Arsenal vs. Reading
FA Cup Semifinal
Saturday, April 18, 2015
9.20 AM PT/12.20 PM ET/5.20 PM BT
Wembley Stadium, London
US TV: Fox (the main Fox channel, the one the Simpsons is on. Not Fox Sports) | Worldwide TV info livesoccer.tv
What better way to spend a Saturday morning (in the US) than watching your favorite soccer team play a semifinal? No better way, I think. You're in luck! Arsenal trundle over to the north-west of London to face Reading in the first FA Cup semifinal. Ignore all the crap about competing games - they don't matter. What matters is Arsenal, and what matters is that Arsenal take care of business and book a trip to Wembley in May. A return trip to Wembley. Whatever.
Arsenal made hard work of last year's semifinal, of course, being taken to extra time by Wigan, and winning 4-2 on penalties. One would hope that this year's edition is much more straightforward - Arsenal are winners of nine in a row at this point, including the quarterfinal against Manchester United, and are in more or less the same health they were after last weekend as they head to the semifinal. Szcz will probably get a start, and apart from Arteta, Ox, and Diaby, Wenger has a full quiver from which to pick his arrows.
That quiver includes, for the first time in months, Mathieu Debuchy; he may not see any action thanks to his long layoff, but the fact he's available for selection is great news.
Anyway, standing in Arsenal's way are Reading. Reading currently occupy 18th place in the 24 team Championship; they're eight points clear of the bottom three, but that said, they've been a bit wobbly lately - they haven't won in the league since beating Bradford in their Cup quarterfinal replay, on March 16. Reading are also more or less fit, missing only Anton Ferdinand (newsflash: Anton Ferdinand still plays soccer!) through injury, while Nathan Ake and Kwesi Appiah are cup-tied.
While Reading probably won't be relegated - thanks to the eight point gap between them and 22nd placed Millwall - they're definitely looking to right the ship tomorrow and make a Big Bold Statement, which could spell danger if Arsenal aren't ready to go. Fortunately, Wenger seems to have the mind of the team right for these occasions - as he said when asked about Reading, and about Saturday's match:
"They have players with Premier League experience, they are very efficient and I believe for us they can be danger," Wenger said. "Once you're at Wembley it would be absolutely non-intelligent to just turn up and think we will win the game. We know exactly what can happen and I think the team will have the focus needed."
The nice thing about a nine game winning streak is that it indicates an overabundance of readiness to go; as long as Arsenal do what Arsenal does lately, they should be fine.