Monday, 24 April 2017

We're The Famous Arsenal And We're Going To Wembley

I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong and I got a few things wrong in my preview of Arsenal's FA Cup semi final with City. Firstly I questioned the mental strength of the team and they proved that they do have some of it by coming from behind to win 2-1 in extra time. I also questioned the three (or five) at the back formation, but it looked a lot better against City than it did in the second half in particular against Boro.

We may have had to defend in depth and in numbers too and we may have rode our luck more than a little at times, but I thought we just about deserved the victory. City can complain all they like about some questionable decisions by the referee, but all of the decisions didn't go in our favour and I didn't hear them complaining when they beat us 2-1 earlier in the season thanks to two offside goals. That game was one of those that destroyed our confidence and started the rot which has seen us fall so badly away in the race for the top four.

Our chances of a top four finish took a turn for the better yesterday though when Liverpool lost at home to Palace to leave us thinking we have a slight chance of making next season's Champions League. We have eight games left this season and if we win them all we will finish in the top four and lift the FA Cup too which means it's not all exactly doom and gloom. We can't get our hopes too high though because there are some very tough games in there and we're still a long way from a good team far too often.

All of our problems haven't suddenly gone away overnight thanks to a win over City, but there are definite signs of improvement. Rob Holding has taken his chance with both hands and he has to be pushing to keep his place in the team when Shkodran Mustafi returns from injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had another very good game against City and it appears playing as a wing back might just suit him.

I still think we need to be more mobile up front if we're going to play three central defenders and Olivier Giroud doesn't exactly possess the pace to hit teams on the break. Surely playing Alexis Sanchez in the central striking role makes more sense as it's where he can have the maximum impact. I understand the thinking behind Giroud at centre forward with the formation we're playing, but we still don't get the crosses into the box to suit his needs. When Chamberlain or Nacho Monreal get into a good position they're far more likely to pull the ball back for somebody to run onto.

I wasn't so sure of Aaron Ramsey playing alongside Granit Xhaka and I thought Mohamed Elneny would be a better option, but Ramsey looked like he might be growing into the role against City. I also mentioned that City are the team most like us in terms of their ability to mess things up for themselves and all they have left to play for now is a top four place and next season's Champions League. If we're going to make it ourselves we need to overhaul two of City, Liverpool and United before the season ends.

That quest starts at home to Leicester on Wednesday night and continues at Spurs on Sunday and we quite simply have to win both games. Leicester will be no pushover after their recent upturn and the thought of ending Spurs hopes of winning the league on Sunday has to be one the players should be looking forward to. They showed a real vulnerability in losing their cup semi final 4-2 to Chelsea on Saturday and we need to find a way to take advantage of that vulnerability.

For the moment though we can wallow in the glory of our victory and the knowledge of a trip to Wembley for the Cup Final to come on Saturday May 27. Tickets won't be quite so easy to access as they were for the semi final and I have no doubt plenty of those who decided not to go to the semi final will grab the chance to go to the final. We have the chance to set a couple of records that day and hopefully we can do just that.

No matter where we go from here though I still think it's time for Arsene Wenger to go and that won't change even if we win the cup and finish in the top four. Scraping through by the skin of our teeth isn't enough any more and we need to be putting in a genuine challenge. I just can't see that happening under him any more and for me that means it's time for change. Sadly I think winning our way to the cup final will probably be what tips the scales in his favour when it comes to signing a new contract regardless of whether we finish in the top four or not.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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