Blog Archives

That’s How You March Out of the FA Cup

March penalty miss sets up United-City FA Cup final - RTHK

The fun part about being an Arsenal fan is that you’d take a keen interest around everything concerning the Premier League and English football at large, and after witnessing Riyad Mahrez smash in a sensational hat-trick to send Manchester City to the FA Cup final, I got the cold beer ready, as I watched the exciting Brighton take on Manchester United.

But prior to that, I witnessed Tottenham do the most Tottenham thing you’d expect from them – conceding five goals in 21 minutes. It was so embarrassing that their shaky goalie, Hugo Lloris, had to be subbed off at half time for Fraser Forster, who got in on the conceding act as Newcastle United ran riot to end the tie at 6-1. Harry Kane still managed to score on the day, taking his tally to 24, and one must wonder what was going through his mind regarding his future, as Spurs are likely to miss out on Champions League football entirely at the end of this campaign. Not like we care though, at least St. Totteringham’s Day has been assured, and we have missed that.

Going back to the Brighton vs Manchester United game, I expected an exciting contest and got it in full measure as Roberto de Zerbi continues to do an amazing work with the team after taking over from Graham Potter and losing a key asset like Leandro Trossard in January. Manchester United were utterly embarrassed by Sevilla in midweek, with Harry Maguire doing Harry Maguire stuff, forcing Erik Ten Hag to shuffle the pack in the defense, drafting Aaron Wan-Bissaka ahead of Dalot at right back, playing Diogo Dalot at left back, while Luke Shaw played in the heart of the defense alongside Victor Lindelof – anything to keep the great Magu out of the squad, I guess.

Brighton drew first blood when Alexis MacAllister let one rip from a dead ball but David de Gea was on hand to make a superb stop despite losing sight of the ball due to the sunlight in his eyes. He has always been a good shot stopper, but he’s always capable of a howler or two, like he showcased in the game at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Brighton continued the attack with Pascal Gross and Solly March combining well on the right before teeing up Enciso who took a deft touch and stabbed a right-footed strike that missed the left post by a lick of paint. 

After being pinned to the corner early on, Manchester United got some respite when the fit-again Christian Eriksen found Bruno Fernandes on the edge of the Brighton area and the Portuguese maverick blasted a goal-bound shot that was saved superbly by Robert Sanchez. Sanchez has done well to fight for his place since losing his place to Jason Steele a couple of weeks ago. Casemiro got yet another booking for lunging hard at MacAllister, but what else is on the news? Casemiro getting booked is as consistent as the lack of hair on Howard Webb’s head. However, he managed to find Fernandes in attack who made a lung-bursting run on the right hand channel before blasting a shot that went wide, much to his frustration. 

Manchester United ended the half on the ascendancy with Fernandes robbing Lewis Dunk to feed Anthony Martial that had spotted Sanchez off his line, but his attempted effort didn’t match the idea he had in mind as the ball sailed over the bar. It’s kinda like a luxury seeing Martial on the pitch these days, because he’s only a second away from missing the next three or four games by just sniffing air I guess.

Brighton came out of the blocks early in the second half with de Gea making a top notch save from Enciso after a goal-mouth scramble. Shortly afterwards, former United forward, Danny Welbeck, rose the highest to nod a perfectly swung corner kick, but his attempt was nodded into orbit. After some decent attacking play, March managed to shimmy past his marker but his left-footed drive wasn’t strong enough to beat de Gea. 

Like a classic boxing bout, Manchester United took some punches, got pinned on the ropes, and came back blazing to start a rally of sorts. Fernandes was at the heart of everything good the Red Devils mustered from an attacking standpoint and he was on hand to feed Antony, who dropped his shoulder and curled a sumptuous ball that was saved by Sanchez. It’s fair to say that both goalies did their bit to earn their salaries on the night. 

After some good end-to-end stuff from both sides, extra time beckoned and both sides looked very jaded. Brighton almost got the all-important strike when MacAllister and Moises Caicedo combined superbly before feeding Denis Undav but the forward’s first touch was Romelu Lukaku-esque with the ball evading him and a glorious chance went begging. Manchester United’s dangerman, Marcus Rashford, had been on the periphery all game long but he sprung to life, after receiving the ball, leaving his marker for dead and firing a fizzling shot that was saved by Sanchez. He had another chance after receiving the ball from Casemiro but his effort sailed effortlessly wide. 

The last action came late on when Brighton carved open the Manchester United defense with some intricate passing play, but the final chance fell on Kaoru Mitoma’s feet but his heavy first touch allowed the ball get to de Gea’s path and the keeper wasted no time in smothering the ball to keep the stalemate on.

120 minutes couldn’t separate both sides and we had to rely on the lotteries of a penalty shootout. These things are fun when you’re watching as a neutral, but many Manchester United fans I knew were biting their fingers in anguish because they were certain that de Gea wasn’t going to catch any penalty, due to his atrocious record from 12 yards. And they were not wrong. Even though there were some high quality penalties on display, de Gea’s meek attempts to dive were laughable at best, despite the fact that he was reading some sort of cheat sheet hidden within his towel. However, he didn’t need to do anything as Solly March missed the decisive spot kick at sudden death, before Lindelof scored the kick that has confirmed a Manchester Derby for the FA Cup final next month.

Brighton will take solace from what has been a great FA Cup campaign that saw them knock out the holders, Liverpool, on their way to the semis, so they’d need to turn their attention to the Premier League, as a Europa League finish is still within sight. 


Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily.

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List

Manchester City vs. Arsenal – Round One

Arsenal, Manchester City 'agree £30m Oleksandr Zinchenko deal' - Sports Mole

Formerly opponents, now teammates

The FA Cup Fourth round tie between Manchester City and Arsenal are in more ways than one synonymous to a three rounds heavyweight fight between two fierce boxers, and the spectators know fully well a knock out is imminent and very close by, indeed. Arsenal has emerged as the biggest threats to Manchester City title defense and it’s expected that these juggernauts are likely to meet each other in other domestic competitions. 

The last time Arsenal and Manchester City locked horns in the latter stages of the FA Cup, ex-captain, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, was the hero, scoring a brace which sent the Gunners to the finals of the tournament, before the captain was on song again in the finals against Chelsea.

Following Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph in the 2019-20 campaign, the Gunners failed to defend the trophy in the next season, losing to Southampton in the fourth round, while Manchester City went all the way to the semifinals and lost to eventual losing finalists, Chelsea. Last season, Arsenal dropped off at the first hurdle, losing to Nottingham Forest, while Manchester City went all the way to the semifinals again, and bowed out to Liverpool in a pulsating encounter. 

The cup tie is the very first round where both fighters throw jabs and shuffle around, aiming to test the strength, observe any weakness, and no one is particularly in a hurry to go for the jugular. Arsenal and Manchester City also have another date with destiny in mid-February, which is certain to have a greater impact than tonight’s clash in the FA Cup. This is the first meeting between the two sides this season, with Arsenal being in superb form, and Mikel Arteta will be looking to get one over his counterpart, Pep Guardiola when they lock horns once again.

Manchester City will welcome an in-form Arsenal side, who dispatched lower-tiered Oxford United in the previous round of the competition, before recently posting victories over fierce local rivals, Tottenham, and eternal rivals, Manchester United, in what could potentially go down as the match of the season contender.

Manchester City come into the match after a rather surprisingly comfortable drubbing of Chelsea in the previous round, and they will be more than to glad to see top marksman and runaway golden boot winner, Erling Haaland, back among the goals as he banged a hattrick at the weekend to see off a hapless Wolves side.

To team news, Manchester City’s midfield maestro, Phil Foden, is a doubt with a foot injury, but the likes of Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva are expected to start after they only made the bench in the 3-0 victory over Wolves. Stefan Ortega has been the cup keeper this season, and I’d expect him to get the nod over Ederson, while World Cup winning forward, Julian Alvarez , could continue up front with Erling Haaland.

Arteta might shuffle the pack slightly, bringing in the likes of Takehiro Tomiyasu and Emile Smith-Rowe that is due for a start after quite a lengthy injury layoff. New kid on the block, Leandro Trossard, will be expected to make his full debut after impressing in his cameo against Manchester United.

Manchester City vs Arsenal Predicted Lineups

Manchester City: Ortega; Walker, Dias, Akanji, Ake; Silva, Rodri, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Haaland, Alvarez.

Arsenal: Turner; Tomiyasu, Saliba, Gabriel, Tierney; Partey, Xhaka, Smith Rowe; Trossard, Nketiah, Vieira.

Injury / Suspension Updates

Manchester City: Phil Foden (foot)

Arsenal: Mohamed Elneny (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Gabriel Jesus (knee)

Form Guide

Manchester City Form

  • Last Five Games:  W L L W W
  • Last Result: Man City 3-0 Wolves (Haaland 40′, 50′ (pk), 54′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Erling Haaland (31)

Arsenal Form

  • Last Five Games: W D W W W
  • Last Result: Arsenal 3-2 Manchester United (Nketiah 24′, 90′, Saka 53′ | Rashford 17′, Martinez 59′)
  • Leading Goalscorer: Eddie Nketiah (9)

Gooner Daily predicts a 2 – 2 draw.

Kick Off – 9.00pm (GMT +1) at Etihad Stadium.

Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily.

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle: Better Late Than Never

Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle United (aet): Emile Smith Rowe sends below-par  Gunners into fourth round |

Match Report – Match Highlights – Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Arsenal 2-0 Newcastle (Smith-Rowe 109′, Aubameyang 117′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Leno; Cedric (Maitland-Niles 120′), D. Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Elneny, Willock (Xhaka 66′), Pepe (Lacazette 106′), Willian (Saka 66′), Nelson (Smith-Rowe 56′), Aubameyang

With the Gunners riding on a high, it was important to get some momentum in their first defense of the FA Cup for the campaign against Newcastle. Steve Bruce’s side has blown hot and cold this season but on their day they could be a threat to contend with. With the games coming thick and fast in the festive period, it was expected that players would get some rest with other squad members filling in their stead.

I was certain Runar Runarsson wouldn’t get a run out following his howler in the Carabao Cup, so Bernd Leno continued between the sticks. However, Kieran Tierney and Pablo Mari kept their places following the West Brom game while Cedric Soares and David Luiz got some much needed game time ahead of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding. Joe Willock started alongside Mo Elneny in the central midfield positions while Willian played in the attacking midfield role. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang spearheaded the attack and was flanked by Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli, but we received some news that Martinelli was injured in the warm up and was replaced by Reiss Nelson.

Arsenal was expected to be on the ascendancy and the first meaningful attack of the game arrived when Aubameyang was sent clean on goal from the right, so he had to improvise with the outside of his boot but the returning Martin Dubravka was on hand to make a superb stop. Early in the second half, Newcastle had the chance to grab the lead when Jeff Hendrick’s effort fell kindly to Andy Carroll but his side-footed shot beat an onrushing Leno and missed by a lick of paint. Elneny dinked another sumptuous ball to Aubameyang and his effort went wide off the mark. I got really concerned as the club’s talisman has found goals hard to come by this season and one can only hope he gets his scoring mojo back. 

Tierney worked well with Pepe whose in-swinging cross was headed goalwards on the ground by Willock but Dubravka turned to a peak Oblak and made another magnificent save. Arsenal were made to almost rue those misses when Carroll was one on one with Leno right at the death. The Arsenal goalie made an outstanding save from the Newcastle forward and did even better with the follow up, smothering the ball before Carroll could get a rebound. With replays scrapped, the game went into extra time. Substitute, Granit Xhaka almost gave the team the lead with a dipping shot that found its mark but Dubravka was in inspired form, making another stellar save.

Then came the turning point of the match. Emile Smith-Rowe had been playing well for his side but his defensive instincts took center stage as he attempted a tackle to win the ball but the Newcastle player got on the end of his boot due to his momentum and shockingly, Chris Kavanagh brandished a red card. 

Emile Smith Rowe goal helps send Arsenal through in FA Cup despite being  shown red card earlier in tie

Thankfully, the folks at the VAR room communicated to the ref, who also decided to have a look yet again, thereby overturning his decision and changing it to a yellow card. With Arsenal still having all its players intact, it only made sense for three of the subs to combine awesomely to score the all-important match opener. Smith-Rowe robbed a Newcastle midfielder off the ball in midfield, fed Bukayo Saka and continued his foray forward, Saka lobbed the ball to Alexandre Lacazette who intelligently cushioned his header to Smith-Rowe’s path. Following some exquisite control, the young midfielder’s first-timed effort beat Dubravka, clipped the post and went in. The game was put beyond doubt when Xhaka threaded a killer pass in behind the Newcastle defense to Tierney that provided another sweet cut back from the byline that found Aubameyang who finished aplomb.

The captain needed that goal like I need FPL points for my team, Stagnetti’s Revenge, but more importantly, the Gunners continued their good run of form and qualified to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup. There were some concerns on the performances of Willian and Pepe in particular, who failed to impress yet again, and I see no reason why they should be included in Arteta’s Premier League starting lineup against Crystal Palace.

This goal was massive for Emile Smith-Rowe that continued to justify his selection in the side and I was particularly happy for Lacazette that has shown that he’s undroppable at the moment. In his little cameo appearance, he continued to showcase his influence in the center forward position, getting that lovely assist for his teammate. Finally, it was good to see Aubameyang that has scored just his sixth goal in his 18th appearance this season. The Gabonese forward thrives on goals and hopefully his confidence would improve as we need him to get on the scoring act in the coming Premier League games.

Despite the positives, the major negative from the game was Martinelli’s injury prior to kickoff that was confirmed by the gaffer,

“I am gutted. I was in my office before the game and one of the coaches came in and told me that Gabi had hurt himself, that he’d twisted his ankle.

“I went to the medical room and he was in tears. He was in a lot of pain and we’re going to have to see how he is. It didn’t look good. He was in pain so I imagine that we’re not going to have good news with him.”

The Gunners take on Crystal Palace on Thursday, which is just four days from now, but I’d rather bask in the euphoria of yet another win, as they seem to be coming the frequency I expect.


Follow Gooner Daily on Twitter  @goonerdaily.

Visit Gooner Daily’s  Facebook page.

Click on the “Follow button” to join Gooner Daily’s Mailing List