Unless you are a diehard Wenger-Out Campaigner, you will have liked that win as much as I did. It was not pretty; in fact, it was humbling. The manager and team sacrificed style and reputation for attitude and result, and they delivered. It was a weird, schizophrenic sort of experience: Citeh played like the old Arsenal: better and more dominant football but leaving new Wembley empty-handed with nothing else left then finishing in the top four. Guardiola will be philosophical about and he can afford to do so, given that it is only his first season at Man City. But for Arsene this was about survival: avoiding humiliation and fighting tooth and nail to get through to the final.
I was critical about starting with a 3-4-3 formation but it somehow did the trick. We kept our shape well when pressed back, and when we captured the ball we were regularly able to escape the press. Giroud was not really into the game and neither were Alexis and Ozil, but as a team we kept fighting and, helped by a few dollops of luck, we somehow got there. Luck is such a big factor in a game and yesterday we enjoyed a lot of it: they hit the woodwork twice and the ball bounced back kindly; and they also had a goal disallowed that could easily have stood. Yet, I feel in footballing terms, we had the better chances in the second half and in extra time. There was something about this game that told us we would end up victoriously, and indeed we did. Maybe it was because our players were more hungry, or should that read desperate?
It was a true team performance and the likes of Nacho, Gabriel and Koz fought like their lives depended on it. In midfield, Xhaka was the organiser and excellent reader of the game and Rambo the connector. The Ox added verve from the flanks and, in my view, played his best game in an Arsenal shirt yesterday. What really made the difference was the introduction of Welbeck. Giroud tried hard but he lacked strength and was well-marshalled by the MC CBs. Welbeck was wasteful with his chances and opportunities to play in others, but his energy and mobility was too much for our opponents. To me he made all the difference without playing anywhere near his best.
Player Ratings (excluding subs):
Cech: 8 – made it too easy for Aguero for their goal but his fingertip save from Toure’s stunning effort on goal was superb
Ox: 8 – great going forward and not bad defensively – he was regularly an outlet and took on the MC midfielders and defenders time and again
Holding: 8 – calm head and reads the game well, with excellent positioning and good distribution of the ball
Koz: 8 – mean and energetic – fine captain
Gabriel: 8.5 – attitude, grit, aggression but also intelligence and calm – best performance in an Arsenal shirt by him until now
Nacho: 9 – gives his all and scored a potentially season-defining goal – just loves to score against Mancs in the FA Cup
Xhaka: 9 – quickly growing into the pivotal player in midfield. The team should use him more to get the full value out of him, but that was a fab performance nevertheless.
Rambo: 8.5 – it takes Aaron a while to get going but the Rambo Royce engine is purring again, and when he does those box to box runs he adds value everywhere. Superb second half
Ozil: 7.5 – always making good runs and looking for a key pass, but he lacked sharpness at times
Alexis: 8 – an extra half point for the composure for the goal, and he worked hard again. His passing is too predictable and inaccurate and I don’t rate his wing play, but he keeps scoring the important goals and that goes a long way in football.
Giroud: 7 – This was not his day but he also was left too much isolated up-front by the likes of Ozil and Alexis.
Wenger: 10 – turned a tentative team performance in the first half into a more confident and dominating performance in the second half and then again in extra time.
7 thoughts on “FA Cup Final: a Reward for Humility and Sacrifice | Plus Player Ratings”
Hey TA… I was hoping you would have time to write something…and, if you’re reading the comments on the previous post you’ll see that I agree with just about everything you’re saying, but I’d maybe alter some of the player rating towards some of the very tight plays that could have gone wrong–or those that did. On that basis, I’d take away from Ox’s & Rambo’s ratings just a hair but give a little extra to Ozil (very good deliveries on set pieces and he kept running for 110+ minutes making us look very dangerous on the break) and Cech, who, I think, did the right thing backing off El Kun’s heavy (or was it perfect?…) touch that might have led to a dive & a pen & a red card. Giving up the goal hurt but the chance of going down to 10 men (and potentially a goal from the spot) seemed extremely wise to me. Szczesny might have been a bit more aggro…and that’s why he was sent on loan…
I dunno, I’m liking the 3-4-3 (5-2-3) but we need to get better to not get caught on the break as our next three opponents will be playing in just such a manner. Overall, however, you’re right that choosing to absorb City’s pressure was the right call… In that vein, we probably caught a sizable break when David Silva went off injured…
It’s a big confidence boost and this next stretch will be an opportunity to capitalize upon it… OGAAT in the extreme must be the attitude… But, if we can do well enough here in the run-in, extending the season by a week and having a chance in the final could be a very nice thing…
Sometimes, in life and even in the game of soccer, you have to ‘stoop to conquer’ and that’s what Arsenal did on Sunday. I find it odd when pundits and some fans allege that Wenger never plans for games to counter the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition. Well, that should put paid to that bunkum. Had a manager like Allardyce or Mourinho played a game like that, most will eulogies their tactical astuteness ability to “set up a team to grind out a result”. The standard to which the man is held is, at times, ridiculous as it is a different rule when it is about Arsene’s Arsenal.
I thought all the players held their own, as indicated by your ratings. Looking at your score of 9 for both Nacho and Xhaka, it would mean you have a joint winner for ‘man of the match’ . 😃
Most will give it to the Ox or Gabriel, though.
Bunkum… My new favorite word… 🙂
Pragmatism…. now that’s a good word as well…
Nice post Total, agree with your player assessments, not sure that desperation is a word I’d use, commitment sounds better, will to win works for me as well. 😉
Arsenal, FACup winners 2017, is another phrase that I find appealing. 🙂
Guys, if we win our important games next we might have the chance to win the FA cup.
One game at a time.
Next up, Leicester
You gave the perfect description for Alexis Sanchez performance.
And that’s how it’s been for a while… and this does not make us get full value from Giroud as he is left alone too much on his own!