Arsenal Brush Aside Manchester United to Reach F.A. Cup Semi-Finals


Another FA Cup match, another win.  It has been a while since we lost in this competition and it is quite a good feeling to have.  Even better against an opponent such as Manchester United.  I was not particularly optimistic going in, not pessimistic either, just purely nervous.  The Arsenal side continued their good run of form though and enjoyed a deserved victory at Old Trafford.

Danny Welbeck, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Nacho Monreal, and Wojciech Szczesny all moved into the side, but even with 4 changes I was not too concerned in that regard.  They are all class players who have proven it throughout the course of the season and players you’d expect to step up to the challenge.

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The action got started in just the 3rd minute as the Gunners moved forward. Alexis Sanchez had the ball on the left boundary of the Manchester penalty area and whipped in the cross.  The ball ricocheted off several players bouncing dangerously in front of goal, but eventually it was cleared from danger.

In the 7th it was United’s turn as Wayne Rooney moved forward. From almost the same position as Alexis on the other end of the pitch, Rooney connected with a cross and flicked it right across goal with a clever backward touch, but like the Arsenal chance nothing came of it.

The chances went back and forth for nearly 20 more minutes with Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, and Welbeck all squandering chances.  In the 26th minute though the scoring was opened with a fine move from the visitors.

Mesut Ozil, coming from central midfield had some great vision to find Chamberlain coming in from the right.  The Ox collected the pass and continued to the edge of the box, but as he approached he was assaulted by the United defense several times.  He stayed on his feet though (Unlike that team from Manchester) and found Nacho Monreal on a run from the left as his man had moved toward Chamberlain.  The Spaniard then showed the composure of a seasoned striker and slotted home the opening goal past the best keeper in the Premier League.  A great bit of play from the Gunners and they deserved their lead.

The United Response would take only 3 minutes to come to fruition though, through the head of who else, but the Arsenal killer himself, Wayne Rooney.

Angel Di Maria found himself with the ball maybe 25 yards out nearest the left corner of the Arsenal box.  The Argentine put in what has to be said was a real beauty of a cross.  It found


Rooney right in between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny and he put a strong header easily past Szczesny.  Some have tried to put the blame on this goal on Mertesacker, and while he might have been able to do better, I think it was more of a case of two world class players showing a bit of skill.  You always want to see your players perform to their highest capability, but sometimes your opponent just has a moment of brilliance.

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Arsenal FC /

Arsenal FC

The play really picked up from here, but neither team had the ability to finish their chances.  Fellaini, Di Maria, and Santi Cazorla all had chances saved, but the teams went into halftime with the scored deadlocked at 1-1.

If you thought the first half lived up to the booking then the second was also something to behold.  Both teams had plenty of chances and attacking certainly was the main point of focus for both sides.

6 minutes into the 2nd half United had a great chance, but our BFG made sure that didn’t happen.  Rooney found Di Maria on a forward run into the box, but Mertesacker poked away the ball just in time making sure that the Argentine couldn’t get what would have at least been a shot on target.

2 Minutes later in the 53rd Alexis had a nice shot deflected off a United defender and it took all of De Gea’s current form to save what would have been Arsenal’s 2nd goal.

In the 61st Fellaini found Di Maria forward in the box, but the he sent the shot wide, even on his favored left which he had been avoiding all match.

Quite literally about 30 seconds after a Di Maria chance Arsenal had the lead once again.  Arsenal broke after the chance, but had the initial run of play broken up.  Antonio Valencia found himself with the ball and made an unfortunate backpass towards his own keeper.  Welbeck immediately pounced, intercepting the ball and taking it forward.  De Gea anticipated and came forward.  The Spaniard’s anticipation was outclassed by “Dat Guy Welbz’s” skill as the former Manchester man nonchalantly tapped the ball around the keeper and into the back of the net.

You could really tell what the goal meant to Welbeck and it was another case of a “feel good” goal.  I really enjoy it when our players show a bit of emotion.  Ironically when

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Robin Van Persie scored his first goal against Arsenal following his transfer to United, a commentator said he should have celebrated, which he didn’t.  I believe the quote was something to the effect of “If he liked them so much, why didn’t he stay?”  I completely agree.  Which is why it was so refreshing to see Welbeck show how much it meant to him to score against his former club/break his scoring drought/send his team to the semi’s.

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After Chris Smalling could not tap in an effort in the 65th, David De Gea had another pair of magnificent saves in the 72nd and 74th minutes as he saved great efforts from both Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez.

In maybe the most interesting moment of the match, Angel Di Maria was “brought down” by Aaron Ramsey.  The ref on the day, Michael Oliver, seemed to share our opinion of scare quotes and Di Maria was shown a yellow card for simulation.  Upon seeing the replay again, there really could be no argument from the Argentine, but low and behold he did retaliate and it saw him sent off. He grabbed Oliver’s shirt and shoved the ref, which unsurprisingly resulted in a red card.

It was just another chapter in what has been a wholly disappointing year for the record English League signing and to be honest, I really enjoyed it. There is just something about that guy that does not sit well with me, even when he was at Madrid and I’d be lying if I said his sending off didn’t make me smile.

From this point on the Red Devils realized what they had to do.  They desperately needed a goal and conceding a 3rd had no consequences for all intents and purposes.  For the next 20 minutes United threw themselves at the Arsenal goal.  They had several moments which made me hold my breath, mainly chucking it up to Fellaini, but honestly the best chance was once again had by Arsenal in the 94th.

Ozil found himself only about 10 yards out in the United box with the ball, but passed to Alexis instead of shooting. Alexis’ shot was only just tipped wide by De Gea, and United were spared the embarrassment of a 3rd goal, but it probably should have went in regardless.

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Though Manchester may have had the possession and chances in the last 15 or 20 minutes the deserved winner got the victory on the day.  Arsenal showed their true character and bottle to win a match in a venue they have not won at since 2006, and in a competition they are attempting to defend.

The first man I have to commend in this match has to be Francis Coquelin.  I recently said I had expected him to drop off, but he has shown his worth week in and week out.  Barring the performance against Manchester City, this may have been his best match to date.  He was integral defensively, didn’t let United get comfortable near our box, and even added some attacking skill.   Can we play in Manchester more often?

Cazorla put in another class performance too.  As much as I know he likes to play in the advanced position, his performances in central midfield, combined with Ozil’s resurgence in Center Attacking Mid (Due to Cazorla playing deeper), make me think maybe this is the right formula.  This causes trouble for players like Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, but you can’t argue with results.

Which brings me to my next point: Mesut Ozil.

Another great game.  He really does seem to be finding his sweet spot.  We did not bring him in to score goals (though he probably should have today), we brought him in to create goals and have an attacking vision on the pitch. This is exactly what he has been doing the past couple months.  He just makes passes, and controls the ball in ways that other players wouldn’t even consider.  He is a beauty to behold on the pitch as of late.

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I would be remiss not to mention Alexis and Welbeck as well. One got a goal and one didn’t, but they both put in a great shift.  I’ll never knock on Alexis, but it was the first time in a couple of months I saw the energy we’ve come to expect from the Chilean.  It seems that maybe he is getting over some fatigue and back to top form, we can only hope.

Further, the next draw means we’ll see the winner of Bradford and Reading in the Semi-final. We got a bit of luck again this year as this was definitely the draw we were looking for.  Being an Arsenal fan, I’m forced to remind everyone of our horrid display up in Bradford on what they call a football pitch, and how we went 0-4 down to Reading in the League cup in 2012.

“Last year we played a tricky game at Wembley [against Wigan] in the semi-final and we expect that again. Tonight I thought we played well and deserved to win the game.”- Arsene Wenger

Many things have changed since then and we certainly should be on to the final, but I’m a cynic. We need to take these two sides seriously in what is now a competition which we must certainly be the favorite and is probably our only real chance at silverware this season.

Anyway, Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be, we’re going to Wembley, Que Sera, Sera….(#COYG)

Next: Disgraceful Manchester United?