Tag Archives: FA Cup

Mikel Arteta FA Cup headaches: Mesut Ozil & Matteo Guendouzi

Formation & Selection

Mikel Arteta clearly prefers 433 / 4231, but in recent weeks he has employed 3 (or 5?) at the back.

In 2017, Arsenal beat Chelsea playing 3 at the back, with masterful performances from Nacho Monreal, Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding.

Will we see 3 at the back again? With Rob Holding, David Luiz and either Kieran Tierney or Saed Kolasinac in defence?

Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos will surely continue their fruitful partnership in the middle of the park, but who flanks them?

On the left he has to chose between whichever left back does not play as a left centre back and Bukayo Saka.

The young Englishman has been poor in recent weeks, so might be better being used as an impact substitute if we convert to a back 4. Replacing the Alexandre Lacazette up top allowing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to play down the middle.

Auba will likely start wide left.

On the right hand side, Nicolas Pepe will likely be selected, but who plays behind him is a head ache.

With Cedric cup tied, it is a choice between Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Bellerin is the better defender, but the Englishman gives more going forward and is perhaps better suited with playing wing back.

Arteta has also instructed Maitland-Niles to tuck into midfield from the right hand side at times, which he is more than capable of doing so. But Holding is not as good as covering the right hand side when he does this as Mustafi.

Arteta has quite a bit to think about.

Mesut Ozil

Having not played a minute since football restarted, Mikel Arteta has a dilemma.

Does he put Ozil on the bench, giving him a chance to win his 4th FA Cup medal? Or does he continue to cast him aside.

Something has gone wrong with their relationship.

Ozil played a lot under Arteta prior to the suspension of football, and not played a minute since football restarted.

Is it his refusal to take a pay cut? His attitude? His continual sick days with a “back injury”? Has he just fallen out of love with football? Now happy to go through the motions in training, not play and pick up his huge pay cheque.

Clearly something is not right there.

Whatever the decision, Arteta should announce it today to stop it being a big issue tomorrow.

Matteo Guendouzi

Following the defeat to Brighton, Guendouzi found himself out of the team with the club concerned about his attitude.

Like Ozil, he has not even made the bench since that incident, with the club reprotedly open to offers on him.

His immaturity is clearly a concern for the club – to the point where they had to discuss it with his “representatives” rather than the player himself.

We are a weaker squad with Guendouzi in it. If not playing, he can provide us energy coming off the bench.

Maybe missing out on an FA Cup final is the kick he needs? Arteta perhaps needs to offer the olive branch and at least let him take a place on the bench.

My gut is, following rows with Arteta in Dubai, mocking Freddie Ljungberg and Unai Emery, Guendouzi is done at Arsenal and will not be part of the travelling squad.

It will be a sad end to such a talented players Arsenal career.

Keenos

Finish 7th in the league or win the FA Cup? There is only one correct answer…

Tuesday’s defeat was predictable.

From the highs of Manchester City, it was always going to be tough to get the lads back up for another big game.

Arsenal looked like a team that was mentally and physically drained.

It is interesting that of the 4 FA Cup semi-finalists, just one side won – Manchester City.

Arsenal lost away to Aston Villa, Chelsea away to Liverpool and Manchester United drew at home to West Ham.

Looking specifically at Aston Villa, they last played last Thursday, so had 4 clear days between their draw against Everton and the match against Arsenal.

Arsenal meanwhile played that FA Cup semi-final Saturday evening, leaving just 2 days recovery between the two games.

Tuesday was Arsenal’s 11th game in 35 days.

Due to the postponed fixture against Manchester City prior to the suspension of football, and Arsenal’s success in the FA Cup, only Man City have played the same amount of games as Arsenal during that period.

Manchester United and Chelsea have both played 1 less game. Whilst every other team has played 2-3 games last. That is the difference between playing once every 3 days and once every 4 days.

People might say “they are professional athletes, they should be able to play every 3 days”. And you are right. But only right if playing every 3 days is over a short period – not over a 5 week period.

The body takes a while to recover from physical activity. Anyone that has ever been to the gym for the first time in a while we know that for the next few days your body is wrecked. You might not be able to lift your arms over the hand.

Of course, professional athletes will recover a lot quicker. But that does not mean they will recover to 100%.

Lets say they played the first game at 100%. With a short time between games, they had only recovered to 95%. By the 3rd game it was 90% and so on. Eventually the cumulative fatigue of playing every 3 days catches up with you. Mental fatigue is also a huge factor.

So Arsenal now have no chance of top 7. Qualification of Europe through the league. The FA Cup is now more important than the weekends game against Watford.

Following a cool down session tomorrow, the club should send the majority of the first team squad away for 2 or 3 days. To turn off physically and mentally.

Other than those who not physiotherapy, senior players should not be seen at London Colney today, Friday or Saturday. They should return on Sunday for a light training session before preparation for the FA Cup Finals.

Against Watford, play Cedric, play Sokratis, play Dan Ballard, Joe Willock, Lucas Torreira, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah. Those players who have not played much recently.

Give Matt Macey a run out, Matt Smith. It might be worthwhile give Bukayo Saka a run out. The teenager has not played much recently. Was Tuesday poor performance due to fatigue or a lack of sharpness?

If we win the FA Cup, no one will really remember us finishing 10th in the league.

Ultimately there is little difference between being 10th in the league – 43 points off top, and 6th, 37 points off top. You are still a long way off of top.

Winning the FA Cup will be another trophy in the bag. Our 4th FA Cup in 6 years. Give me trophies over league position other than 1st any day of the week.

OK, so Spurs have finished above us for the 4th time in a row. There fans are celebrating. Bloggers are trying to come up with names for their own St Totteringham’s Day.

4 in a row, fair play to them. But they have some way to go for 21 in a row.

In the last 29 years, Spurs have finished above Arsenal 6 times. Each time they finished above Arsenal, Arsenal made a final:

1993: FA Cup & League Cup
1995: ECWC
2017: FA Cup
2018: League Cup
2019: Europa League
2020: FA Cup

In 1993 and 2019, Tottenham finished less than 3 points ahead of Arsenal. Had we not rested played for club finals, it is likely we would have finished above them.

Likewise this season, with the 3 extra games we have played than Spurs, chances are we would have finished above Spurs.

The defeat against Brighton came a couple of days after the opening game post-suspension against Manchester City.

Brighton had been able to concentrate since the return on Arsenal. Arsenal were distracted.

Likewise the game against Villa. Arsenal would have likely won had they not been in the FA Cup semi-final.

Competing in the FA Cup often does affect league form, and vice versa. It is tough to be competitive in both, which is highlighted by just how few teams win the double.

Especially as the season turns to March, games come thick and fast. It is hard to get the team ready for a game every 3 days. Eventually the fatigue will hit and you will fall away in one or two competitions.

This season is actually similar to last.

We sacrificed a top 4 finish last season resting players for the Europe League final against Chelsea. The result was Arsenal just missed out on top 4, and lost the Europa League final.

This season we have sacrificed a top 7 finish resting players for the FA Cup. We play Chelsea in the final. The result is Arsenal have just missed out on top 7. Hopefully this time round we lift the trophy, which clinches our place in Europe and potentially leaves Tottenham with nothing (if they finish 7th).

So let’s play the youth against Watford. Concentrate on the FA Cup. And create a memory.

Keenos

Match Report: Sheffield United 1 – 2 Arsenal

Sheffield United (0) 1 Arsenal (1) 2
FA Cup Sixth Round
Bramall Lane, Highfield, Sheffield S2 4SU
Sunday. 28th June 2020. Kick-off time: 1.00pm

(4-2-3-1) Emiliano Martínez; David Luiz, Shkodran Mustafi, Kieran Tierney, Ainsley Maitland-Niles; Joe Willock, Granit Xhaka; Sead Kolašinac, Nicolas Pépé, Alexandre Lacazette; Bukayo Saka.
Substitutes: Hector Bellerin, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Dani Ceballos, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Rob Holding, Reiss Nelson, Eddie Nketiah, Matt Macey, Matt Smith.
Scorers: Nicolas Pépé (24 mins), Dani Ceballos (90+1 mins)
Arsenal Possession Percentage: 59%
Referee: Paul Tierney
Attendance: A maximum of 300 attendees due to UK government coronavirus restructions

And so, the day of our last throw of the dice for silverware in this most troubled of football seasons has now arrived. Much depends, of course, not only on the team selection, but of the attitude of our chaps today, so let’s hope that they throw caution to the wind, and go for it; after all, the FA Cup is our only chance of glory now, so we need a confident, emphatic win in South Yorkshire this Sunday lunchtime, nothing else will do.

A brisk and competitive start for both clubs showed the seriousness and intent for victory here today. Our defenders were put under pressue early on; indeed, after just eight minutes, the home side put a shot across our bows when the first goal of the match was chalked off for an offside call, which became a real wake up call for us. Ainsley Maitland-Niles had a young cool head on his shoulders when he came back to win the ball under pressure and distribute it accordingly to the midfielders; although it was a difficult period of the match, we managed to keep our shape and push the ball between ourselves extremely well indeed. Funnily enough, Sheffield United attempted to replicate our movements when they, too, started to distribute the ball closely in midfield, but thankfully, it was nothing to concern our players, as we were able to halt all attempts to advance towards our goal. After twenty-two minutes, Alexandre Lacazette was fouled just inside the Sheffield United penalty area, and after the usual VAR hand-wringing back in Stockley Park, Nicolas Pépé made no mistake from the penalty spot to put us into the lead, a minute or so before the usual mid-half drinks break. On the half-hour mark, Nicolas Pépé almost got a second goal for himself, when a superb shot was acrobatically saved by Blades goalie Dean Henderson. With a goal under our belts, we started to show our confidence, and dominate the match in various areas of the pitch, much to the growing frustration of the home side. An unfortunate collision between Joe Willock and Oli McBurnie meant that both sets of medical teams were called on to check the players (who went off the field to recover) before continuing the match. Kieran Tierney was desperately unlucky not to score our second when a clever shot just went over the bar, and minutes later, Nicolas Pépé again narrowly missed the target when a low ball from Kieran Tierney deceived the Sheffield defenders with a clever move from the left hand side of the pitch. During the seven minutes injury time period for the Joe Willock/Oli McBurnie collision from earlier, Arsenal were by far the better side of the two, putting together some interesting moves, but sadly unable to gain further advantage before the break.

We started the second half lively enough, but it was the home side that came close to scoring when an Oli McBurnie header was easily plucked out the air by Emiliano Martínez. The much maligned David Luiz went off with an injury after fifty-three minutes, to be replaced by Rob Holding, who speedily got into position, shoring up the defence perfectly. For the next few minutes, the home side started to take the match to us, with a couple of close chances and another disallowed goal which was cancelled for offside. We looked at all at sea at the back, and the home side were looking at their options to break through and score. Lively up yourselves Arsenal! Dani Ceballos and Eddie Nketiah replaced Alexandre Lacazette and Joe Willock after sixty-six minutes (just before the drinks break) in order to seal up this cup-tie, and almost immediately one could feel thet positive change in the team; indeed a snap 25-yard effort from Granit Xhaka gave everyone confidence with sixteen minutes left of the game, in which he was unlucky not to score. With the match settling down, we started to take our eyes off the ball, and sure enough David McGoldrick equalised for the Blades with just two minutes left on the clock. Despite pressure from the home side, just a minute or so later, Dani Ceballos picked the ball up in the opposing penalty area, moved forward quickly and coolly slotted the ball home past an outstretched Dean Henderson to restore the lead to Arsenal in injury time Unbelievable drama!

Well, well, well. Who would have thought it possible? After our results recently, we get to Wembley for our thirtieth FA Cup semi-final. Who knows where this journey may now end? It wasn’t great, it wasn’t pretty football at times, but hey, we got through; let’s not think about it too much at the moment, just be thankful that the result went our way at the end. Remember everyone, keep the faith, get behind the team and the manager, as this season is going to be crucial for our future success in all competitions. Stick with the winners.

Our next match: Norwich City at Emirates Stadium, Drayton Park, London N5 1BU on Wednesday, 1st July at 6.00pm (Premier League). Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Steve

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.