By: Kamusime Barnabas
Arsenal 2-0 Man City: 5 talking points as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sends Gunners to FA Cup final
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored both goals as Arsenal beat Man City to set up a final against either Man Utd or Chelsea next month
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrated his 24th and 25th goals of the season to send Arsenal to their eighth FA Cup final appearance in 20 years.
Gabon forward Aubameyang produced a smart back post finish to convert Nicolas Pepe’s cross following a high-quality team move from the Gunners – which swept from one end of the pitch to another.
The former Borussia Dortmund star then capped an incredible counter-attack to settle the result in the second half.
The Gunners have won the cup in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2014, 2015 and 2017 since the turn of the century, to go with a losing finalist appearance to Liverpool in 2001.
And they will be hoping to add to their glories on August 1, against either Man Utd or Chelsea, but not just for the silverware.
Victory at Wembley next month will mean they will qualify for the Europa League – to take the pressure off a last gasp surge in the Premier League.
Arsenal’s opener was a thing of beauty.
Yes, the finish was smart, but that on the beautiful scale it was a 7/10 at best – 8/10 if you have either red coloured specs, or beer goggles.
No, this was all about the build-up.
In the minute or so after Granit Xhaka had picked up a loose Kevin De Bruyne pass, there seemed very little threat for City.
There were 13 passes in and around the area where little appeared to be happening.
Then suddenly David Luiz decided enough was enough. Time to get forward.
Four pitch spreading passes, and Nicolas Pepe has the ball on the right side of the box. Can he pick out Aubameyang at the back post? Of course he can. 1-0 to the Arsenal.
Playing from the back has been a source of numerous problems for Arteta’s men, but when it works it is irresistible.
By the way, poor old Ainsley Maitland-Niles was the only Gunner not to touch the ball in the move.
2. Arsenal’s no midfield approach
(Image: Tom Jenkins / NMC Pool)
That goal shone a light on another thing – Arsenal worked well without a midfield.
At times in the opening quarter of the match it appeared their 3-4-3 formation had morphed into a 5-1-4, with Xhaka the only player bridging the gap.
But it seemed to work well, with less holes than usual for De Bruyne and David Silva to fill.
Then when they managed to get the ball forward, Maitland-Niles and Hector Bellerin had the freedom and confidence to break down the flanks.
You could clearly see which bits of mentor Pep Guardiola that Arteta had stolen but with a fresh take to suit his players – the mark of a high quality young manager.
It also showed that Dani Ceballos suits this Arsenal style than the outcasted Mesut Ozil – ie a man who can transition from the fourth attacker to a holding midfielder flawlessly.
There is a big reason why Arteta is so desperate to sign Ceballos permanently from Real Madrid.
3. David Luiz’s redemption
Luiz probably doesn’t need, or want, reminding of what happened at the Etihad little over one month ago.
But if you forgot this is the brief synopsis.
24th minute: Jumps off the bench to replace the injured Pablo Mari.
45th minute: Gets into a positional mess to allow a tame pass skim off his thigh and allow Raheem Sterling to open the scoring.
90th minute: Caught by Riyad Mahrez’s pace when bursting into the penalty box, and stuck out an arm to drag the Algerian to the ground. Red card, penalty and a 3-0 defeat.
But that is old news, this was a new game. And actually a brand new Luiz.
Defensively, he had Kieran Tierney and Skhodran Mustafi alongside him to bolster the backline and give him a tad more security.
Offensively, he set the tempo at times, with a fantastic pass to Aubameyang – which the striker smashed straight at Ederson – and then kick-started the attack for the goal.
His performance, as was the whole backline’s, was the atonement for what occurred at the Etihad.
For me, at least, he was the man of the match.
4. Man City’s second-half barrage
City had a lot of the ball in this match, A LOT of the ball.
In the opening 20-odd minutes of the match the stats were showing up with 91 per cent possession, in the second half the BT broadcast camera appeared to have been locked to the right side of the pitch.
But nothing would break through the Gunners’ wall.
Arsenal had deployed a rope-a-dope tactic – an 8/1 shot desperate to hold on.
Although, City’s finishing didn’t help them.
Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick against the same opposition a month ago, but was miles away from that performance.
In fact, City could only managed a single shot on target in the first hour of the match – and only two in total.
It cost them their fine two and a half year unbeaten record in domestic cup competitions.
City only have the Champions League now – otherwise this will be seen as a well below-par season for the club.
5. Aubameyang the great
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Aubameyang MUST stay at the Emirates, for Arsenal’s sake.
Whatever he wants put into his new contract, just give it to him.
A new gold plated luxury car? Here are the keys.
A bonus for everytime he touches a white line on the pitch? We’ll paint the pitch white.
A waffle for each left-footed pass? Potato or Belgian, Pierre?
He is the closest thing you can get to Thierry Henry without cloning the Frenchman.