is attacking crosses with momentum he will score plenty of goals.

    I thought Welbeck very much benefited from Arsenal passing the ball longer and more direct in transition as well as a a tiring Man City backline. That said, Welbeck’s finishing again let him down. Given Arsenal were largely playing on the counterattack at that stage, I personally think Walcott would have been a better option. While Walcott’s touch is not as good as Welbeck’s, Walcott is faster and his finishing is more ruthless. Basically I think Walcott’s skill set was better suited Arsenal’s system of play at that stage of the game, then that of Welbeck.

  • Spurs’ seventh straight FA Cup semi-final defeat set a new record for futility – surpassing the team that defeated them

    Tottenham’s dream of an FA Cup trophy came to an end Saturday as London rivals Chelsea defeated them 4-2 in the semi-final.

    While Tottenham has won the FA Cup eight times in their history, they have not hoisted the trophy since the 1990-91 season. Following that last triumph, they have not even returned to the final, with the semi-final round the furthest the club has managed.

    Eriksen is Europe’s assist king

    Saturday’s loss was Spurs’ seventh consecutive defeat when reaching the semi-final – which sets a new FA Cup record for futility.

    As for the club they surpassed? That would be Chelsea, which lost six FA Cup semi-finals without a victory between 1920 and 1966.

    The defeat was also Tottenham’s seventh at Wembley Stadium, the most of any team in England.

  • Interesting that since Theo made that comment about Palace seeming to be more ‘up’ for the game recently, that he’s been sidelined…

  • G’morning, fellas… Sunshine yesterday, snow this morning… I live in a strange place…

    The weather in the Goonersphere, for most at least, remains sunny… Allow me to dampen things just a bit… (Before I conclude in what should be an upbeat fashion… 🙂 …This one could be on the longer side, I fear…)

    Like at Boro–and in every match, truth be told–the most important thing is the result. We got it, but, just like in the previous match, we should not pretend that we didn’t ride our luck.

    First half, the penalty shout for the Ox’s poor challenge on El Kun might easily have put the ball on the spot. That Alexis got a nudge on the other end from Navas might indicate that the ref was just “letting ’em play,” but our shout was so far against the run of play that we really couldn’t complain if theirs had been given and ours hadn’t. Add in the (pair of) shot(s) they netted after Sane’s cross was incorrectly called out and we must admit that 2-nil at half-time would have made for a VERY different spirit in the stadium. Going in at nil-nil while sporting a new–and very defensively minded–approach MUST have allowed for a far more positive team talk.

    So, if we assess at that point in the match, Ox was only a hair-breadth away from being goat of the match, while Giroud (sorry, Waldo, but I don’t know what match you were watching…) was about as bad a route one target as could be imagined for someone who is (at least) 4-6 inches taller than the opposing center-backs. We looked pretty good when massed behind the ball but we had little fluency on the rare occasions we had it (the ball) and the only hint we might nick a goal of our own was at set pieces…

    From the opening kick-off of the 2nd half we looked far more ready to play an attacking game–and, of course, we got burnt in doing so. (Where were the 3 CBs on their counterattacking goal? Still in attack mode, I fear…) Heads did not hang, however, and we soon leveled the score. Changing out Welbeck for Giroud was critical and suddenly we looked like we could score on the break (or from a set piece) much as City looked the better team coming through the middle of the pitch. (On this part of your assessment, re: central mids, Waldo, I agree… That Theo instead of Welbeck should have come on, I think, downplays the MUCH better spacing and interchange that DW brought to the front group. Theo can do it too, but lately, IMO, looks awfully static trying to play off the shoulder of his nearest defender… At least it was Bellerin–not Debuchy–who came in for Ox late on and had the pace to get the key touch to put off Delph’s late shot… Winky face, eh…)

    Again we rode our luck and needed the woodwork to save us…twice(!)… Still we were looking even more solid when massed behind the ball and readier to spring forward if they gave it to us. Getting to extra time was a huge boost as City, despite their near misses looked the less enthused of the two teams (I thought). I was worried about Pens. I cannot remember Cech ever having saved one in our colors, while I recall Bravo winning a pair of shootouts vs Argentina in the two most recent Copa Americas…

    Still, 30 mins of open play before that… And, we got the goal!! It was from a set piece and the bobble off DW’s standing foot (while the kicking foot hit nothing but air) set up Alexis perfectly. Afterwards, for some reason, Pep took out two of their best players (Aguero and Fernandinho) and looked to be playing a 4-6-0 formation. Eventually he brought in Iheanacho (but not Gabriel Jesus–who didn’t make the squad despite the millions of articles about “Key Forward Fit for Semi,” City Get Big Boost,” etc., etc…), actually subbing one attacker for his (other) attacking sub, Sterling. No worries: Gabby-Jesus will be fit next season AND City will buy Mbappe (if not Messi…) this summer…

    But their summer starts a week before ours, however, and we’ll have a chance to pull a(nother) upset vs the Southern Oilers (or Gassers?)… In this season of so much misery do we really want it getting longer?… We shall see. Big 10 days coming… Gotta get good results in the 3 matches here in North London (Leicester, Spurs, ManU). If we do, maybe that final on the other side of town won’t seem so scary…

  • Hey Kev… Interesting point about Theo and his post match comments after CP. I think it’s more about Kos back in the line-up (somebody to wear the arm-band..) and the formation switch–requiring a route-one target man (Giroud, supposedly) and better all-round footballers in the front three…

    Also, if you can copy and paste (your previous comment)… 😉 I have faith that you can figure out a way to show us some of those photos… Or maybe (like I do with my son…) somebody younger and more tech-savvy can help you out… More smileys…

    Glad you had a good time at the match and the (neutral or half and half…) atmosphere seemed VERY different than the angst seen at league matches. Hopefully it carries over to these next few in N. London…

  • Ok, I’ve just a pic from my iCloud, let me know if you get it 17tino.

    The players look tiny on my pics, but I’m sure you can enlarge the pitch and scoreboard etc, see what you can do anyway…

    I sent then to, so see what occurs mate.

  • Still buzzing about the win over City. Had a busy day yesterday and could only see a recorded version of the game. I shall not make like this win sets us up for better quality performances and all that, but I know it will boost confidence and give the players something to unite for now.

    Bravo (wink! wink!!) to the manager and the lads for playing with belief and some mettle too, when it mattered most. Special praise to the likes of Gabriel Paulista and the Ox for raising their games. I feel Gabriel does well when the opposition have a bit of Spanish/South American influence in their team; it also helps that a few of the city players are Brazilians. Not to mean he is useless otherwise, because I have always liked his grit and determination, despite his lack of flair.

    Hope we can go all over again and win the cup.

  • 17ht, nice “feet on the ground” post there; it is needed at this time and it is true we rode our luck at times. Note, however, that the team is presently lacking in confidence and when that is the case, it is best to build from defence (back to basics), try to stabilize the ship, rack up some wins till confidence returns. That is the explanation for that cautious display in the 1st half. I think Wenger wished to avoid an early goal at all costs. In the 2nd half, we dominated and got caught on the break, rather fortuitously for Aguero because Cech should have been quicker off his line to stop the goal.

    One of the times they hit the woodwork was as a result of a fingertip save by Cech, by the way. In any case, they did get lucky with some of our wayward shooting as well. You also stated that “afterwards, Pep took off two of their best players…”. If I recall rightly, Aguero was taken off when the game was still level, as if trying to keep the scoreline as it was. In my view, though, Aguero looked injured and had been limping for a while, before being taken off.

    Certainly not vintage Arsenal, but this win (and in the new formation) gives the team something new to believe in. Who knows? They may just perfect the formation and become masters at it. Now, awaiting the visit of Leicester city…..

  • Hey Gooneris, You’re right, the City subs were before we scored… Pep may have been playing for Pens… Claudio Bravo’s specialty, perhaps…

    Indeed, Cech was very good to get a finger to Yaya’s shot. I also think he should not be criticized for the City goal. Choosing to back off and not go for Aguero’s heavy touch showed a wisdom that few keepers possess. The rules are screwed up, but, if El Kun could’ve got a pen and a “preventing a goal-scoring opportunity” red card on Cech, City would’ve almost certainly gone on to win the match. Better, IMO, to give up a (chance for) a goal than the other scenario…

    Overall, when it comes to the new formation, I think we are looking pretty good when we aren’t caught out on the break (defenders chasing the play…) and I like the extra size in there for set pieces. Playing for the clean sheet is extra important given that a section of our own fans might turn on us (in league play, at least) if we concede the opening goal…

    Kev, I don’t have access to the BKesque e-mail so showing your photos will fall to TA. There are other ways to get them into the comments (convert them to jpg, img or url files, maybe) but that’s a bit more work… No biggie… Re: “fruity language…” Over here that would mean “effeminate” but you might mean “spicy” or “crude.” Every now and then I can’t quite translate from the British… 😀

  • 17tino, go on YouTube if you can, and watch the Rocky and Wrighty documentary, it’s outstanding.

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