Compared to a Champions League triumph or Premier League charge, an FA Cup final is still small-fry – but it may be enough to save Arsenal’s season
The Gunners played in the least Arsene Wenger way possible to give the French manager the chance to either sign off in North London lifting a trophy or at least partially save a tumultuous season.
Having won the competition twice in the past three season, the FA Cup has become Arsenal’s hunting ground, the chance to turn an average season into one to remember by reaching Wembley and going that extra mile to win it. Wenger is on his way out, be it this summer or later on, and the successful run in the FA Cup is the best excuse ever to say the season has been positive, after all.
With a display of defensive power, concentration and strength, Arsenal controlled Manchester City’s sterile passing game to concede very little and take their chances when they came. The Citizens went 1-0 up and had a couple chances to kill the game, probably deserving to go through overall, but they were all sporadic moments. For most of the game, City were unable to create danger, as Arsenal defended like very few other times under Wenger.
Then, up front, it was the usual suspect to win it: Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean is the added value to this team, and showed it once again. Wenger’s move to play Danny Welbeck up front was the other decisive factor, with the former Manchester United man cutting into the City defence easily, creating problems and giving Arsenal that extra edge.
So Wenger knows he will have a chance to turn things around and take home another trophy. The FA Cup is not the Premier League title, let alone the Champions League, but it remains something to be proud of.
The team standing in Wenger’s way is Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, an outfit that currently seems almost unbeatable in England. One of the best Tottenham performances of the season still lead to a 4-2 defeat for Spurs: this is how solid Chelsea are. The Blues are not at their best anyway, having lost points in the Premier League race – with Tottenham now just four points behind – and focussing obviously on the league rather than the FA Cup.
Another Wembley final is a chance Arsenal cannot miss: winning the FA Cup could brush away some of the negativity built in these months around Wenger, with the fans protesting and uncertainty over his future becoming more important than the results themselves: something that has further slowed down Arsenal’s season.
The Wembley London derby on the 27th of May will be one to remember. In contrast to their last two FA Cup victories – against Hull City and Aston Villa – Arsenal enter this game as the underdogs, with Chelsea being clear favourites. Conte will want to take home the Double, Wenger will need to give his fans at least some joy this season.