Arsenal Eye Record Breaking FA Cup Final
Match Preview – Reading vs Arsenal – FA Cup Semi-Final – 18.04.15
Twelve months ago I watched Arsenal salvage a draw to then beat Wigan on penalties to progress to a record equalling 18th FA Cup final. It was probably the most surreal experience of my life as I was laid out on my wife’s hospital bed with our 4 day old son rested on my legs watching his very first Arsenal match.
He fell asleep midway through the first half which could equally have been down to how boring the match was as much as how often newborns tend to nod off.
Wrapped up in the blissful panic of being a first time parent I was flitting between staring at my son and paying attention to the game. It was not until Wigan scored that I finally got my priorities straight and paid attention to the match.
It was not the goal itself that led to me paying attention, as the warm fuzzy feeling I had from holding the precious gift I had helped create in my arms numbed the sinking feeling I would no doubt have got had this game been on any other day. No, it was the introduction of Giroud for Podolski that made me sit up and focus.
There was no way Sanogo or Giroud were going to play on the left so it was clear Wenger was going to play with two up top – desperate times. And when Mertesacker scored it was hard to contain myself and not scream in delight and wake every baby within 50 feet.
Twelve months later and Arsenal are in a similar situation in both the league and the cup but there’s a key difference. Last time around Arsenal had the weight of expectation exacerbated by a long trophy drought, a litany of big match defeats behind them and a stuttering end to the season after a strong start.
This time Arsenal have the confidence of big match wins and the momentum of a strong run towards the end of the season after a stuttering start. Arsenal have shown a pragmatic approach to big matches and matches against lower league opposition this season. In the big matches they have played with a restrained form of dogmatism, attacking with intent and confidence when the opportunities present themselves but not falling into their old trap of “just playing their own game”. In the matches against so-called inferior opposition they have taken nothing for granted and been nothing but professional in dispatching these would-be giant-killers.
This game will be no cakewalk but Arsenal undoubtedly have the ability and personnel to reach a record 19th FA Cup final and hopefully claim another record with their 12th victory.
Arsenal still have a chance in the Premier League but that rests on the outcome of the Chelsea v Manchester United match. This could be an incredible weekend for Arsenal with an FA Cup final on the line and a chance to be within 7 points of Chelsea by the time we play them at which point they no longer have a game in hand.
People speak of Chelsea’s game in hand being against Leicester but I consider it to be this weekend’s match against United as on Sunday 26th they travel to the Emirates having played 32 games – the same amount as Arsenal. If things go our way we could be looking at the gap being 4 points with 5 games left to play, anything could happen.
Last word on the Premier League, join me on the Dohyo Premier League predictions app for iOS and test your abilities against me and others in the “NLIR” and “Goonersphere” leagues – there are prizes up for grabs for the league winners including an Invincibles print and a copy of FM2015.
Reading are likely to play 4-4-2 in this match and for that reason I would be inclined to start Welbeck wide over Ramsey who has done a great job there in the last two matches.
Szczesny is going to start in goal again making his first Wembley appearance since his mix-up with Koscielny to gift Birmingham the League Cup in 2011.
Arsenal from; Szczesny, Debuchy, Bellerin, Gibbs, Monreal, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Koscielny, Chambers, Rosicky, Wilshere, Flamini, Coquelin, Özil, Ramsey, Alexis, Cazorla, Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud.
Szczesny, Debuchy, Gabriel, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Coquelin, Özil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Walcott, Giroud
I expect to see substitute appearances from Alexis, Cazorla and Flamini.
“[We need] to show them respect but no fear for the pressure. The winning streak helps us a bit but this competition is completely different. It is the best competition I have ever played in because so many big teams struggle. But I don’t want to struggle. I want to repeat the success. That is my real target so let’s make sure that we are on the same level and do more than our opponent.” – Per Mertesacker
Last 3 Meetings
- Arsenal 4-1 Reading (30.03.2013)
- Reading 2-5 Arsenal (17.12.2012)
- Reading 5-7 Arsenal (30.10.2012)
Arsenal Last 5
Reading Last 5
Reading have a rambunctious attack but that hasn’t always translated into points however it should serve as a warning to Arsenal who know only too well that the widely dismissed underdog with nothing to lose and everything to prove can be dangerous.
That Reading have never beaten Arsenal in their history is also a concern. Those who believe in fate know the Universe has a cruel sense of irony and humour so granting Reading their first ever win over Arsenal in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley has destiny written all over it.
That said, Reading haven’t won a match since beating Bradford in the quarter final and whilst confidence may not be altogether low it could be seriously dampened at the daunting thought of facing a rampant Arsenal with a near full squad to choose from. The notion of seeing Alexis warm up when your legs are tiring is probably as stomach-churning for these Reading players as his name on the starting sheet would be.
- Reading have never beaten Arsenal
- There have been 24 goals in the last three meetings between these teams, Arsenal scoring 16
- Arsenal have scored at least 4 goals in each of their last three games against Reading
- Arsenal have scored at least 2 goals in 9 of their last 10 matches in FA Cup
- Arsenal have only kept a clean sheet twice in their last 8 FA Cup matches
- Reading have only conceded twice in this year’s FA Cup
- Yakubu has scored 5 goals against Arsenal
- Arsenal have won 6 out of 9 FA Cup semi-finals under Wenger
I think Arsenal will have too much for Reading so I’m going for 3-0 to Arsenal with Ramsey, Özil and Giroud on the scoresheet.
Arsenal may not be playing in the Premier League this weekend but that doesn’t stop iOS device owners downloading and joining us on Dohyo, a new Premier League prediction app. Join the NLIR league for your chance to win a copy of Football Manager 2015. It really is as simple as downloading the app, choosing the scores and sitting back and letting the points roll in!
Dohyo is currently only available to UK based iOS device owners but next season it should be available in mulitple countries and across all operating systems so follow the link to sign up early! The first 100 additions to the 2015/16 NLIR league will go into a draw for the new shirt so make sure you sign up!
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