Category Archives: FA Cup

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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Amazing Rosicky on Fire as Arsenal Edge Past Brighton

Brighton 2 Arsenal 3

With the surprises on show on Saturday, Arsene Wenger was reminded that if you loose your guard in the FA Cup, you’d be duly punished. It was expected that some players in the team where going to get some deserved rest so it was paramount for the manager to rotate the squad effectively to keep everyone fresh.

Wojciech Szczesny replaced David Ospina in goal and there were starts for Calum Chambers and the fit-again Kieran Gibbs. I was thinking that Laurent Koscielny was going to get some rest but it was glaring that Per Mertesacker needed a breather too. With the imminent arrival of Gabriel Paulista, it was heartwarming to know that this position is well covered. In midfield, Mathieu Flamini returned ahead of the Coq with Aaron Ramsey and captain of the day, Tomas Rosicky, in the middle. Olivier Giroud was flanked by the returnees, Mesut Özil and Theo Walcott.

It was important to start the game well and Arsenal got to the best possible start when Chambers skipped past his marker before drilling a cross for Walcott. The Englishman has been rusty of late but we saw the Walcott of old as he controlled the ball immaculately before blasting it past Stokedale in goal. It took just 90 seconds for the Gunners to take the lead.

Özil got into his stride and threaded a pass to Ramsey. The Welsh Jesus let one rip but the shot was blocked by a Brighton defender. Arsenal extended their lead when Rosicky cushioned an inch-perfect pass to the path of Özil that controlled the ball with his first touch and sent the goalie the wrong way with the second.

That second goal brought an air of complacency into Arsenal’s game and they were almost punished when Koscielny lost possession in his area but Baldock hoofed his shot over the bar. At the start of the second half, Brighton received a glimmer of hope when the ball crept into O’ Grady’s path and the forward fired a shot that left Szczesny rooted to the spot. Arsenal restored their two goal cushion when Rosicky sent a blind pass to Giroud and when he received the Frenchman’s chipped effort, he blasted the ball under the goalie to make it three.

Walcott had a near post effort that was saved and there was even time for the manager to bring on Alexis Sanchez and Chuba Akpom for Giroud and Walcott. Brighton clawed another goal in when Baldock was clean through on goal and he executed a neat chipped effort over Szczesny. Wenger brought on Francis Coquelin to add some steel to the midfield and there were two late freekicks from Alexis that threatened the goalie.

In the end, the goals were more than enough to book a fifth round berth and it was also good to know that it was achieved with so many regular first team players getting a rest. Wenger rested seven players from the Etihad game and the players that were brought on had it in them to achieve what the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City failed to do.

Have a great week.

Sayonara

Brighton Preview and the Magic of the FA Cup

The FA Cup may not be as glittering in terms of its rewards like the Champions League or Premier League but what it offers is that unpredictable knockout football. Hey, it was the competition that ended the Gunners trophy drought so you can say that Arsenal fans have a thing or two for it. Let’s not forget that it’s also the competition Arsene Wenger has won the most (five times) in his 18-year stint with the club and I’m sure he loves ‘em cup runs.

Imagine being Wenger in last season’s FA Cup final conceding two goals in eight minutes. I’m sure he felt in his heart that if he lost that competition, he would have chosen not to renew his deal because if the lads were not motivated enough to win a Hull side they beat a couple of weeks in the run to the final, then there’s no point hanging around. Well, the boys turned up the style and that would go down as one of the best Cup finals I’ve ever witnessed as a fan.

So last season’s adventure was over and it was now about the Gunners defending their crown. Sadly for Hull, they were faced in front of the firing line again and it took goals from Per Mertesacker (his only goal this season) and Alexis Sanchez (I’ve lost count of how many goals he’s scored) to take the Gunners to the fourth round.

The Fourth Round took center stage yesterday with some results that would go down well with the Emirates faithful. It started with a shock win for Birmingham City over Swansea but the Swans have been utter shite recently so the result wasn’t really all that ‘shocking’ per se. Then there was the Manchester United vs. Cambridge that ended up as a bore draw. LVG’s side was shambolic as you’d expect but since Cambridge couldn’t nick in a goal at home, you’d expect them to have their work cut out for them at Old Trafford. Then there was the Chelsea vs. Bradford game where a bullish Mourinho stated that it would be a disgrace to lose to Bradford. Little did he know that Bradford would make history by being the first team to beat Mourinho by four goals in his home stadium. Manchester City still had the Arsenal hangover against Middlesbro’ugh and there were goals for Marouane Chamakh and Yaya Sanogo as the Alan Pardew army marched on past Southampton. The day was wrapped up with a stalemate between Liverpool and Bolton.

Today the Gunners come up against a Brighton side they faced off two seasons ago. It wasn’t a stroll in the park as many expected and I can vividly remember that Andre Santos had a torrid time. Two goals from Olivier Giroud and a late Theo Walcott goal settled the contest.

To team news, Wojciech Szczesny could be in line to make a return to first team football action and it would be interesting to see how he handles it. In defense, Kieran Gibbs is working his way back to full fitness and I expect him to get a run out with Hector Bellerin continuing his good run of form on the right. Laurent Koscielny would get some deserved rest with Calum Chambers and Per Mertesacker in the heart of the defense.

In midfield, Mathieu Flamini has been displaced from the first team by Francis Coquelin, so I have a hunch that he’d be odds on to play today. Aaron Ramsey is still in need of games so he’d play alongside the ageless Czech, Tomas Rosicky, in the middle. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud will complete the front three.

Here’s to a great game of football

Sayonara

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