In another regular feature during this season’s FA Cup run, Daily Cannon reminisces about how Arsenal got on this time last year.
Ahead of our 5th Round tie against Middlesbrough, we run the rule over our corresponding 2014 victory over Liverpool.
FA Cup 4th Round
Sunday 16th February 2014, 4.00pm
Emirates Stadium (59,801)
Arsenal 2 – 1 Liverpool
Fabianski, Koscielny, Jenkinson, Monreal, Mertesacker, Flamini, Ozil, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain (75), Podolski (69), Sanogo (88)
Subs: Viviano, Sagna, Gibbs (75), Wilshere, Gnabry, Cazorla (69), Giroud (88)
Jones, Agger, Skrtel, Flanagan, Cissokho (62), Coutinho, Allen, Sterling, Gerrard, Suarez, Sturridge
Subs: Mignolet, Toure, Kelly, Teixeira, Henderson (62), Moses, Aspas
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (17), Lukas Podolski (47), Steven Gerrard (59 pen)
As Liverpool rolled up at the Emirates for the 5th round tie, Arsenal’s season was in danger of exploding.
Eight days earlier, we had been spanked 5-1 at Anfield in the reverse Premier League fixture by the same opposition, and that diabolical performance had been followed by an insipid performance in a 0-0 home draw with the worst Manchester United team in a decade which meant we were knocked off top spot in the league.
The next team due to arrive in N5 was none other than reigning European champions Bayern Munich.
Arsenal needed a lift.
Despite home advantage – Arsenal had only lost once at home in the FA Cup for 36 games – we went into the game as the underdogs courtesy of the manner of the capitulation in the league.
Perhaps surprisingly, Wenger made the decision to make wholesale changes, with just four of the players from the preceding game retaining their places. However, all four were down the spine of the team.
As expected, Lukas Fabianski reprised his role as cup keeper, while Yaya Sanogo made his first senior start. Surely the manager had one eye on the midweek clash with Bayern Munich.
After the battering in the league, Arsenal had clearly decided that to keep it tight was the order of the day early doors.
Like the Anfield game Liverpool started brightly, and we had Fabianski and some wayward finishing to thank for the score remaining even in the opening minutes.
With Arsenal in a decidedly shaky place mentally, it’s not hard to think that the game could have taken a very different path if we had not withstood that early pressure.
As it was, we soon had a lead of our own to defend, after Yaya Sanogo chested down an Ozil cross and got a shot away, before a block took the effort into Oxlade-Chamberlain’s path. He rifled his shot across Jones and into the bottom corner before wheeling off to celebrate.
It was just the confidence boost we needed.
The rest of the first half was fairly cagey, and Suarez was restricted to relatively hopeful efforts from outside the box. Arsenal’s defence ticked over to 11 hours of football without conceding at the Emirates.
Half time arrived.
Nervy glances were exchanged during the interval, and Liverpool began the second half as they had the first, with the Uruguayan forcing an excellent save from Fabianksi. However, this time it took just two minutes for the goal to arrive, and again at the right end.
Once again, Arsenal were to score against the run of play, as Ozil set Oxlade-Chamberlain free down the right.
He skinned his man before cutting it back to Lukas Podolski on the penalty spot. It may have been on his less-favoured right foot, but the German made no mistake.
Arsenal had two goals from their two shots on target while Liverpool’s profligacy in front of goal was starting to cost them.
With freshly found confidence flowing, Sanogo demonstrated his increasing physical presence in the game winning a knock down for Podolski. Der Hammer slid a ball through for his international teammate Ozil and the shot was well-saved by Jones low to his left.
The two goal cushion was to prove short-lived.
Liverpool broke at pace, and Podolski turned from hero to villain as he needlessly ran across the back of Suarez in the box. The cheat needed no encouragement to go down, and Howard Webb obligingly pointed to the spot.
Around me, Arsenal fans were expressing dismay that Podolski had chosen that moment of all moments to start defending.
Gerrard sent Fabianski the wrong way to end the streak of 695 minutes without conceding at home and set up a nervous final half hour.
We rather rode our luck in trying to see out the game – Fabianski made another great save as Sturridge tried to take a one-on-one around him, but the biggest controversy came in the 64th minute.
Suarez’s free kick rebounded off the wall back to the striker, who drove into the box as Oxlade-Chamberlain raced out to meet him. Arsenal’s opening goalscorer took all of the man and none of the ball, but this time Howard Webb pointed for a goal kick instead.
That’s not to say the decisions went all Arsenal’s way – Gerrard could and should have seen a second booking for a rash challenge on Oxlade-Chamberlain as he raced into a counter attack, and Skrtel also caught Cazorla on the ankle as he volleyed a shot – but it was certainly a game changing decision.
Shortly afterwards, Wenger brought on Gibbs for the otherwise excellent Oxlade-Chamberlain, in no small part to counter the threat of Sterling. The England youngster had been moved to right back as Liverpool went for broke, but the Merseysiders’ lack of strength in depth was characterised in that the only substitution Rodgers was able to make as they chased the equaliser was to bring on Jordan Henderson.
As in the previous round, Wenger also turned to Cazorla and Giroud to add some experience in the closing minutes. There were chances at both ends as Fabianski flapped at a Gerrard free kick and then Arsenal’s diminutive Spaniard fired over with a first time shot when he had time to take a touch in acres of space.
In the end though, Arsenal were able to hang on and take a huge stride towards Wembley. The relief was almost tangible, with Fabianski running the full length of the pitch to knee-slide in front of the Arsenal fans after the final whistle.
Meanwhile Daniel Sturridge collapsed on the pitch, devastated. It wasn’t an Arsenal win, but getting into the hat for the next round was all that mattered on the day.
The draw was to bring with it yet another home tie in the 6th round – this time against Liverpool’s city rivals Everton – but this moment was all about the grit and determination which characterised the performance.
Flamini has his critics, but this was one of those games which was absolutely made for him, exacting revenge on Gerrard with a crunching tackle after the Liverpool skipper had left one on Podolski.
He also got booked for some afters with the same player after he had gotten away with elbowing our French bulldog in the head.
I’m writing this watching Brendan Rodgers sliming up to the BT Sport TV crew, and it’s making this trip down memory lane all the more enjoyable. Somehow, it’s almost more pleasing when you win without deserving to.
This time around it’s Middlesbrough who are set to roll up at the Emirates.
With their emphasis on defence, 2-1 wouldn’t be an unlikely scoreline again.
We’d certainly take it the way we’re playing against an in-form side.
[stats courtesy of teamtalk.com]