Arsenal vs Liverpool
The FA Cup
Kick off: February 12, 2014 7.45 PM BST
It was a day of redemption for Arsenal who responded valiantly on the back of a Liverpool thrashing that happened only eight days earlier. Goals from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski secured a well fought 2-1 victory for the home side, which sees Gunners now progress to the quarter-final stage of the FA Cup.
Arsene Wenger did use the match as an opportunity to rest players before the upcoming Champions League match against Bayern Munich with only Ozil, Arteta, Mertesacker and Koscielny retaining their places from the clash with Manchester United. That meant Fabianski, Jenkinson, Monreal, the Ox, Podolski and surprise starter Yaya Sanogo got the chance to get Arsenal’s response under way.
Initially it looked it might have been a long day at the office with glimpses of that 5-1 defeat cropping up in the early stages of the match. In-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge had two glorious opportunities to put the Reds up in the opening minutes of the first-half, but fortunately for the Englishman couldn’t convert on his weaker side.
With Arsenal managing to survive the opening quarter of hour, Liverpool would be made to rue missed chances after Oxlade-Chamberlain opened the scoring. Ozil lofted a ball to the back post, which Sanogo controlled brilliantly and rifled a shot towards goal. Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard blocked well, but the deflection fell to the Ox who mad no mistake with the finish right in front of goal.
Nerves took a little time to settle for the home team, but eventually the Gunners began to find their rhythm and also began to look more assured on defence. Thereafter, until the half-time whistle, Arsenal seemed to have sized up Liverpool, severely cutting off service to Suarez and Sturridge. There were one or two chances for the visitors, but Arsenal stood firm, particularly Pole Lukasz Fabianski who looked in great touch and made some fine saves.
After the break, it was a bit a deja vu as Liverpool again came out of the blocks firing. This time Uruguayan Luis Suarez found used some nice footwork to get some space in the box and drew a great save from the right-leg of Fabianski. However, this time Arsenal responded straight away. Ozil put in a great through ball to the Ox on the right, who left Agger for the dead. The Englishman charged to the byline and cut back to an on-rushing Podolski who made no mistakes with the finish.
At 2-0 down Liverpool needed a way to get back into the match and they got it through a clumsy Podolski challenge on Suarez in the box. Gerrard made no mistakes with the spot kick, burying it in the bottom-right corner. Chances fell to both sides, in what was starting to become an end-to-end affair. As expected Suarez was in the thick of it after again going down in the box to a challenge from the Ox. Despite the Englishman’s great performance so far, he was lucky to get away with it with replays showing clear contact. Agger would have the last chance for Liverpool four minutes from time after he managed to get to the ball ahead of Fabianski, but couldn’t get his header on target.
Overall, it was a match that really could have gone either way. Arsenal rode a bit of luck in some stages of the match, but were ruthless when chances fell their way. Sanogo looks a good prospect after holding his own against two experienced defenders, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was easily Arsenal’s best attacking outlet of the match. It was also great to see Ozil put in a complete performance after looking a little suspect in recent weeks. Despite Arsenal still being in the running of for the Champions League and the Premier League, the FA Cup still remains the most likely chance for silverware and hopefully they can go the whole way!
on a big win…
It was vital for us to respond to the disappointing performance we had against Liverpool last week. It was vital as well because we had an opportunity to go to the quarter-final of the FA Cup. I am very pleased with the intensity of our commitment and our response, our determination. You could feel there was a clinical desire in my team to take every opportunity to ‘kill’ them. That’s why it was a great game between two good teams, and overall it was a fantastic FA Cup tie. Many people questioned the FA Cup but like today it delivers a great football performance.
on Liverpool’s chances…
Look, Liverpool is a very strong team. They had some chances but you should not forget that we as well had some very good chances on top of that. They were in a position where they had to take the initiative because they were 2-0 down, they had to throw absolutely everything forward. They are good enough to create chances against any team, but we were resilient, focused on defending well. Overall it looked yes that they could score, but it looked always that when we won the ball we had a chance to go to the goal and score as well.
I am very pleased with the intensity of our commitment and our response, our determination. You could feel there was a clinical desire in my team to take every opportunity to ‘kill’ them
on the number of changes…
I made changes, most of them for medical reasons. Some for technical reasons, because [for example] the [No 2] goalkeeper always plays [in the FA Cup]. I rate Fabianski so highly that I had no hesitation to play him.
on Yaya Sanogo…
For a first performance he was excellent. He was always in the game, he was a handle for them. It’s his first official game basically, he played one game in the reserves for 60 minutes. Considering the intensity of the game, he was absolutely excellent.
on Suarez’s second penalty claim…
Maybe. I have to watch it again. You know that I rate Suarez as a player but I think if we had him in the team we would have a few more free-kicks! There was contact, I don’t deny that, but he is good to make more of it.
on Jose Mourinho’s comments…
I am embarrassed for him, honestly. First of all I would say that I didn’t speak about him at all in my press conference, and I have no more to say… I am more disappointed for Chelsea than for me. I am not interested in the subject at all, and that is really genuine. If you are interested, and you have nothing better to do in your life, you are free to do it. But honestly, I cannot force my interest in things that are not interesting for me. I love football and I’m sorry to disappoint you, but what interests me is what happens on the pitch.
on fitness issues…
Jack Wilshere had a stiff back, after that Cazorla was ill, Gibbs had a little muscular problem, Sagna was tired. But I kept the defensive stability with Mertesacker and Koscielny. I rested Rosicky completely. They will be OK for Wednesday, but we lose Arteta, who is suspended for Wednesday night.
on Olivier Giroud being rested…
He looked a bit tired and… I know where you [the reporters] want to lead me, slowly but surely… he has made a statement and we will deal with it internally. I don’t think there is much more to add to that because I want to respect his privacy as well. I haven’t seen it [his statement].
on Nicklas Bendtner…
Yes of course [he is disappointed not to be in the squad]. He works very hard, very well, but I wanted to give a chance to Sanogo, and I think overall the performance of Sanogo justified it. Bendtner is fit at the moment, and sharp.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
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