It would be really funny if we win the FA Cup without leaving London. It would be a subtle message from the angels of…er…winning trophies: “Ha-ha, you had a huge quest to win it and it was right there under your noses!” In our fourth consecutive FA Cup match at the Emirates we scored four goals against Everton who have been one of the best and most watchable teams in England this season. Not only that we won but we also gave a very fine performance.
Our fourth victory in the FA Cup means we are just two steps away from claiming the first trophy since the 2004-05 FA Cup, and the fact Manchester City lost to Wigan makes us top favourites to land the trophy. Here are key pointers from yesterday’s huge victory.
1.Özil rose to the challenge.
It hasn’t been easy to be Mesut Özil lately. He has been over-criticized due to a missed penalty against Bayern, while a lack of goals and assists in 2014 immediately rose questions about his suitability to the Premiership and even fans of the German national team booed him despite the fact he had created the only goal of the game against Chile. Nevertheless, Özil didn’t give a damn with all that crap and made a real impact against Everton in what might be the most important match of the season. The German scored his first goal in the FA Cup and created a clever assist for Giroud. That assist was interesting because Özil had instructed the Frenchman where to run even before the German received the ball! That’s the real Özil and it would be great if he offers us more of the same against Spuds next Saturday.
2.Arteta’s calmness is really impressive.
Despite the score-line, it wasn’t an easy game. With only one quarter of the game to go, Oxlade-Chamberlain earned a penalty. Mikel Arteta dispatched it calmly but Olivier Giroud had a rare moment of being too quick so Arteta had to repeat the penalty against his former club. He took the ball and with all the pressure on his back he slotted a beautiful penalty into the top corner.
Arteta has been a really impressive penalty-taker since van Persie left. He has scored all three of them this season (Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Everton) and five out of six last season with his injury-time miss against Fulham being the only one in an Arsenal shirt. It would be really nice if Wenger asks Mikel to tutor his team-mates how to take penalties – who knows, perhaps our remaining FA Cup matches will end with a penalty-shootout.
3.Vermaelen is a bit rusty but it’s great to have him back.
It’s a rather bizarre situation that a club captain sits on the bench during most of the season. That said, Vermaelen has been a true professional and once Koscielny’s hamstring problems opened an opportunity for him, he used it. He didn’t have the best performance but it’s not easy to replace Koscielny who has been one of the best central defenders in the league for a year. Vermaelen’s return will give Wenger more options at the back and let’s not forget that the Belgian’s strongest point since he had joined Arsenal has been his ability to score a goal or two from set-pieces.
4.Oxlade-Chamberlain has been our key player for a while.
The Ox did it again – he earned a penalty with a clever move in the box and created an opportunity for Arteta to restore our lead. His movement is something that gives us additional options in the attack – he stretches opponents, opens space for Özil, Cazorla and Giroud, creates chances and his powerful right-foot gives an extra-option from the outside the box. Walcott and Ramsey’s absences left us without players that make clever runs behind the defence and emphasized the importance of having someone like The Ox in our team.
5.Cazorla-Özil link-up should give our game a “18+”-rating.
To see Cazorla’s pin-point pass to Özil and an excellent finish from the German gave me a lot of reasons to feel excited. The two most creative players in our team haven’t clicked in a way I’d expected but their combination for the opener was a glimpse of what they are capable of.
6.We should hit the final nail in Spuds’ coffin next Saturday.
Like I wrote after our defeat against Stoke, matches against Everton and Spuds are the most important this season. We have won one of those and the second one comes after Spuds had suffered a heavy defeat against Chelsea and lost Kaboul and – probably – Dawson for the North London Derby. After they had spent 110,000,000 pounds last summer, Spuds were expected to be a safe bet for the Top 4. Fortunately, people forgot a huge L-factor that has been an integral part of Spuds’ being since forever – they are losers. After all that money they spent, they should have had a much better season than the one in which they have lost to Liverpool (0:5 at home), Manchester City (0:6 away, 1:5 at home), Chelsea (0:4 away) and West Ham (0:3 at home), not to mention that we’ve beaten their sorry asses twice this season already!
7.Let’s not spend too much energy in Munich.
Bayern have won sixteen matches in a row in the Bundesliga and twelve out of the last fourteen in Champions’ League. They came back from a one-goal-deficit to hammer a solid Wolfsburg 6:1 on their own soil. They are the closest thing to a perfect football team at the moment and I can’t see anyone in Europe who can create trouble for them. Of course, we should not just leave our pants at London and roll over in Munich but there are too many battles in March and perhaps we might pick them wisely.
8.FA Cup trophy is ours to lose.
I know, it sounds like putting a huge pressure on the boys but…it has to be that way. Wigan and Sheffield United are lower-division-sides while Hull City doesn’t represent the better half of Premier League. We should beat a very resilient Wigan side, the one that has experience when it comes to big victories in the FA Cup and whoever will win in the other semifinal match. If we claim our Champions’ League spot, do the treble over the Spuds and win FA Cup, it will be a very successful season for us and a huge boost for the next one.
9.Ross Barkley seems to be the real deal.
I don’t know why I keep making comparison in my head between Barkley and Draxler even though they don’t play in the same position but I have to say that I’d rather see the former at Arsenal. He has everything to become a very valuable player for both Everton and England so adding another gem to our British Core next summer wouldn’t be a bad idea.
So, it’s Wembley then. Let’s win the trophy and start The Golden Age of Arsenal!