Well come on, what do I damn well know? Arsene Wenger had a look at what Conte was doing, liked it, copied it and we’re two games to the good inside a week. I thought the 3 at the back game was going to give us problems vs a more drilled Manchester City team, but it proved tough for Pep Guardiola to break down. Arsenal didn’t deliver a scintillating performance, they delivered a pragmatic one. For the second time at Wembley this weekend – the team with the most possession didn’t win.
There were a few things at play that I think are worth talking about this morning. Firstly, whether it was intentional or not, it appears that Wenger thought Pep was going to come and press hard in the first half. We sat back, absorbed the pressure and kept City largely from troubling Petr Cech. The calculation appeared to be a similar tactic to how you deal with Klopp teams, wait for them to wear themselves out, then go for them when they’re dead.
The second half proved the theory out, Arsenal came out far more aggressive. We were hustling City, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain having an excellent game, causing all sorts of problems. We went a big gung-ho though and lost our minds with the sort of ill-discipline that often causes us problems at the highest level. Aaron Ramsey lost the ball after receiving it outside City’s 18 yard box, Yaya Toure dispossessed his silly shimmy, then to the horror of the Arsenal end, we only had one player at the back marking Aguero. It was Nacho and he wasn’t even in front of him. The Argentine raced through on goal, Cech wasn’t fast enough off his line to take advantage of his terrible touch, and the ball was dinked into the net. Sunday league basics there.
At that point, you thought the script was written. But no. Arsenal found something from deep within and fought back. Oxlade-Chamberlain whipping a delicious ball to the back post where Nacho was on hand to bury it at Bravo’s near side post. A rasping volley that meant the world to our warrior Spaniard.
The game had more chances. Yaya Toure pulled out an awkward shot that Cech expertly tipped onto the post. Fernandinho hit the bar with a powerful header. Down the other end, Welbeck raced through on goal and aimed right footed outswinger at the back post, instead of passing to Sanchez, missing in the process.
Extra time was buttoned up in very unsexy fashion. A duff shot from Welbeck in a goal mouth scramble rolled to Sanchez who buried it. Arsenal saw out the game and made their 3rd FA Cup final in 4 years. A tremendous achievement.
Some other things I thought were interesting.
We set a trap for City, absorbing their crazy pressing, waiting to pounce on them when they lost their legs. Real grim tactics for a club known for the beautiful game, but at the same time, if that was a well-executed plan, praise be to Wenger. He nailed it.
Another thing that’s kind of interesting here is that Pep’s vision just hasn’t landed over here. Is that because a team of elite players can’t get into his ideas? Is that because in the Premier League, the intensity is so much higher, that aggressive pressing all the time doesn’t work over the long term? Madrid / Barca don’t play at the pace City do as often. I’m sure there’s a correlation there, because Klopp has had similar issues.
Three at the back:
Far more direct, far more focused and it worked from a defensive perspective. Was it perfect? No. Does it have potential? I think it does. We move the ball up the pitch more fluidly and we defended as a unit far better. City are a fantastic team, that was a balls out risk from Wenger and it paints the way forward I think.
Seriously powerful performance from the classy Rob Holding. He’s great on the ball, he was strong in the tackle all day and for someone so young, he absorbed the pressure admirably. You also have to say that Gabriel is looking far better now he’s had a run of games. He loved the occasion and he played really well, great to see him coming into his own. Players need games on the regular to play with confidence. Chambo and Gabriel shining stars on that front.
He had a very good day. Lady luck was with him in a way it hasn’t been over the course of 2017. I’m over the moon we’re going to Wembley. If we can take down City, there’s no reason we can’t do the same to Antonio Conte. It’s a one off and it’s written in the stars that Wenger’s worst season ever will be saved with an FA Cup winner against champions elect. Does this change anything? Not really. All it means is Wenger will have more leverage against Ivan and less reason to change his ways that have seen us drop out of the top 4. The bigger picture doesn’t change, but it’s a good day regardless. Also made all the more exciting because Spurs are going to have their best season ever and likely not win anything again. Wonderful.
The other brilliant thing about today is that if we had to head into the Leicester game, after extra time, on a loss… our season would have fallen faster than Bill Cosby’s reputation. Our legs will hopefully not be as heavy for Leicester. We dish out a win against them on Wednesday, we might have enough in the tank to kill Spurs title dreams on Sunday. Another pointless accolade in the grand scheme of things, but I’ll enjoy it none-the-less, sad that it’ll just add more weight in the dick swinging content that’ll be going on during contract negotiations.
So a great day. A cup final against Chelsea. Something very exciting to look forward to.
See you in the comments.