Arsenal’s Progress To Wembley Semi-Final Raises Questions

Online Editorial: Sheffield United beaten in FA Cup last eight at Behind Closed Doors Bramall Lane

Arsenal’s Progress To Wembley Semi-Final Raises Questions

Pepe scores Arsenal’s opener. Photo: Offside

It was interesting to note that all four FA Cup quarter finals over the weekend proved to be away wins. And I think it’s fair to say that the absence of a baying home crowd at Sheffield United certainly helped Arsenal’s cause. I wonder if the penalty that was awarded to Alexandre Lacazette would have happened if the stadium had been packed with Blades’ fans.

Still, we are becoming used to the spectacle of matches without crowds, and things are on the up for Arsenal after a disappointing return to competitive football with the defeats at the Etihad and the Amex. Now, we have two wins on the trot, although the draw for the semi-final does suggest that a trophy this season is going to be something of a long shot. Still, we all remember 2017, right? Manchester City in the semi-final, then champions Chelsea a few weeks later to land the Cup. It was good simply to progress and remain in the hat, even if Alan Shearer did the club few favours when he picked out the numbered balls. I wonder if they had been sanitized?

Onto the match itself and David Luiz returned to the starting eleven at the expense of Rob Holding. Bellerin was rested as Ainsley Maitland-Niles played as a right wing back and Sead Kolsasinac played on the left-side of a back three. Matteo Guendouzi was nowhere to be seen in spite of the paucity of midfield back-up, whilst Mesut Ozil did not make the trip to Sheffield either, and if Arteta had plans for the number 10, you would have thought he might get a run-out in the cup. Granit Xhaka played in front of the back three, aided by the marauding Joe Willock, with a frontline of Saka, Lacazette and Pepe.

Early on, Arsenal got away with some pretty poor defending from set pieces. An offside goal was chalked off after a corner, and a free-kick saw Mustafi head the ball backwards across the face of his own goal which he only just got away with. This worrying weakness in Arsenal’s game was to get even more exposed after the interval, despite the introduction of Rob Holding for the crocked David Luiz.

It was to be Arsenal that enjoyed the luck of the cup though – Pepe dispatching a penalty halfway through the first half after the foul on Lacazette, and there were chances to make life more comfortable as the Gunners grew in confidence and enjoyed a spell of dominance. That they didn’t increase their lead made much of the second half a case of hanging on, as predictably, Chris Wilder’s team threw the proverbial (stainless steel) kitchen sink at the opposition goal. They came very close, another offside at least showed that there has been some work on the defending, although whenever there was a throw-in within 40 yards of Emi Martinez’s goal-line, a long one would invariably be knocked on by a Blades’ head and danger ensued. It became a set piece onslaught and eventually, in the 87th minute, the resistance was broken after a botched clearance from Kolasinac.

By this time, Ceballos and Nketiah had been on the field for a while, replacing Willock and Lacazette (the captain for the day). In a remarkable period of injury time, it was the Spaniard who showed his qualities to settle the tie – as an Arsenal break led to him collecting a rebound and slotting coolly past the keeper. It felt like a goal out of nowhere, but it was a confirmation of how useful a player Ceballos is, at both ends of the field. If I were a neutral, I would say the win was undeserved – at best Arsenal were worth a draw on this performance. Of course, cup ties need a winner, and the dice fell their way yesterday. It’s good for morale, and there are some that consider the performance one of resilience. But given the number of balls in the air that Arsenal failed to deal with, I admit, I was more concerned than encouraged by what I witnessed yesterday.

Still, in cups it’s all about getting through, right? Let’s see what happens when Manchester City come to Wembley – at least there won’t be such an aerial onslaught.


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  1. TonyEvans

    Jul 01, 2020, 9:02 #116912

    CG - bang on there I think, I am certainly a fully paid up member of the grumpy old gits club. As Ron says it's not just the mess that Arsenal have become it's football in general too. I have stopped posting because all I do is moan!

  2. itsRonagain2

    Jun 30, 2020, 17:28 #116910

    You're right CG, Its what top level football has become that goes to the root of my discontent as much as what AFC have sunk to. We have to accept that its as much a tele focused circus now as a sport and those with their snouts in the trough look at it from a far different perspective to what we do. Lets face it, if we had a vested interest in the hyped up TV garbage or in many of the barely average players partaking in it, we would probably be sitting there spouting the SKY scripted dross as the presenters and pundits do taking the money i.e saying things that we didn't believe in but sounding passionate about it.


    Jun 30, 2020, 17:06 #116909

    I have a feeling that a lot of us on here are grumpy old blokes, romantics at heart & despairing about many aspects of modern footie & thoroughly disillusioned with what AFC have declined into. There is no doubt that our dis-interested American owners are ultimately responsible - wrong sort of Billionaires with the wrong credentials as well. For what I think is a very harsh, but entirely accurate, detailed opinion of how the decline was allowed to continue while Liverpool was being reborn under John W & Herr Klopp, I have to thoroughly recommend the long analysis by "Pedro" Pete on Le Grove today. Very smart boy imo!

  4. Exiled in Pt

    Jun 30, 2020, 14:00 #116908

    Thank you chaps for confirming i am not losing the plot !! Bardo i make you right and if i am not mistaken is this not the road our so called saviour Raul will take us down deals with a select few agents and more money in their hands than George ever passed over in a brown envelope !!!

  5. John F

    Jun 30, 2020, 13:17 #116907

    For some reason the 81/84 period was more fun but it was a poor team.I was at the York City game and it was freezing which didn't go done too well with our players.It was Football on ice .I never thought I would end up living just 35miles away all these years later.

  6. Bardo

    Jun 30, 2020, 12:52 #116906

    I tend to agree this side are s****. As many have commented the club havent yet hit the skids but its coming. We have absentee owners and no football men in charge. Lets see how the summer pans out. It would seem the main man at Arsenal is the agent Kia Joorabachian. If we buy Willian, another in his stable, we will have truly sold our soul to the devil. The FA cup is a distraction from the humungous mess at Arsenal. We need to rename the club Titanic FC.

  7. itsRonagain2

    Jun 30, 2020, 11:28 #116905

    True Paul. Those teams from that period you mention are maybe the closest to this one in terms of how anaemic they were and with so many obvious sub standard players masquerading as Arsenal players.

  8. Paulward

    Jun 30, 2020, 10:36 #116904

    The team between 1981-1984 was equally as bad. Losing at home to Walsall, hammered at home by Spartak Moscow and of course the defeat to York City. Didn’t really start improving till a few youngsters started to break through .

  9. itsRonagain2

    Jun 30, 2020, 10:26 #116903

    HI Lads. I think its the weakest and most putrid team since 1974/5 period, though even that mid 70s team had a few more stand out players than this team despite its poor performances. Cant decide if this team is worse than the teams of the 1964- 66 period, though again, those teams we had back then had some very likeable players (unlike this one) and with a similarly pathetic defence.

  10. John F

    Jun 29, 2020, 20:00 #116902

    Unfortunately I don't think you are Exiled.Certainly the worst midfield I have seen.I am hoping Arteta s style of play is because of the standard of players he has to work with but I can't shake the feeling that we may have a Wenger lite in charge .There are some positive s in Saka if he stays and Tierney. The only hope against City is that they have one eye on their champions league game.

  11. Exiled in Pt

    Jun 29, 2020, 16:56 #116901

    Am i alone in thinking this is one of the worst Arsenal sides i have seen in years , i am finding it hard to show any interest in any of it . The equalizer yesterday was expected from the moment the second half kicked off, well done to Ceballos for saving us from an extra 30 minutes . The football being played at the moment is so poor we go forward 10 yards back 20 then across the field determined to put a fellow player under so much pressure he fucks up . Then if we are lucky we go 20 forward and 10 back or we have lost the ball . Is it just me or is this complete and worrying pattern , the future we got to look forward to under Arteta ... Please someone tell me i am wrong

  12. itsRonagain2

    Jun 29, 2020, 12:26 #116899

    Oddly enough, i reckon the draw favours Arsenals chances of getting through. The chances of them beating city though arent thin, they're anorexic. However, AFC has been institutionally s--t scared of Man U and Chelsea for years. Thats not so much evident i think v City despite 10 years of sound thrashings from them. AFC seem tho think they can go toe to tow with City in games which i accept is the reason for thrashings but the deluded mindset at Arsenal is one where they seem to think they have a chance. Against Utd especially and often v Chelsea, the club is beaten more often than not before the team gets on the bus. PS To be honest, who really gives a toss now about a cup tournament with no fans? Its a devalued competition even in normal circs. The whole notion of it now is dafter than the glorified training sessions the now pass as PL games. I mean, Wembley for semis and the final, empty! How utterly f-------g stupid! Football really is a debased game now.

  13. Graham Wilkinson

    Jun 29, 2020, 11:57 #116898

    I'm not sure I really agree about Alan Shearer doing us no favours in the semi-final draw. I wouldn't have fancied our chances against any of the other three teams. Or to put it another way, I imagine that when the draw was being made, each of the managers of the other three teams (on the basis that it was clear that City were going through) were hoping to be drawn against us. Which is a pretty sad comment on our current status.

  14. Paulward

    Jun 29, 2020, 10:48 #116897

    I agree with Dragon on Holding, and dropping him to accommodate an out of form and error prone 33 year old says a lot about the muddled thinking that has enveloped the club from top to bottom. A good result but our chances of beating City are very, very slim .

  15. Reddragon

    Jun 29, 2020, 10:17 #116896

    Pleased with the win that will help to improve the confidence of the team but as you say Kevin, concerns still remain regarding the defending of set pieces etc.. I was disappointed to see Holding dropped (rested !!)after a good performance in Southampton. I think he's a player that needs a run of games to gain confidence, as he did when he had a good run of games in our unbeaten 22 game run under Emery. He was arguably our best player before the injury that ended his season. I have great faith in Arteta but I'm not a lover of constantly chopping and changing of players from game to game. A settled defence would gain an understanding between themselves hopefully!