Arsenal are through to the FA Cup semifinal after downing Sheffield United 2-1 at Bramall Lane. In a break from typical Arsenal, the Gunners managed a stoppage time winner through Dani Ceballos just minutes after conceding a late-equalizer on shoddy defending. It’s slightly worrying that the side seems only able to manage one good half instead of a solid 90 minutes, but a win is a win.
Sheffield looked to have gotten off to a fast start with a goal inside the first 10 minutes, but it was ruled out by VAR for offside. Arsenal responded well. They took control of the match and put together several good attacking moves and took the lead on a Nicolas Pépé penalty, earned by Alexandre Lacazette.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Arsenal match without some clownshoes defending. The match looked certain to need extra time when the Gunners had yet another defensive disasterclass on a long throw-in. With nobody really challenging or pressuring him, Sead Kolasinac hit his clearance directly into Rob Holding. The ricochet fell to David McGoldrick, who evened the match at one. Arsenal continue to struggle defending set pieces and throw-ins; they’ve conceded the highest percentage of their goals from them of any team in the Premier League this season.
Not to be outdone, however, Sheffield’s defense conceded a “what were they thinking” goal a few minutes later. Arsenal broke well but Nicolas Pépé was turned away, and it looked like the counter had fizzled. The defenders seem to switch off, and Dani Ceballos charged down the loose ball to slot home the winner.
Notable performances today for Arsenal:
- Nicolas Pépé was dangerous, particularly in the first half, but he faded as the match went on. Not sure if it’s a fitness thing or what, but his work early in the match is what you hope to see from your record-signing.
- Kieran Tierney puts in really dangerous service on attack. If he can stay healthy, Arsenal are going to score plenty of goals from his crosses.
- Emi Martinez made a handful of good saves and had another solid match. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his play since he took over for Bernd Leno’s injury.
- Granit Xhaka played well. He had one bad giveaway, but Arsenal are just better with him on the pitch. It was nice to see him put the armband on when Alexandre Lacazette went off.
- Rob Holding struggled today, but that’s to be expected when you’re thrown on unexpectedly with no warmup at all. Hopefully David Luiz’s injury isn’t serious, if only for man-management and squad rotation reasons.
- Alexandre Lacazette didn’t do much other than winning the foul for the penalty. He banged in a bunch of goals last season, but this year looks like a lost season for the striker. You wonder if the uncertainty around his contract is affecting his play.
And so Arsenal are headed to another FA Cup semifinal with an eye towards extending their record 13 FA Cups won. The Gunners have won 26 of their last 29 FA Cup matches and progressed from 30 of 44 quarterfinals all-time. Still two more wins, likely against stiff competition, needed but wouldn’t some silverware be nice?