It seemed only right to do a review piece for this weekend’s FA Cup action. I’m a traditionalist and as we’ve stuck through it since the 3rd Round, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if we stopped now. I might be overstating that a little, but with only two matches to review, all words are vital. Come with me on a journey back to Saturday and Sunday.
Chelsea and Tottenham clashing in the FA Cup semi-final is a bit like if Klitschko and Joshua fought on Wednesday on ITV4 ahead of their big clash on Saturday. That might be a stretch but my point is that these two are clearly the best sides in the country right now and it is a shame this wasn’t the final. There, I said it. Of course, my opinion on that is swayed by the fact that it was a great match, which Spurs really had the better of but Chelsea scored with pretty much every shot they had. I was disappointed to see Chelsea rest Hazard and Costa at this stage of the competition, but considering they still won having done that just makes Conte’s position even stronger. Whether it has a knock on effect for Spurs’ confidence remains to be seen.
Of course, those two arrived from the bench with the scores level and Hazard in particular made a huge difference, scoring not long after his arrival to give his side the lead for the third time. But we can’t discuss this game without talking about Matic’s goal. It’s the type of goal you’d love to score – a packed house at Wembley going toe to toe with your rivals and you just ping one into the top corner off the bar. Had it been the Honey Monster you would have scoffed and said that sort of thing never happens. But apparently it does, and it was a goal worthy of winning any game. Spurs should be proud of the way they played, and no doubt the point will be laboured that their “Wembley curse” struck again, but the reality is that they played very well here and didn’t play well in the games they lost in Europe. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Son won’t be played at left wing back again any time soon – Pochettino basically did the old computer game trick of not wanting to drop one of his star performers so shoe-horned one in where they don’t normally go. Tottenham have paid the price for that but Ben Davies must feel great about himself.
Onto Sunday then and Man City & Arsenal took a while to get going but it became a very enjoyable game after about an hour. I was a bit surprised to see Wenger stick with the three centre halves but he’s a trendy man all of a sudden and it’s very much the formation for 2017. That said, I couldn’t believe it when Aguero was left one vs one with Nacho Monreal from an Arsenal corner. I also happen to think Cech could have done better but that’s just me. At this point in recent times, Arsenal heads have gone down, but it seemed different on Sunday, almost as if the players were playing for their manager again…
It was therefore a good narrative that Monreal would ram in the equaliser. I don’t follow Arsenal’s happenings with any great regularity but I do see a lot on social media and Monreal is always one of the players getting stick. Whether that’s because people just love Kieran Gibbs, I don’t know, but I digress. He stuck in the equaliser like a regular scorer and celebrated with the type of passion Arsenal are often accused of lacking. Danny Welbeck came on and seemed to do everything in his power to ensure Arsenal didn’t score again, until Sanchez had enough of his miskicks and smashed in the winner in extra time. It was all a bit strange as Aguero had been withdrawn – apparently not injured, with Fabian Delph going on in his place. Once they were behind, Iheanacho came on – did Pep forget you had a fourth sub in extra time until it was too late? I doubt it, he’s too prepared for that, but he is also trophyless this season and the FA Cup final will be an all London affair.
I’ll be back in May to try and string together some words before the Cup final, hopefully stopping short of just re-hashing the lyrics of Abide with Me. See you then.