Arsenal played exemplary football and prevailed 2–0 over Manchester City, wait for Manchester United-Chelsea to find its pair for the FA Cup Finals

Arsenal and Manchester City have had such a history together as they have met a lot of times in the FA Cup and each of these games was special. Last night’s game was no different. Both teams played great football and the fans enjoyed this spectacular game from their homes. Of course, it’s not the first time they meet at Wembley Stadium. In 2017, they had met again in the semi-finals of the FA Cup in a game-thriller where Arsenal prevailed 2–1 over Manchester City with Sergio Aguero to open the score in the second half (62') in a counter-attack where he tricked Cech and put the ball in the net. Nacho Monreal tied the game (1–1) nine minutes later with a nice finish after a long pass from the right side from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The game went to overtime and Arsenal found the net again in 101' with former player Alexis Sanchez tipping the ball and sending his former team to the Finals, where they beat 2–1 Chelsea.

Season 2016–17 FA Cup Semi-Finals Arsenal beat 2–1 Manchester City — Highlights

In FA Cup, Arsenal has made a lot of history in the FA Cup as they have won this title 13 times (in 1929–30, 1935–36, 1949–50, 1970–71, 1978–79, 1992–93, 1997–98, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2004–05, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2016–17) and last night they faced the holders of it.

Last season Manchester City made an insane run and topped it with a 6–0 performance over Watford to win the FA Cup. This season they were supposed to pass through Arsenal, the outsider of the pair but Mikel Arteta and his crew came well-prepared and with unlimited confidence (which stems from their unexpected/great performance against Liverpool where they beat them 2–1 for the Premier League) and shocked coach Pep Guardiola for good. Guardiola didn’t have at his disposal his main forward Sergio Aguero, who was ruled out of the game after undergoing knee surgery in Barcelona and his main goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who hasn’t missed a game in the FA Cup this season but he had to stay out of the contest due to a muscular problem.

Pep Guardiola chose a 4–3–3 formation with Ederson between the sticks, Eric Garcia, Antony Walker, Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy in the defensive line, Ilkay Gundogan, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva were the midfielders and Gabriel Jesus was at the top of the offense with Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling to be on the right and left side of him, respectively.

Arteta chose an intricate formation (3–4–3) with Emiliano Martinez in the sticks, Shkodran Mustafi, David Luiz and Kieran Tierney in the defensive line, Hector Bellerin, Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Ainsley Maitland-Niles in the middle section and Nicolas Pepe, Alexandre Lacazette to be next to Pierre Emerick Aubameyang who had scored 65 goals in all competitions after signing with the team in 2018.

Manchester City came in ready to impose their rhythm and their relentless and quick passing game. We could see De Bryune operating in the role of an organizer who controls and initiates the offense with his spectacular passing game. The first good moment (8:30 minutes) belonged to MNC when Arsenal’s defender Mustafi tried to dribble in their big area, lost the ball and Sterling picked it up, gave it to Silva but he couldn’t finish. In the first ten minutes of the game, MNC had 83% possession and pressed Arsenal really high in the pitch, as a result, Arsenal’s all eleven players were gathering back covering every gap forbidding MNC to move the ball and play their game.

First big moment for Arsenal came in 16' minute when David Luiz passed the ball to Aubameyang who probably thought that he was offside and shot the ball indifferently towards Ederson’s post. This was a critical moment for Arsenal, but what Aubameyang could not do then, he did it two minutes later (18') when Bellerin came from the right side, passed the ball to Pepe and he threw a long pass, found Aubameyang, who shot the ball to the corner and opened the score 1–0 (18 passes). During the cooling break, Guardiola was pissed and he was yelling at this players due to their erroneous positioning in the pitch.

Arteta’s scheme seemed to work perfectly: when MNC was trying to find space and create opportunities, each player of Arsenal was back in the defense closing all the gaps, stealing the ball and looking for counterattacks. That was the plan. It was just incredible to watch the gunners play calmly and control the game.

“We didn’t play good. Our only regret is that we didn’t play the first half like we did the second. We didn’t play good on a day when we had to. We started low. The way you have to play these games, we were not ready. They defended deep, but defended well. It happened against Liverpool as well. We knew it, but we weren’t good. We wanted to be in the final to stay in rhythm [for the Champions League] but we missed this chance,” Guardiola said after the game.

In general, after the first goal, MNC started to play clumsy football with the inaccurate passing game and bad communication between the players. What flabbergasted me was the fact that Arsenal was so locked in defensively that they coerced MNC to struggle a lot as they were trying stubbornly and persistently to create something through their passing game but this style of the game didn’t stagger Arteta’s style of game. MNC couldn’t find some space to shoot the ball (they had 1/7 shots in the post which is ridiculous for such a talented team). MNC started to press more and more but all this pressure seemed to not attribute the way they wanted. Two substitutions in 65' with Gundogan and Mahrez going out and Rodrigo and Foden entering the game, in the respective positions — MNC was in a full-attack mode but Arsenal was focused on Arteta’s plan. Six minutes after the substitutions (71') Aubameyang scored his second goal. All started when Kieran Tierney passed the ball to Pepe, who saw Aubameyang unguarded and with a long pass found him alone and a couple of seconds later he tricked Ederson throwing the ball under his legs and seized the victory for his team. MNC was desperate to score a goal but it never happened because they never found a way to adjust to Arsenal’s style and that’s why they lost the game.

“I am extremely happy and glad for our players. I am sad we can’t enjoy this moment with our fans. You have to try to give your best, take your opportunities and put every body on the line,’’ said Mikel Arteta. “For me they are the best team in Europe, the way they play, but we did our job. There is a great chemistry between our players and they deserved it. I wasn’t on the pitch, so congratulations!”

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta on victory, Luiz’s performance, the financial uncertainty and so on

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said: “You can lose football games but the way we lost especially in the first half means we are sad about this. We struggled to be there in the game in the first half. That’s why we lost the game. If we played like we did in the second half with aggression and desire to win maybe it would have been different. These players have shown many things but in the first we didn’t show it, they were not ready. Our performance against Bournemouth wasn’t good and so was this first half. We are struggling to find our normal level. It doesn’t take a genius to understand we will have to increase our standards against Real Madrid.”

Guardiola’s post-game interview

Arsenal’s defender David Luiz, for whom there are a lot of rumours that demonstrate that there are indications that he is on the brink of departing from the club, despite the fact that he plays his first season with this club. What actually is going on? Luizjoined the club during the beginning of this season on an initial one-year deal, with the option for a 12-month extension. However, the Gunners have manifested no intention to grant him this option at least not ahead of next season. The Brazilian defender is uncertain regarding his future with the club, however, he likes a lot how Arteta communicates with players and his style of game, but are these factors to keep him in London? The answer is probably negative because the team is facing financial issues heading into the summer — exacerbated by the repercussions that coronavirus brought. The team will try to reduce their wage bill at the end of the season in an effort to stabilise their books. Therefore, Luiz might be a sacrifice that has to be made.

“It was a great result against one of the best teams in the world. We did that because we were humble, we understood the way we had to play, we took our opportunities to score, and we were mature to understand what level we are in this process. We are in a good process with an amazing coach who wants to bring us the best football, but it is not zero to 100. We have to understand that day by day. We are improving and I am happy for the team, who deserve it. The team understand the modern football where everybody has to defend, has to fight, to have spirit, to play every ball 100 percent. The City team is miles in front of us, but we were humble and we deserved it.”

David Luiz on the victory and the criticism that he has received for his mistakes

He then acknowledges — very politely, with no hint of aggression — that a lot of people criticise him for his mistakes, and it’s clear that it sometimes stings. He did a lot of things that created problems for Arsenal and cost them some points, but if we emphasize on last night’s game, he was assertive, focused and excessively efficient.

Finally, if Arsenal wins the FA Cup in August 1st, they will immediately put themselves in the Europa League groups next season.

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