Getting to Wembley hasn't been easy for us in recent memory but after a few tough matches we are going to the final to face Aston Villa on May 30. After the nine year drought we won the FA Cup last year and this year we have the chance to win it again. We won the cup two years in a row in 01-02 and 02-03 and we will enter the final as the favorite just as we did last year but as last year showed us, you just never know what can happen in a cup final.
Similar to the match against Burnley, our semi-final against Reading was not exactly a game that will go down as a thriller. Both sides struggled to get a handle on the match and it was unclear who was going to be off to the final. It was fitting that Alexis was the player to get us trough. His two goals was enough to put the match to bed even if it took 120 minutes to get there. I was simply glad that the match didn't go to penalties. There is nothing worse that losing a place in the final due to a fluky penalty system like we nearly experienced against Wigan last season.
The lack of attacking threat may have been due to the changes Wenger made to the starting lineup. Debuchy and Gibbs started over Bellerin and Monreal. Welbeck was on in place of Giroud as the lone striker. Debuchy looked as rusty as the Tin Man in a swimming pool and Gibbs wasn't proving to Wenger that he deserved to start over Monreal. I fully expected Wenger to make a few changes to the squad as he often does when the cup matches come around. We know he will play the back up keeper as that seems to be status quo now. I should not be surprised that he changed the fullbacks but I am as the length of time after the break was sufficient enough to give the usual starters a full run out. Debuchy is clearly the first choice right back due to his experience but after a couple of lengthy absences because of injury I thought he would have been subbed if he did start. Playing the full 120 minutes was good for him to get back to full match fitness but his lack of pace and poor decision making was obviously a detriment to our forward play. Bellerin has been playing at the position for so much of the season that our forwards and midfield seem adjusted to him even if he shows his youth and inexperience from time to time. Wenger obviously trusts the Spaniard but wants his first choice to get more match time as the season closes.
Welbeck over Giroud was not much of a surprise because we have seen him start in the match against Manchester United and in other cup matches this season. Wenger also gave Sanogo a game over Giroud this time last season and Welbeck is ahead of Sanogo in the development department. Giroud however has been on fire and is always good for a goal especially in a game like this. His goal scoring aside, it was his hold up play and intelligent passing was missed up front on Saturday. When he came on, we looked far more likely to get the go-ahead goal. It was Alexis who took the headlines with his brace though.
Alexis, like most of the team, wasn't playing to their full potential that we have seen this season but his tenacity and never say die attitude are what makes him such a world class player. When Ozil sent that pass into his path I was certain that it would be a goal. His control of the ball to line the shot up with so little time is exactly what was needed in this match. The second goal was from a tight angle and it took a howler from their keeper for it find the back of the net. Despite this, you can never rule the Chilean out and any defender who gives him too much space puts their team at risk as he is more than capable to finding the back of the net from what seems like anywhere on the pitch.
I have to give the Reading keeper an honorable mention because he really did have an outstanding game. Without those incredible saves on Mertesacker, Gabriel, Ozil and others he kept his team in sight of the final but this was always going to be a match that took a mistake to gift the game to the opposition and it was unfortunate to happen to him. I don't lose sleep over it, as I am ecstatic that we made it past Reading but as someone who enjoys the keeper position, I cringe to see a keeper in such good match form to give up that kind of goal. It happens from time to time and our sympathy won't change that but we should be respectful to teams like Reading who put up one Hell of a fight and aren't total classless scum like Spurs, Chelsea, Stoke etc. They made us play a tense game and of course we would have loved to have a 3-0 match, we knew that Reading wouldn't roll over and die. They came to play and play they did. Winning tough is just as important if not more so than winning with ease. It is a far greater learning experience and will prepare us to face a Villa side in the final that has been rejuvenated by a comical Tim Sherwood.
Speaking of Villa, how hilarious is it that Liverpool lost to Villa with all the hype that the Liverpool supporters put on facing us in the final. They were so confident that their captain would get a lovely send off by winning the FA Cup on his birthday in his final game. They started their celebrations a bit prematurely didn't they? It would have been pretty funny to beat them in the final but I would be lying if I said they would be an easy opponent even though we destroyed them a few weeks ago. Villa is a team that we can and should beat in the final just like Hull was last year but like Hull we will need to be on our guard as Villa won't simply give the trophy to us. This is one of their few chances to get a trophy as they are nowhere near title contenders so they will be playing like their season depends on it because it does. We cannot take them for granted or treat them like a League Two side.
Coming up is the match against Chelsea and I am nervously looking forward to it. I believe we will win. I do not know why, but I just feel it in my bones that this will be our year to remove the Mourinho monkey from our back and beat him to death with Gabriel's terrifying face.
Until next week,
I have one question to ask you:
What did she wear?