It took 120 minutes, but Arsenal defeated Manchester City and Pep Guardiola by a final of 2-1 today to advance to the FA Cup final. Sergio Aguero put City ahead early in the second half after some terrible defending from Arsenal, but the Gunners kept their composure and hit back to force extra time through Nacho Monreal, and Alexis Sanchez’ goal from a free kick sealed the Citizens’ fate. Here are some talking points from the match:
Arsenal’s passive first half
The opening 45 minutes of the match was almost comically one-sided. It’s not that Arsenal fashioned no chances on the break, but they simply could not retain any kind of possession or string any passes together out of the back. Although their defending was solid, rather than using the midfield to build, the defenders kept playing the ball long towards Olivier Giroud, who for all his efforts simply couldn’t stick. City would have been frustrated to reach halftime scoreless after having the ball for so long.
City missed David Silva
The little Spaniard had to leave the match roughly 20 minutes in, and City missed his inventiveness in the attacking third after that. Although their goal would come after injury forced him off, their attack was limited to long shots and low crosses which Arsenal dealt with well for the most part.
The back three coped
Arsenal ran out a 3-4-3 formation for the second match this season. Although City’s goal would come when all three center backs were caught too far up the pitch in a classic “Hey, look, we’re starting to have possession, let’s all try to score!” Arsenal moment, for most of the match, each of Gabriel, Laurent Koscielny, and Rob Holding did their jobs well. Gabriel and Holding in particular looked composed and focused, and positioned themselves well.
So, it’s on to the final, where Arsenal will face Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Arsenal will need to be more decisive and clinical on counters in the final than they were today, but if they can defend this solidly, they will certainly have a chance.