Arsenal put together another impressive win against a big-six side on Saturday, defeating Manchester City 2-0 to reach the FA Cup final.
With a bit of confidence and momentum from the victory over Premier League champions Liverpool on Wednesday, Arsenal went into their FA Cup semi-final with the odds still heavily stacked against them.
The opening minutes of the match suggested they were in for another long night, with City quickly dominating the play. But then Arsenal started to break out and make some great chances.
David Luiz put Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang through on goal, but the striker could only find the goalkeeper. Then Arsenal’s top scorer put away a much harder chance for 1-0 after an excellent passing move.
The Gunners could have even scored another in the first half, and they went into the break with a lead and three more shots on target than their opponents.
Unsurprisingly, City bounced back and pinned Arsenal into their own box. They had 80% possession and 11 shots in the second half. However, most of those shots had little chance of actually going in, and Aubameyang finished off a lovely ball from Kieran Tierney to make it 2-0 in Arsenal’s only attempt of the 45.
That ended up being enough to wrap up the win and a spot in the final. Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the match.
- Emi Martinez 8 – Only had to make a couple of saves, but still caught the eye as he got down really quickly to stop a Riyad Mahrez shot dead. He made one strong punch in the second half and a couple of other high claims in another solid performance.
- Shkodran Mustafi 8 – Bar almost giving away a penalty on Raheem Sterling, this was another very solid display from Mustafi. He made eight clearances and won three tackles before picking up a late injury in another collision with Sterling. We’ll hope it was nothing serious, with three more key games to come.
- David Luiz 9.5 – Luiz was at his best for this one. He made a game-high 11 clearances, four interceptions, won everything he contested in the air and wasn’t dribbled past once. He also should have had an assist for Aubameyang.
- Kieran Tierney 8.5 – Like Luiz, Tierney had a collection of clearances, blocked shots and tackles, but he also created a fantastic chance for Aubameyang. On that occasion, the striker scored to convert it into an assist. It seems bizarre Arsenal didn’t put Tierney in the back-three sooner, after Mari’s injury.
Midfield and Wing-Backs
- Hector Bellerin 7.5 – A bizarre pass straight to a City forward was certainly not a highlight for Bellerin. He was also a bit hit-and-miss in the challenge, making three tackles but getting dribbled four times. Still, he dug in well with the rest of the defence when it mattered and didn’t let the team down by any means.
- Dani Ceballos 9 – Another strong display from the midfielder, as talk grows of a longer stay with Arsenal. Ceballos made four good tackles, three interceptions and didn’t get dribbled once in one of his best defensive displays, but he added a lot in possession too. His partnership with Xhaka is working really well.
- Granit Xhaka 8.5 – Xhaka was a big part of the difference between the 3-0 PL defeat and this 2-0 win. He completed 93% of his passes despite heavy City pressure in possession, and he made some vital clearances in his own penalty area.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles 8 – Together with Tierney, limited Riyad Mahrez to just one good chance. Dealt with the one-on-ones well and seemed to earn the full respect of his manager with another committed display.
- Nicolas Pepe 8.5 – Had a key part to play in both goals. He assisted the first with a lovely whipped ball into the back post, then played the pre-assist for the second. Receiving the ball from Tierney under pressure, he squirmed away from Kyle Walker before laying it off for Tierney to find Aubameyang.
- Alexandre Lacazette 8 – Nice play in the build-up to the first goal, worked really hard to press the City defence high up throughout his 78 minutes. Didn’t have any chances to continue his scoring form, but played well.
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang 9 – A constant threat to City at the back. He missed one good chance and perhaps could have created a goal for Xhaka if the midfielder gambled in the other direction in the box. Yet he still scored two goals, one showing great technique on a tricky finish and the other a great display of composure. It’s rare in recent times to say an Arsenal striker could have had a hat-trick against a big-six side. But two was enough.
- Joe Willock 7.5 – Won a couple of free-kicks to relieve pressure on the defence, completing his only attempted dribble and winning three of four individual duels. His pressing at the end of games Arsenal are winning is starting to prove vital.
- Lucas Torreira N/A – Played the final 15 minutes or so but barely had a touch. Made one clearance and one pass.
- Rob Holding N/A – Made a clearance and a tackle in his few minutes on the pitch. May have to step up now if Mustafi is out with an injury.
- Sead Kolasinac N/A – Only really came on to waste time and add an extra body at the back.