After a few days of celebration and further contemplation, I look back at last weekends Arsenal v Manchester City FA Cup Semi Final and discuss (IMO); What we really learnt from Arsenal’s FA Cup Semi Final win!
ARSENAL DO HAVE BOTTLE!
Resilient, spirited, dogged – just a few words to describe Arsenal’s regiment win over Man City. After weeks of negativity, dismal displays, lack of fight, unity and cohesion, Arsenal (at times), held on for dear life as Pep’s Guardiola’s side outplayed the Reds. In seasons of old, Sergio Aguero’s opener would have led to an Arsenal collapse. Now adapting to this new formation, the squad showed they have the ‘bottle’ to ride the storm, roll up their sleeves and battle on to victory.
SOLID BACK 3
It’s a fact that Laurent Koscielny is a sound defender and the only real ‘leader’ in this Arsenal side. He has struck up a good partnership with Shkodran Mustafi this season, yet it’s far from good enough to beat the top 6 and when one of the above two is missing, Gabriel or Holding have never grabbed the opportunity nor shown any real potential to star in the centre back position. Stick the pair either side of Koscielny however and it suddenly gives Arsenal balance and allows Gabriel to bully centre forwards and Rob Holding the time and space to play out with the ball. It more importantly covers for the inevitable ‘Gabriel error’ or the inexperienced mistake from Holding – allowing Koscielny to mop up anything- or intercept anyone, which gets past either one. The formation does put even more impetus on KOS to organise the back line but credit due to Gabriel and Holding, who played out of their skin in the recent FA Cup Semi-Final win, in this new formation.
PLAYERS SHOW FIGHT FOR WENGER & TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
The recent abysmal performance and subsequent league defeat to Crystal Palace, had Arsenal fans chanting to the players that they “Were not fit to wear the shirt”.
Having seen the performance first hand – the chants were justified.
Manager Arsene Wenger has taken a lot of flak this season with regards to Arsenal’s topsy-turvy form, whilst the players have arguably gotten away lightly.
The recent dismay and chants from the fans may, however, have finally struck a chord with the players to take responsibility and stand up and be counted in the Champions League Top 4 conquest.
The Semi-Final showed us Arsenal can go toe – to – toe with a big side, they can be versatile in their play and approach and ultimately can roll up their sleeves and show fight for the cause.
Granit Xhaka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey all gave dogged and impressive displays in the semi-final win much to fans delight, as many of the above have consistently NOT performed to the levels they are capable of this season.
After the match, Aaron Ramsey admitted to reporters:
“We have let him [Arsene Wenger] down at times this season, we want to win it for him and ourselves.
“I love this competition. We have been quite successful in recent years and you can see the passion that the players play with. We went behind and kept on going and got a result. We have shown the character we have in this team.”
A sign the players may finally realise they too have to share the burden and accept they have simply not been good enough this season.
SANCHEZ MUST STAY
With his contract having only less than 18 months to run and rumours surfacing suggesting star player, Alexis Sanchez may leave in the summer, this game reiterated his importance to the team, especially against the big teams in the big games.
Reassuringly for Arsenal fans, Arsene Wenger quashed these rumours, stating that the player will stay whether a new contract has been signed or not.
This was his sixth (6) Arsenal goal scored at Wembley during his reds career – more than any other Arsenal player! A further mark of his importance to the team.
Winning the FA Cup final and making a statement in defeating Champions elect Chelsea, may just further the chances of the Chilean signing a new deal, though Summer bids from PSG, Manchester City, Chelsea are inevitable. Arsenal fans wait and pray.
WENGER WANTS THIS!
He may not run up and down the touch line like Conte or Pep, or have the Persona or Mourinho or Klopp but when the full time whistle blew at Wembley last Sunday, it was clear to see what the victory meant to ARSENE WENGER as his traditional double fist bump was matched with a giant roar cry to the skies – signs that he wants to win this trophy for a record 7th time – to end his rein with a trophy?!!!!!!
We wait with bated breath.
GIROUD NOT THE MAN.
Don’t get me wrong. I like what Giroud brings to Arsenal with his physique, ability to hold the ball and with his contribution of 13 goals this season – most from the bench.
However, he will never get you 20+ league goals consistently per season and even with this new formation and the fact it allows Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil more freedom to dictate and have influence on the game, in my opinion, Giroud is not the man to lead this side to major success.
It’s no surprise Arsenal have played their best football with star player Alexis leading the line. When Danny Welbeck came on he was able to stretch the Man City defence and also run at their defence which caused all sorts of problems. Theo Walcott has also shown in the past he can play that role – and by playing the later ahead of Olivier Giroud – enables Arsenal more flexibility in their tactics, whilst giving them the pace up front to really hurt teams on the break.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LEARN….
If Arsene Wenger is any closer to signing a new contract or not?!!!!!
Can Arsenal win it? Not on this season’s showing they wont – where they have lacked leadership, cohesion, ideas and true quality to keep up with the Top Six thus far.
Play like they did at Wembley over the final seven games, and if they can gather momentum to match a winning mentality – then they may have a chance to dent Chelsea’s hopes of a domestic double.