Wembley Return Is Hard Work But Happening!

twwArsenal 2 – 1 Reading

1 – 0 Sanchez (39)
1 – 1 McCleary (55)
2 – 1 Sanchez (105)

It took time but the moment has arrived. No longer will a single word be enough when they are mentioned; it’s now Plucky Little Reading. Arsenal made hard work of beating them – as we did of Wolves, Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Wigan [ but at the end of next month, they will face Aston Villa or Liverpool at Wembley and I doubt there will be four changes to that line-up.

At some point during a cup run, the underdog’s luck runs out. Plucky Little Reading’s did so in the cruellest of fashions for Adam Federici’s legs parted too wide and the ball found a relatively straightforward route through them. Humanity plummets to new depths without sympathy for him but this is football and winner takes all. I dare say Ray Clemence and David Seaman will be two who offer crumbs of comfort on how to deal with mistakes on the biggest stage. They aren’t the only two, just the first names which sprang to mind. Manuel Neuer can as well. This segment could run a while.

Arsenal worked and produced little of note. Plucky Little Reading left a few boots in longer than is considered polite in decent society and 1970s throwback referee, Martin Atkinson, showed no inclination in this in. Designed to knock Arsenal out of their stride, it was a relatively successful tactic. Not that much effort was needed; Arsenal were distinctly ordinary with none of the changes to the starting XI showing any benefit beyond Mathieu Debuchy’s match fitness. Any concerns about Eden Hazard making hay in light of Hector Bellerin’s inexperience are tempered with the knowledge of just how heavy a toll injuries have taken on Debuchy; it is hugely debatable if he plays next weekend.

It seemed so different when Alexis Sanchez gave Arsenal a deserved lead just before half-time. The moment had been coming with Plucky Little Reading pushed deeper into their half, more consistently, and relying on sporadic counters. Mesut Özil offered a £42m pass to Sanchez who underlined the gulf in individual abilities with a sidestep and calm finish in front of goals where mere mortals would have thrashed at the ball at the first opportunity. A moment of sheer class from the pair in a match which screamed for more.

That might have been the icing on the cake, of course. Federici had already saved well from Mertesacker’s angled header as Plucky Little Reading began to realise that Arsenal had woken up. Özil nearly had the umlaut’s dancing for joy with a free kick that flashed just wide of the post. A goal was coming but the nagging thought remained it might be Szczesny who picked the ball out of the net as the offside flag favoured Arsenal a couple of times, one dubiously so.

In fairness to the Pole, he dealt with the first half competently, unfussily so. Criticism of Ospina’s distribution was put in perspective as Szczesny’s proved to equally inconsistent, finding the touchline with as many clearances as he did to team mates. Initially, I put it down to concentrating on not making a mistake but I’m not sure as opportunities to clear with his ‘wrong’ foot were spurned; his confidence has suffered through being dropped.

Had Plucky Little Reading equalised in the first half, it would have been no surprise. But in the second, they had barely registered possession before the defence failed to deal with the ball, beginning with Debuchy on the right to Gibbs on the left. Szczesny went down to save the McLeary’s initial shot, his hands perfectly positioned. When the ball deflected off Gibbs’ thigh, the Pole’s reaction only clawed the ball back from well behind the line; no need for goal-line technology, it was so far over, a traffic warden offered a parking ticket if came back within the hour. Should Szczesny have done better? Easy to say yes, and very hard to shake that feeling off, to not be disappointed, but the comfort of the armchair is rarely the best place to make reactionary judgements. The easiest place to pass them though.

Plucky Little Reading really only had one genuine moment of threat after that, Pogrebnyiak was criticised for not passing in a 2 on 1 but whilst he may have been telling Mackie to BOGOF, replays suggested that the Arsenal defence had recovered in sufficient numbers for the opportunity to have been smothered irrespective of the decision made; it was always going to be wrong. Chalobah hit a shot straight at Szczesny with power and admirable technique but no real menace and that was pretty much all Plucky Little Reading offered as extra-time loomed.

Aaron Ramsey might – should – have done better with his late chance, thundering a shot against the post when the goal beckoned, even with defenders on the line. No repeat of May’s glory on this occasion; perhaps he’s saving it for this May? I’ll live in hope rather than expectation. Whilst the formation works against the likes of Liverpool, deploying the Welsh international on the right imbalanced Arsenal yesterday as he drifted inside in search of the ball. It deprived Arsenal of genuine width as the game wore on although victories continue to rack up so it seems unlikely to change.

And then Sanchez’s winner came. Having wriggled into the area, the Chilean shot more in hope than expectation and the result proved why strikers are selfish. Cruel on Federici for the afternoon? Absolutely but football clichés tell us that football is a cruel mistress and I’m sure there are few arguments with that along the Thames Valley this morning.

Arsène reflected afterwards that Plucky Little Reading had been, well, plucky and fought hard. Arsenal, he responded, would be back in May, fight harder having prepared well and do their best to win the FA Cup, to retain the trophy because they like winning things. In the meantime, he has a week to reflect on performances to work out who is in his best XI to take on self-proclaimed Champions, Chelsea. I doubt the decision was made harder by any of the four changes yesterday. We shall see.

’til Tomorrow.

158 thoughts on “Wembley Return Is Hard Work But Happening!

  1. that would mean no Santi, our best performer yesterday imo, couldn’t leave him out for final..

  2. play him on the wing..
    or ozil
    dont sacrifice your box to box goalscoring midfielder, the guy who adds direction and tempo in the middle so we can fill the middle with passers and try tippy tappy our way into the net from 50 yards out…
    were losing a goal threat as well as tempo as well as direct running and the other teams are being described as plucky and gutsy..
    its not hard to play us when we are spending 90minutes looking for the perfect pass…
    drive forward and shoot..

  3. cazorla cant finish his dinner they all end up in the stands and ozil can be one on one and he’ll still pass it..
    need rambo in there…

  4. Newcastle are just beyond a joke. Their midfielders can’t pass and they were taking shots from well outside the box that weren’t even close to being on target.

  5. @MLF

    I tend to disagree, I thought Ozil outside of not taking the shot instead of slipping Giroud in was our best, but its all personal choice.

    I do think our best midfield is LeCoq/Ramsey/Ozil

  6. MLF, why argue about final now? See who deserves it then. If you have to have them all in the 11, I agree with JJ. Cazorla wide.

    Who for Chelsea? That is the only important question.

  7. Still shocked at the poor performance by Liverpool today. Their midfield was terrible, starting with Gerrard (who looks unfit for MLS duty). They made Cleverly look a genuinely good player.

    Fabian Delph was extremely impressive today as was Jack Grealish. It is kinda hard to understand how Villa is still the lowest overall scoring team in the EPL. I think we can handle them as long as we don’t have too many injuries between now and then. The team that beat Liverpool 4-1, should be able to handle Villa 3-2, with some late palpitations.

  8. Aye no point in discussing now, anything can happen but i’m glad most fans are starting to notice the value of Ozil in the team.

    Need to get some good results against Chelsea and Man u and it’ll be a good season for us. Need everyone fit and ready for start of next season and Arsene can hopefully try and end his reign with a bang.

  9. Maryland

    They played like we did yesterday but we still got the job done. Again, it’s worth noting to a lot of people who slated Arsenal over the last few years for finishing fourth all the time, well, Liverpool and Man u have both fell out of the top 4 whilst we’ve maintained it despite spending a fraction of what they have over that time. Perhaps Arsene’s greatest part was keeping us in Champs league as we’ve seen how missing it for a season can affect play, Man u are the exception since they have the money to buy their way back in.

  10. What has helped fans notice that is partly that he’s played better in his number 10 role!

  11. Cup matches aren’t that easy most especially at this level so let’s thank our gunners for a job well done. Wembley here we come again for yet another Cup Final.

  12. MLF, I was thinking about the same thing….Liverpool’s response to losing Suarez vs ours losing RVP. Arsenal also dropped in quality, but the team structure and quality were such that we did a gradual rebuild and maintained top 4 status. Arsene’s career experience in building teams is MUCH greater than Rodgers.’ Brendan seems to be making things up as he goes half the time. God help us if we were relying on Balotelli to salvage a match.

  13. We can spend our way back in too. Not as easily as MU, City, Chelsea perhaps but Pool and Spuds are not that close to us in resources.

    What is more significant is that for them, this year, top 4 will be a trophy. The only trophy. We still have a chance to win something and are in a Wembley final! That’s gratifying. Teams winning nothing this season: MU, City, Liverpool, Spuds. Last year, Chelsea also on that list.

  14. @LSG

    Agree about Ozil in his favored position. People wanted to see him prove it, but since he has moves there upon his return, he was been in really good form.

  15. At the beginning of 2013-4, I was wondering how Wenger would use Santi and Ozil at the same time. I think it’s been an on-going challenge. When Ramsey was out, both could play centrally. With Ramsey back, the middle is clogged. Ozil going wide isn’t a great solution, neither is Ramsey. Santi can play there, but Welbeck and Sanchez track back with more pace and intensity. For me, Ozil is the established #10 and Ramsey, Santi, and Jack are competing for the deeper lying central role along with Le Coq. I’d like to see Ramsey start against Chelsea where we need more muscle in the center of the park, but Santi can be an impact sub, perhaps. Nothing against Santi, he’s my favorite Arsenal player to watch, the way he pivots on a dime and retains the ball.

  16. Beautiful day, we are in the final.
    Let the search for tickets begin!
    Agree with LSG, let’s pick the lineup in a month.
    Who knows who will be fit or not then, let alone who is in form.

  17. Somehow I would’ve preferred an opponent who doesn’t view themselves as the underdog. Villa will be the strongest underdog.we’ve faced in years. That’s not a great prospect.

  18. we have to turn up to win it..
    cant expect villa to roll over just because they are a weaker team…
    hull almost pulled it off last year if we have the same attitude we have against the birminghams and the bradfords and the blackburns and the wigans and the hulls and the readings, benteke and ablongahor will crucify our defence, like monaco they do have the tools to embarrass us so no matter who plays we need to take them seriously and not be arrogant enough to expect to win it at a canter like we always do…

  19. and we do need to win it…
    2nd and the cup would be immence…..a fantastic season…
    even though i’ll still be pissed we got knocked out by monaco and we were a couple of signings away from the double..

  20. it depends on giroud…
    if welbecks the focal point of attack its self defeating having ozil and santi in the centre…they pass in triangles and he likes to make runs off the last man, barely gets a touch becuase they aint looking for him..
    giroud comes deep and is more involved with his back to goal so they can play off him and find the wide players with the runs…

  21. Today was my first ACLF post been following this blog for two years now. Copmpared to the rest i’ve been through its on a higher level thanks to YW’s quality posts.

  22. Richu, too right and welcome. But don’t forget all the quality commenters either! Surely, reading the nightly defense of Flamini is a big part of the fun…

  23. But, alas yes, a couple moves this summer and perhaps we’d be dreaming of a possible double. Greater concentration and we’d be in three competitions making the end of the season very very interesting. But, a repeat FA cup and some big wins against Chelski and MU away would be satisfying.

  24. limey, we have some good options in attack…the squads got depth there its the other end that still concerns me..

  25. another cb and cm and we’ll be ready for the title..
    oh and a gk…
    all top quality at the top of their games..no kids or stop gaps..

  26. @LSG
    thanks, every one who comments have their differing view but its always mature debate. I’ve noticed all different ppl with different pet subject be it 4th place league mentality culture, Theo Walcots worth in the team, arsene’s transfer inneptude and ofcourse Santori’s Defence of Flaminis exemplary football ability despite the glaring evivence of flagging ability.

  27. @JJ

    Top quality is the key. Bringing in a top DM would be great because then he could play beside LeCoq(when Ramsey needs a rest or is out a couple of matches) or even allow Le Coq to be a really good #2.

    If/when he brings in players, I want same quality or better than what we have.

  28. A CDA in the mould of Kondogbia/Schniderlinn and perhaps another CF/winger like Cavani and we’ll be sorted haha

  29. I like the idea of Cavani. I’m not always convinced by the reality when I watch him for PSG and on occasion in the past for Napoli. Give me Higuain instead. Cheaper and maybe more reliable.

  30. dont need another forward..sanchez has nearly hit 25 goals and girouds nearly hit 20 and theres 9 games left..
    not bad for a debut season and someone who spent half the season injured..
    maybe if theo leaves but i wouldnt consider up front a priority at all….

  31. If Theo leaves, JJ, we do. I doubt Alexis will be as fit next season and OG has been phenomenal for the last several months, but for a whole season? If either is injured or drops off the torrid pace each has had for a half season (and very conveniently in succession) we could be lacking goals without Theo getting big minutes. There is room for a goal scoring striker/forward. If DW were more clinical, we’d be sorted. It could happen. But I’d rather not count of the mirage of younger players necessarily improving in linear fashion.

  32. I thought Debuchy was fine for his first start back and with no one playing on the right ahead of him. No one. Rambo was completely AWOL wandering central midfield or playing as a second striker in the box until he was required to drop deep into Coquelin’s place when Theo came on.

  33. i dunno limey weve got goals in midfield from rambo too
    the warning signs just havent been there for me this season regarding goals..
    weve missed giroud theo and rambo for large parts of the season yet weve still scored enough to get us to second and in the final of the cup…
    its the other end thats fucked us..
    i dont like the thought of spending 30miln on another forward player, or even an attacking midfielder for that matter and have not much scope left to bolster the defence..

    all my kitty would go on the three positions ive mentioned…

    yes id reinforce the forward line if theo left but only if he left..

  34. Of course we need strengthening at the back as well, JJ. Gabriel is a good piece of the puzzle. It would be wise to invest in a longer term replacement for Merts, but arguably that is Chambers. He should go out on loan somewhere and play a full season at CB. I am fully in favour of a top quality DM to compete with Coquelin. While it isn’t my highest priority, I would not be opposed to improving on our GK’s. If we can get someone better while still improving in the other two positions of high priority (DM and forward), I’d be delighted. But I do think that Ospina and WS are both good keepers, better than what we had in some years past.

  35. We are vulnerable at DM and Striker. Any injury or loss of form of Coquelin and OG puts us under real pressure. DW hasn’t proven a big goal threat but probably even as key is that he doesn’t really provide the hold up and linking work back to goal that OG does. We have to play a different way and so far that hasn’t been as effective. We’ll see, he might yet develop. If Coquelin is out or not in form, the balance of our midfield is thrown off and there is no genuine replacement. These are my two highest priorities as a result.

  36. Honestly, give me Higuain, one of the top DM’s (my choice would still be Gonalons, Schneiderlin, Kondogbia, Bender twins or Kramer with maybe a cheeky bid for one of Javi Martinez or Gustavo) and then I would fill in as needed. Maybe a striker/winger if and onoy if Theo leaves but I think Theo will come back on fire so keep him.

    I tend to agree with LSG, send Chambers out on a season long loan to strictly play CB but have a recall clause in the event that Kos, Mert or Gabriel get injured.

    when we lift the FA Cup (we habe to show up as JJ points but I have full faith in the boys) we should then push on, get our business done earlier and then really focus on bedding the team together so that come day 1 of the PL, wd hit the ground running.

  37. Got to agree with Limestone, CDM is always our achilles heel and if we lost Coq to injury or suspension we’d be screwed in that position. Giroud won’t stay in form all season, but Sanchez is consistent enough but we need a CF to support, i like Welbeck but he’s not clinical enough.

  38. C

    I agree, but why would Hig leave Napoli when he picked them over us? I want Kondogbia, wanted him before he went to Monaco, he’s a beast and an engine and he’d be physical enough for prem but Schniderlinn has the experience. Martinez not heard from in ages, is he getting a game? Gudtavo has been fantastic at wolfsburg as well i agree

  39. @MLF

    Higuain wants CL futbol, not to mention Benetiz is reportedly on his way out at Napoli so the chance is there. Plus, it was Arsenal who hesitated not Higuain. Kondogbia is a beast and honestky I don’t give a shit about PL experience but I want top talent. Martinez did his knee in more than a year ago and Pep has allowed him to fully recover and start training again. Gustavo and Gonalons have been my #1 & 2 for a coupke of years now and I think both would still be perfect.

  40. Napoli are another team that could do with consistency as opposed to chopping and changing managers every few years.

    I’d rather someone like the lad from Lyon as we’d have to many similar players if we went for Hig and i can’t see Arsene not playing Giroud when fit. Big question is if Theo goes

  41. Higuain is in a different class to Giroud. Arsene chased Higuain and Giroud knew that it wasn’t to play with him but instead of him. Higuain can hold up play but is more clinical and adds that pace and ability to create his own chance from nothing.

    I wouldn’t mind Lacazette(the lad from Lyon), but only if Theo goes, otherwise might hold off.

  42. this is déjà vu all over again! C and I talking all summer about how we need Higuain and Gustavo. Is this 2013?!

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