Arsenal (1) 1 Manchester United (2) 3
FA Cup Fourth Round
Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU
Friday, 25th January 2019. Kick-off time: 7.55pm
(4-2-3-1) Čech; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolašinac; Xhaka, Torreira; Ramsey, Iwobi; Aubameyang, Lacazette.
Substitutes: Elneny, Özil, Lichtsteiner, Monreal, Leno, Mustafi, Guendouzi
Yellow Cards: Koscielny, Kolašinac, Guendouzi
Referee: Craig Pawson
This is the kind of match that everyone needs to start the series of games which make up the fourth round of the oldest club competition in the world. Quite naturally, reputations and memories of previous meetings between these two clubs come to mind, but tonight the only thing on everyone’s mind is a place in the next round of the cup; apart from the return of the controversial Alexis Sánchez in a Manchester United shirt, of course.
Right from the start, you could feel the nervous tension in the stadium; as early as the seventh minute, Petr Čech was called into action when he spread himself at the feet of Paul Pogba to neutralise what, at best, could be described as a half chance, but at this level you really cannot take the gamble. Unfortunately, after ten minutes on the clock, Sokratis landed awkwardly and twisted his ankle. Although he tried to continue, it became obvious that it would be foolish to do so under the circumstances. And so our first substitution of the night came afater just seventeen minutes played with Shkodran Mustafi replacing him in the defence. A few minutes later, Alex Iwobi was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring with some clever passing in the opposition penalty area; ironically, if he had squared the ball to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang we may have had our noses in front. After half an hour on the clock the unthinkable happened. In a clever movement, Romelu Lukaku slotted the ball through to enfant terrible
Alexis Sánchez who coolly rounded Petr Čech to open the scoring for the visitors; just as if that was not bad enough, little more than two minutes later, Romelu Lukaku found space on our left hand side and advancing towards our penalty area, looked across and a quick ball found an unmarked Jesse Lingard who wasted no time in increasing the Manchester United score. Three minutes before half-time, our clever play finally paid off with the soon-to-be departing Aaron Ramsey collecting a ball from the excellent Alex Iwobi, and jinking his way through the United defence, crossed the ball for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get one back for us. Now we started to put some serious moves together, and Alexandre Lacazette was desperately unlucky not to equalise the scores in injury time.Just a minute into the second half we were desperately unlucky not to score with a clever Aaron Ramsey header that Sergio Romero somehow tipped over the bar. This incident spurred both sides to play exciting, end-to-end football with little margin for error. The pace was electric, with Aaron Ramsey showing everyone what a first-class player he really is. A tragic accident that saw Laurent Koscielny walk off the pitch with a nasty head injury which took the heat out of the proceedings, albeit briefly; this also added a further ten minutes on the clock whilst he was being attended to by the Arsenal staff on the pitch. He was replaced by Mattéo Guendouzi, who wasted little time in getting into the swing of things, as did Mesut Özil, who entered the fray in place of Alex Iwobi with 25 minutes left on the clock. With just five minutes left of normal time, and despite pressure on the United goal, Paul Pogba broke away and ran through the middle of Arsenal’s defence; his subsequent shot was parried by Petr Čech, but sadly Anthony Martial was on hand to merely tap the ball into the open Arsenal net. The match now got scrappy with an unsavoury incident between the two sets of players that saw Sead Kolašinac booked, and a poor mis-timed tackle during injury time by Mattéo Guendouzi also saw him enter the referee’s book. And despite one or two attempts on goal by both sides, that was that.
Things we did well; move forward quickly, good first touch, good spirit and overall a fairly good desire to win. Things we did badly; defend. We also did not having enough awareness of the dangers that the quick Manchester United forwards posed to our defensive shape (if there was one). Mr. Emery is on the right track but needs some top class defenders fairly quickly otherwise we will just continue to be found wanting at the back. Time after time this season, our defence has been in absentia whilst the midfield and attack are doing their very best to win matches with class and style. This situation will be resolved in time, but what damage will be done to the team by then? We simply cannot carry on in this manner, score one, let in two. Or more to the point, win one, lose one. And now we have injuries on top of all this mayhem. Five days and counting until the end of the transfer window for loan deals. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as these early days are going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners. Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Too Dearly Loved To Be Forgotten: Arsenal v Racing Club de Paris 1930-1962 by Steve Ingless (Rangemore Publications, ISBN 978-1-5272-0135-4) is now available on Amazon.