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Sunday, 13 April 2014

Arsenal overcome troubles to reach FA Cup final

Arsenal have done it. They have reached the final of the FA Cup, but only just. Wigan proved to be a much stronger test than we ever hoped they would and it paved the way for the most tense game I've witnessed in recent seasons. Jordi Gomez fired home a penalty that I must say left me fearing the worst. After all of our frailties it wouldn't have surprised me if we did lose the game. Back we came though and we have Per Mertesacker to thank as he headed home with nine minutes remaining. His strike took the game to extra time, and then penalties in which we triumphed 4-2 after some heroics from Fabianski in goal.

The celebrations summed up how desperate the players are to end their goal drought, but it was more of a sign of relief after nearly crashing out to a Championship side. Having waited to until the second semi-final to write this, we'll be playing Hull City in the final. Another tense game awaits.
Fabianski was the hero for Arsenal, saving two penalties in the shoot-out
The team selection that Wenger went for threw up a few surprises, but after a few weeks of criticisms in that department it showed he was willing to take risks. Aaron Ramsey and the Ox passed late fitness tests whilst Kieran Gibbs was only fit enough for the bench. Meanwhile Yaya Sanogo started up top as Fabianski continued as our 'Cup keeper'. Thomas Eisfeld and Chuba Akpom were both amongst the substitutes due to Rosicky not being fit and Flamini's suspension.

On reflection, the team that was picked was probably the right one, however much we struggled. Yaya Sanogo gave us an extra burst of pace going forward and got in behind a few times. He had the most chances of any player in the entire game which was encouraging. Had he had a better touch then the game could've been over before extra time. Another player that gave us some added energy was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. He had a brilliant game and was a key factor of our explosive start. He linked well with Sanogo who had a header saved well by Carson.

Aaron Ramsey also had a good game and showed what we've been missing in terms of his drive going forward. He wasn't fully up to speed as you could tell but he still gave us something different.

Overall it was a hugely frustrating tie. I watched with a raging heart rate when we conceded that penalty. It was not good for the nerves at all, but we eventually got the job done. Mertesacker dived in on Callum McManaman for the penalty which due to an injury to Monreal, wasn't taken until about three minutes later. Jordi Gomez managed to convert well and Arsenal had to stage a comeback.

Bacary Sagna had a great chance in the first half and then hit the woodwork in the second. Kieran Gibbs, who replaced Monreal, also had a great chance brilliantly saved and then cleared off the line. It was beginning to look as though it wasn't going to be our day. However a shot into the ground from the Ox managed to find Per Mertesacker at the back post who headed home to make up for giving away the penalty.

Extra time threw up more tense moments. Chamberlain managed to find something extra despite having cramp to thump a shot against the bar. Meanwhile Nick Powell gave Vermaelen the run around down the opposite end and slid an effort wide. The game went to penalties. Bizarrely though Jordi Gomez was due to take last, but didn't get the chance. Fabianski saved twice from Caldwell and then Tomkins as Arteta, Kallstrom, Giroud and Cazorla scored to take the Gunners into the final next month.

It was a vitally important result for not just the team, but also Arsene Wenger. Had we lost the game then serious questions, if they had not already been asked, would've been fired in the direction of a man whose given so much to the English game.

The teams line-ups:

Wigan: Carson, Perch, Boyce, Ramis(86), Crainey, Beausejour, McEachran(64), McArthur, McManaman(68), Gomez, Fortune.
Subs: Al Habsi, Barnett, Caldwell(86), Espinoza, Collison(64), Maloney, Powell(68).

Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Monreal(63), Arteta, Ramsey(112), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cazorla, Podolski(68), Sanogo. 
Subs: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Gibbs(63), Kallstrom(112), Eisfeld, Akpom, Giroud(68).

My man of the match: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. 

Referee: Michael Oliver
Attendance: 82,185   

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