Search

Arsenal Monday verdict: FA Cup chance? Not defending like that

18:08 07 January 2013

Swansea City

Swansea City's Leon Britton (left) and Arsenal's Santi Cazorla (right) battle for the ball. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Gunners stay alive in Cup, but shaky back-line hardly inspires confidence in winning it

The M4 motorway was the scene of many a joyous FA Cup journey home for Arsenal fans, having won the trophy up the road in Cardiff in 2002, 2003 and 2005.

While the cars and coaches of Gunners’ fans were hardly as ecstatic making the journey back from South Wales on Sunday, there could be no denying that they had witnessed their side avoiding what looked set to be Arsene Wenger’s first ever FA Cup third-round exit at the 17th time of asking.

With 10 minutes remaining on Sunday, Wenger must have feared that impressive record was about to be ended. The Gunners were trailing to Michu’s goal and looked down, and in all probability, out.

Five minutes later, they were 2-1 ahead and a place in the fourth round was in their hands, only for a defence that had looked fragile all afternoon to fail to close out the game and allow Danny Graham to equalise.

However, with a replay against the Welsh side to come at the Emirates next Wednesday, and a fourth round tie at Championship Brighton awaiting the winners, a glimmer of Wembley glory come May has come into view. Making it a reality will still take some doing though, even for the optimists around the club.

Jack Wilshere is unashamedly one of those, and is hopeful that Sunday’s comeback could be the catalyst for the Gunners to end their silverware drought that goes back to lifting this trophy in the Millenium Stadium almost eight years ago.

“We all want a trophy,” says Wilshere. “When you finish your career, you look back and see how many trophies you won, so we all want them and we know how much the fans do. We know how much this Cup means and we want to get to Wembley, win and pick up the trophy.”

Easier said than done, a fact which Wilshere acknowledges: “It’s easy to sit here and say that when we get the first trophy, more will follow, but we know how tough the FA Cup is this year.

“We’re still in it, though, and we’re still in the Champions League, so we’re in a good position and we just need to make sure we get the results now.”

“We’re all hungry for it and maybe if we get a trophy this year, it can open the way for a few more. We’ve got a good crop of young players alongside some more experienced ones, like Mikel Arteta. So if we get a trophy this year or in the next couple of years we can really build something, a strong team who can stay strong for the next few years.”

What Wilshere, and surely Wenger also must know is that Arsenal will not win anything if they defend like they did on Sunday.

Michu, who has now scored three goals in a little over 120 minutes against Arsenal, will clearly be the man to stop in next week’s replay because from the moment he replaced Jonathan de Guzman on Sunday, the Gunners did not get near him.

But there were more problems than that. Wenger had decided to leave out his captain, Thomas Vermaelen, and pair Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the centre of defence.

They didn’t look too troubled until Michu arrived, but even after the Gunners had turned the game on its head to lead 2-1, Swansea always looked capable of scoring.

While Wenger’s introduction of Lukas Podolski sparked the comeback, the manager’s failure to replace any of his tired team towards the end has to be questioned.

The central midfield trio of Wilshere, Arteta and Santi Cazorla all looked exhausted, while Theo Walcott was another who could have made way for a more defensive-minded player, or one such as Vermaelen, who could have offered more assistance at defending set pieces.

Ultimately it was that weakness which again cost the Gunners on Sunday, and it is that lack of ruthlessness, that inability to hold on to a lead, that is the difference between winning medals and being left to dream about them.

Arsenal are still in the Cup, but host Michael Laudrup’s side next week with Swansea’s 2-0 win in December still fresh in the memory. Their chances of silverware, just like Wenger’s proud third-round record, remain very much in the balance.

0 comments

Latest Islington Sports News

Yesterday, 09:27
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla (Adam Davy/PA Wire)

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere will remain sidelined for at least the next two or three weeks.

Thu, 13:00
Marlon Kizito, Islington BC

Islington BC teenager Marlon Kizito made an impressive return to the ring with a third-round stoppage on the club’s open show at the Boston Dome, Tufnell Park.

Thu, 12:00
Islington U11s

Mesdar Woldesus netted twice as a second-half blitz sealed top spot in the group for Islington Under-11s with a 7-3 victory against Tower Hamlets.

Thu, 11:26
Liverpool fans display signs protesting ticket prices in the stands at Arsenal before kick-off. Picture: Nick Potts

In our weekly Arsenal fan column, Layth Yousif celebrates a small victory against the club’s penny pinchers, but says there’s a long battle ahead.

Thu, 10:00
Anaconda Swimming Club's Elena Dewhurst

Anaconda SC pair Elena Dewhurst and Andrew Boadi are both among the county’s elite swimmers after scooping gold medals at the Middlesex Championships.

Thu, 09:54
Action from Regent's Park Rovers' (red) 4-0 victory over South London Sharks in the Jack Morgan Cup. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

El Valiente staged a superb comeback to squeeze into the next round of the Dickie Davies Cup after a 3-2 win over Bethune.

Thu, 05:28
Junior Gunners

Arsenal head up to Manchester United later this month for what is always one of the most eagerly awaited clashes of any season.

Tue, 14:41
Highgate Harriers' Oran Gallagher was fourth in the boys' Under-13 race. Pic: Dieter Perry

Highgate Harriers’ Under-11 boys romped to victory in round four of the North West London Young Athletes League at the Bannister Stadium on Saturday.

Most read sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Competitions

Champagne experience

This Valentine’s Day, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the perfect destination for lovebirds, offering a range of romantic experiences from Friday 12th February - Sunday 14th February 2016.

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe