Category Archives: FA Cup

All Roads Lead to Wembley and it’s against Aston Villa

I must say that I felt it wasn’t ‘right’ fixing Arsenal’s semifinal tie against Reading with the Chelsea vs. Manchester United clash from a neutral perspective. But in all honesty, I didn’t really care about the game at Stamford Bridge because Wembley was the place to be and as expected, the Gunners almost gave me a heart attack but Alexis Sanchez’s goals were enough to send Arsene Wenger’s men to the final. Credit to Reading for putting up a good fight as well as giving Arsenal fans some fright but it the end, it was the Gunners that would fill up Wembley on the 30th of May.

The million pound question was – who was going to join the Gunners? Aston Villa or Liverpool? The Villans have endured a tumultuous campaign this season which ultimately led to the sacking of Paul Lambert. There were two spells in the league were Aston Villa lost five games in a row and seven game in a row as well, much to the dismay of their loyal fans from Birmingham. Liverpool is another club that has had a hot and cold campaign and the fans must have felt heartbroken losing out in the semifinals of the League Cup to Chelsea. Their European campaign was rather pathetic in the Champions League and they didn’t fare any better in the Europa League either.

The game itself was a feisty encounter with Liverpool getting the early goal through Phillippe Coutinho but Aston Villa got an equalizer through their in-form striker, Christian Benteke. Fabian Delph scored the all-important goal that proved to be the match winner, which ruled out Liverpool’s chances of silverware this season. With the money the club spent this summer (£117m on eight players), it’s obvious to see that the club hasn’t been able to cope with the loss of Luis Suarez and to some extent, Daniel Sturridge. Raheem Sterling has been on the back pages for the ‘wrong reasons’ and a lot of burden have been placed on his shoulders this campaign.

However, some credit should go to Aston Villa and Tim Sherwood for what has been a great FA Cup campaign. It began with wins over Championship outfits, Blackpool and Bournemouth, before wins over fellow Premier League sides , Leicester City, West Brom and most recently, Liverpool.

There’s a lot of football to play between now and the FA Cup final, so we can focus on finishing strongly in the Premier League.

All roads lead to Wembley and it’s against Aston Villa.

Sayonara.

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Welbeck Guns Down Old Trafford and Sends Arsenal to Wembley

Former Manchester United striker Danny Welbeck struck past David de Gea to eliminate his former side from the FA Cup 

Manchester United 1 (Rooney 29′) – Arsenal 2 (Monreal 26′, Welbeck 61′)

Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

So Arsenal’s record at Old Trafford was well discussed about in the build up to the game. In the Gunners last 10 visits to the feared ground, their record was one draw and nine defeats, so it was only normal for some Arsenal fans not to feel 100% confident as the game progressed. However, Manchester United might have so many ‘stars’ on their books but they have been very poor under Louis van Gaal. Things just went their way in some games this season with their latest victory coming from a horrendous error from Newcastle’s goalie, Tim Krul.

Another talking point to the game was undoubtedly the return of Danny Welbeck to a place he called home. Following his transfer deadline day sale to Arsenal, LVG criticized the player publicly (rather shameful if you ask me) but he made mention of Radamel Falcao being one of the reasons he let Welbeck go. Since then, Falcao has scored foul goals in 19 appearances for United, while Welbeck has netted eight goals in 21 appearances for Arsenal.

As expected, it was end to end stuff as both sides battled for the right to play in Wembley next month. Santi Cazorla threaded a through ball to Welbeck but he failed to get it under his stride. Oxlade-Chamberlain lobbed a neat ball for Hector Bellerin whose cross was blocked by Daley Blind but a goal kick was given. Manchester United almost grabbed the lead when Marouane Fellaini controlled the ball superbly and laid it up for Ashley Young. The English winger failed to connect well with the ball and fired his shot over the bar.

Arsenal opened the scoring from a rather unlikely source. The Ox did well to take on a couple of markers before sending an inch-perfect pass to an unmarked Nacho Monreal. The Spanish fullback got the composure of Lionel Messi to place the ball past an onrushing David de Gea.

Arsenal left back Nacho Monreal jumps in the air after putting his side in the lead as Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain watches on

Barely three minutes after the Gunners took the lead, Man Utd pegged them back when Angel di Maria swung in a brilliant cross that was headed in at point-blank range by the scourge of Arsenal, Wayne Rooney. Maybe Laurent Koscielny should have judged the flight of the ball better but you can take nothing form a bullet header from such a peach of a cross.

Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny, who replaced David Ospina, was unable to keep out Rooney's diving header 

It was game on as both sides fought tooth and nail to get the all-important goal that would tilt the game in their favor. Welbeck rose the highest to head in a cross goalwards but it turned out to be an easy save for de Gea. Di Maria sent in another whipping cross that almost forced an error out of Wojciech Szczesny. Chris Smalling had the chance to make it two but he contrived to miss from less than six yards, not like the Arsenal fans cared. Man Utd was on the ascendancy with di Maria firing a shot that was saved smartly by Szczesny.

Arsenal soaked up some pressure and used the counter attacking option as an outlet. Santi Cazorla looped a free kick over the wall but it was saved by de Gea. Arsene Wenger became concerned when the Ox pulled up short and was to be substituted for what seemed to be a hamstring injury. Wenger had braced up Theo Walcott to come in for the injured Chamberlain, but the manager changed his mind and opted for Aaron Ramsey instead. With Alexis Sanchez missing another chance from a breakaway, Szczesny’s poor clearance saw di Maria fire a shot that went just wide and it was heart in mouth stuff for the Arsenal faithful.

Danny Welbeck scored what proved to be the match winner when he reacted quickly to a poor Antonio Valencia back pass. Welbeck anticipated the ball, rounded the keeper and placed the ball to an unguarded net.

Welbeck placed the ball into an empty net to capitalise on a mistake by Manchester United right back Antonio Valencia 

Some Manchester United fans were expecting to see a ‘muted celebration’, but the lad let out a roar that could be heard on the Moon. You could see the emotion running through his veins as the game meant a lot to him than many other players on the pitch. Bellerin had a yellow card and was on the edge with a couple of challenges, so Wenger took the safer option of bringing on Calum Chambers in his stead. Alexis and Cazorla had chances to kill off contest but di Maria received his marching orders when he was booked for simulation and stupidly shoved the ref in frustration. Shortly afterwards, Adnan Januzaj received a yellow card for diving as well. Late on, Cazorla had a shot that was superbly saved by de Gea and Alexis shot went wide after the goalie made another spectacular save.

After the game, the draws were made and the Gunners are going to face the winner between Reading and Bradford. As expected, Wenger was effusive in his praise for Welbeck in his post-match press conference and I must commend the performance of Michael Oliver. The referee maintained the same level of consistency throughout the game and he was brave enough to make key decisions in the game.

After the game, the trolling on Twitter was in a world of its own and I’m honesty glad I was part of it. You may want to check out my timeline to see the “1-2″ trolls I came up with.

Sayonara

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Man Utd vs Arsenal – The FA Cup Draw I Wasn’t Hoping For

Arsenal 0 Manchester United 2: Louis van Gaal records first away win as Arsene Wenger's misery deepens

With seven teams securing victory in the FA Cup fifth round, the onus was on Manchester United to avoid an upset against Preston North End but when the lower division side scored first, Arsenal fans probably celebrated more than the home side because the draws for the quarterfinals had been made even before Manchester United kicked the ball yesterday.

As at yesterday, Arsenal was set to continue the defense of their title with Liverpool, Aston Villa, Bradford City, Blackburn Rovers, Reading, West Brom and Manchester United all setting their sights on the trophy as well. So when the draws started, I kept my fingers crossed to see who the Gunners would play before booking a double date with Wembley.

Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, celebrated a winning start to his career with the club but they have been paired against a West Brom side that demolished West Ham in the previous round. Since his arrival at the Hawthrons, Tony Pulis has done a good job with the lads and he has managed to bring the best out of Saido Berahino and Brown Ideye. Both strikers were going through a drought at some point in the season.

Bradford City has been the surprise package of the competition, as they were a couple of seasons ago in the Capital One Cup. Arsenal and Aston Villa crashed along the way as Bradford City went all the way to Wembley but they were destroyed by Swansea in the League Cup final. This season, they made history to be the first side to score Jose Mourinho four goals in his home and their fairytale run continued with a 2-0 win over Sunderland. Now they’ve been paired with familiar foes, Reading, and it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Bantams face off with the Royals.

Liverpool has found form in just the right time this season and their latest victory over Crystal Palace has seen them propel to the next round of the FA Cup but they have a tricky tie against a Blackburn side that thumped Stoke City. Daniel Sturridge’s return to full fitness has brought some upturn in the fortunes of Brendan Rodgers men and we can only watch and see how their season pans out.

Finally, Arsenal got a very tough draw against Manchester United. When I say very tough, I just think about how bad the Gunners have been when playing Manchester United. First things first, Old Trafford was the ground where the Gunners lost their majestic unbeaten record and I can bet that if Arsene Wenger’s side managed to get at least a point at Old Trafford in the night in 2004, that record would have gone for a longer while.

Then there are the horrific and humiliating defeats the Gunners have suffered at Old Trafford. If the 6-1 mauling wasn’t bad enough, the 8-2 demolition in 2011 was an absolute disgrace. Arsenal’s last win on the ground was as far back as 2006 in a 1-0 narrow victory. Sometimes it seems like it’s a curse from beyond that Arsenal tends to struggle against Manchester United. As bas as David Moyes was last season, he still managed to notch up four points in the league off the Gunners. When both sides met earlier in the season, Arsenal outplayed their opponents but their profligacy came back to haunt them.

If the Gunners want to win the competition, they have to end their wretched run at Old Trafford.

It was a draw I wasn’t hoping for, but hey, that’s football.

Sayonara.

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Giroud on Fire as Against Ease Past Boro

Olivier Giroud

Arsenal 2 (Giroud 27′, 29′) – Middlesbrough 0

Match HighlightsPost-Match Press Conference

With Blackburn’s resounding win over Stoke as well as Bradford City’s victory over Sunderland, the message was clear to all that lower division teams have become a force to be reckoned with at the FA Cup. Arsenal’s opponents arrived at the Emirates on the back of a comfortable victory over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, so Arsene Wenger knew that there was no room for complacency.

It was evident that Wenger was going to rest a couple of his key starters and it was no surprises when Wojciech Szczesny got the nod ahead of David Ospina. In defense, Calum Chambers, Kieran Gibbs and finally, Gabriel Paulista started with Mathieu Flamini replacing the Coq in the anchorman role. The attacking setup had a rather familiar look but I was quite surprised to see Alexis Sanchez start, despite his struggles on Tuesday.

Arsenal’s first meaningful attack from from a dead ball with Santi Cazorl using his left foot to swing in a free kick that was parried by Middlesbrough’s goalie. The midfielder’s ambidexterity is really puzzling I must confess. Arsenal continued to press with Cazorla locating Gibbs with a sumptuous pass in behind the defense but Gibbs’ cutback was easy pickings for the goalie. Cazorla found Gibbs again with another delightful ball but the fullback wasn’t in the same wavelength but that’s what you get when a fullback finds himself in a No. 9 position… Tell that to Jordi Alba.

Chambers launched an attack from the right and found Danny Welbeck that attmepted a neat back-heeled pass to Sanchez but Kenneth Omeruo was on hand to make a vital block. Welbeck threaded a perfectly cushioned pass to Olivier Giroud that wasted no time in sending a curler goalwards. The keeper’s parried effort fell kindly to Sanchez in a rather acute angle and his rebound hit the side netting.

Arsenal finally got the goal they deserved when Cazorla sent another awesome pass to Gibbs. The attacking fullback located Giroud with an inch-perfect drilled cross that was smashed home by the Frenchman. It was a goal that had ‘Arsenal’ written all over it.

reu_2190239

While the fans basked in the euphoria of scoring a goal, Arsenal went two up when Giroud showed off his amazing technique to fire a first-timed volley into the net from a Sanchez corner. Trust me, it was heavenly stuff from Giroud. That was his seventh FA Cup goal in his last 11 FA Cup games.

Sanchez and Ozil conncected superbly witht the German maestro sending a through ball to the Chilean but the goalie showed good reactions to anticipate the ball before Sanchez could do any real damage. A defender mopped things up after the goalie spilled the ball. Middlesbrough’s first attempt, a rather tame one, came when Adomah let one rip from quite some distance and that turned out to be target practice for Szczesny.

Arsenal turned up the style with some intricate passing and after showing some reluctance to shoot initially, Flamini fired a shot that was blocked. The follow up fell to Welbeck but he fired his effort wide. Welbeck had another sniff at goal when Chambers teed up a chance for him but he lobbed his effort wide off the mark. Ozil showed quick movement to fashion a chance for himself that was saved and Gibbs had a blasted effort that was saved by Boro’s custodian in goal. The undisputed save of the game came when Alexis nodded in Cazorla’s dead ball at pointblank range and everyone at the Emirates were shocked to see how that ball didn’t go in.

Wenger brought on Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott for Alexis and Welbeck but another great chance fell to Cazorla after some brilliant passing play but he blasted his effort over the bar. Wenger decided that Giroud wasn’t going to get a chance to score his first Arsenal hat-trick when he replaced him with Chuba Akpom but the striker didn’t make much of an impact though. Arsenal’s last meaningful attack arrived when Rosicky sent a lovely pass in between two Boro defenders for Walcott and the Englishman fired a shot that was parried by the goalie. Late on, Kike nodded in a cross that clipped Szczesny’s post.

With seven victories recorded in the seven FA Cup games played so far, we will have to wait to see how the Preston vs. Manchester United game pans out. Let’s just hope for another favorable draw in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara

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Middlesbrough Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

On-loan Middlesbrough striker Patrick Bamford

The FA Cup fifth round kicked off yesterday with some teams picking their sixth round tickets and while there were no draws to earn replays, Blackburn’s 4-1 demolition of Stoke was a message to Premier League teams that there are certainly no pushovers in this competition. Some may feel that Geoff Cameron’s red card tilted the odds in Blackburn’s favor but the scores were level when he received his marching orders. Elsewhere, my compatriot, Brown Ideye turned up the style in West Brom 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, another compatriot of mine, Yakubu Aiyegbeni, made his return to English football as he scored the winner in Reading’s win against Derby County, and finally, Liverpool’s resurgence continued as they defeated Crystal Palace.

Blackburn, Reading, West Brom and Liverpool have booked their quarterfinal tickets but they’d be anxiously waiting for the results of today’s FA Cup fixtures. Aston Villa and their new manager, Tim Sherwood, would take on fellow strugglers, Leicester City, Bradford City, fresh from their triumphant run at Stamford Bridge hosts Sunderland and defending champions, Arsenal, would take on Middlesbrough.

Boro are in a very rich vein of form and they’re currently second in the Skybet Championship following their 2-1 win over Blackpool in mid-week. Aitor Karanka’s men have the same points with the table toppers, AFC Bournemouth, but have a lesser goal difference. They’re currently on a 10-match unbeaten run which includes six successive victories, so the Gunners will have their work cut out for them. The last time both sides met was as far back as 2009, with Cesc Fabregas getting both goals in a 2-0 victory. This is the eighth time Arsenal and Middlesbrough have been drawn together in the FA Cup, with Arsenal winning five of the previous seven and Boro two.

Team News

Arsenal fans would get a chance to see the new signing, Gabriel Paulista, today. He has been doing his bit to settle in and learn the language but this would be a good platform to begin his Arsenal career. Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference that Wojciech Szczesny would feature ahead of David Ospina, which makes it clearly evident that he’s officially Arsenal’s No. 2, till you know, an injury or a blunder from Ospina would bring him back to the first team. The defense would be shuffled up a bit with Kieran Gibbs and Calum Chambers coming in for Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin. I would expect Laurent Koscielny to be rest which essentially means that Per Mertesacker will partner Gabriel in the heart of Arsenal’s defense.

In midfield, Jack Wilshere just returned to full fitness but I wouldn’t expect him to start straight away. Maybe a couple of minutes in the second half would do him some good ahead of the all-important clash against AS Monaco. Francis Coquelin would get a breather with Mathieu Flamini protecting the back four in his stead while I see Tomas Rosicky partnering Mesut Ozil in the middle of the park. In attack, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott are still in need of more games and I see them flanking Olivier Giroud that would spearhead the attack.

Injury Updates

Arsenal: Sanchez (knee), Ramsey (hamstring), Gnabry (lack of match fitness), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin), Mikel Arteta (ankle), Abou Diaby (calf) and Mathieu Debuchy (shoulder)

Middlesbrough: Ayala (hip), Williams (Achilles), Damia (knee), Forshaw (cup-tied), Kalas (cup-tied)

Team Form

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: W W W L W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 2 Leicester 1
  • Leading Goalscorer: Alexis Sanchez (18)

Middlesbrough

  • Last Five Games: W W W W W
  • Last Result: Blackpool 1 M’Boro 2
  • Leading Goalscorer: Grant Leadbitter (12)

Predicted Lineups

Arsenal 4-1-4-1 football formationMiddlesbrough 4-2-3-1 football formation

Prediction: Arsenal 3 Middlesbrough 1

See you in the quarterfinals.

Sayonara.

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