Arsenal travel to Wembley. It seems almost normal. Like the natural order of things is being restored now that Liverpool’s deal with the devil has been fulfilled. A record 30th semi final appearance and a chance to add to the glorious record of 13 FA Cup wins at the end of the season. But first there’s the small matter of Manchester City in the way, defending their FA Cup crown.
It’s not often that a cup semi final isn’t motivation enough. Personally though, this feels like a grudge match after Guardiola went street thug on us, with a scattergun counter accusation against everyone after his club was let off by CAS. Apparently he and they feel betrayed by Arsenal in particular. Of course his relationship with Mikel is solid as ever, and both have been complimentary about each other and the job they are doing.
But the way Pep spat out Arsene Wenger’s name makes me want us to shock the baldie. I think even he realized he went too far, because he calmed down and tried to be polite right in the next sentence. But too little too late for me. Respect cannot be bought, and Pep and City are just going to have to live with it.
It’s up to Arsenal to stop them from winning this trophy though. Apart from being a major trophy (except when Arsenal win it of course) it also offers a route into Europe, and more importantly to the club’s officials, a £30m inflow. So for us, both directly and indirectly, this game represents the future.
Interestingly, both Klopp and Pep have praised what Arteta is building and talk of Arsenal as potential contenders in the future. It may be just words, or an attempt to play mind games, but something about it rings true.
We’ve lost to ManCity in the 7 previous meetings against them. As Arteta pointed out though, the record against Liverpool wasn’t great either. City’s last loss to us was also in the FA Cup semi final. History to repeat?
But of course what’s apparent from that statement is Arteta’s geeing up his players to put in a similar effort against what he acknowledges is a superior side. He didn’t hide from that fact even after the win against Liverpool.
A ticking time bomb
Aubameyang started that game on the bench and he will be back in the starting lineup I’d imagine. Maybe alongside Lacazette as the Frenchman is in good form. Been a while since you could say that, and what a welcome development. Nketiah of course is still suspended under the special VARsenal rule. Ozil is no longer officially designated as injured, but Arteta couldn’t be drawn as to whether he would be even part of the squad. Expect Saka to play though, probably down the left as a hybrid LW/LCM. We may spend most of the game under pressure but any of these guys can provide a moment of inspiration. A spark that sends us into the final and sets off the ticking time bomb inside Pep’s head.
For City, Aguero is out but they’ve got so much talent. De Bruyne and Sterling are the ones that worry me most. If we can stop them, we have a chance. I’ll also keep an eye out for Foden, the bland version of our Lil Chilli, but no less talented a footballer.
Despite what I said previously, this isn’t normal. Going to Wembley. A semi final of the oldest cup competition in the world. We, the fans, and the players, need to appreciate these games when they come along. It’s a huge occasion and hopefully we’re fired up for it. We may not be stacked like City but we’re a good team in our own right. I hope Arsenal put in a good performance. If we play up to our level, there’s every chance we could end up going to Wembley again in the merry month of July, to end this disaster of a season on a high.
Written by Shard aka @shardgooner