Arsenal Are Best Team in England – Cup Semi Final Report & Player Ratings


             David Luiz keeps out the Man City hordes, while Martinez stands guard

Who remembers playing “next goal wins” as a schoolboy?

You’d be playing footy with a bunch of other urchins in the street or in the back garden or on the local playground. It was getting on to dark and most kids knew they were due home for their tea soon.

Invariably someone would say “next goal wins.” It would really piss me off. There were so many times when my team was winning something like 27–16 and the other lot would score the “next goal” and claim victory.

This manner of victory was not in the Football Association rulebook, or in the Marquis of Queensbury code. It would doubtless cut little ice at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.  But there was a certain moral weight to this playground Darwinism: what had gone before didn’t matter – “next goal wins” was the only measure by which to judge the victor because it was the most recent register of superiority.

By the rules of the playground, Arsenal are now the best team in England.

A week ago Liverpool were the best team, Manchester City were the second best. Now we’ve beaten them both so it stands to reason, doesn’t it? We must be England’s best!

What a game. What a performance. What a result.

The commentators said that some bookies were giving 8-1 odds on Arsenal beating City at Wembley. I hope plenty of Gooners took the bait and gave those flash bar stewards a nasty cold bath.

You will find, if you look back at yesterday’s pre-match, that I predicted a win for the boys in red and white.

Admittedly I thought we’d win by the odd goal and only after extra time, but I had a strong feeling that the FA Cup loves Arsenal and that we would prevail.

El Patron made several changes to the team that started against Liverpool on Wednesday night. Torreira, Saka, Nelson and Holding were out, as well as the cup tied Soares. In came Bellerin, Mustafi, Ceballos, Maitland-Niles and Aubameyang.

For the first 20 minutes we could barely get a kick and whenever we gained possession we treated the ball as if it was covered in a massive viral load of coronavirus.

But, one or two minor aberrations aside, we defended diligently and City, for all their possession and pressing, created little.

Then we woke up. David Luiz played a lovely ball through the centre of the park to pick out Aubameyang, who stayed a yard ahead of the defenders as he bore down on goal. You’d have put your shirt on him scoring, but you’d have been walking home bareback. Instead of passing the ball either side of the ‘keeper Auba fired it straight at him.

I immediately thought “we can’t pass up opportunities like that”. But we didn’t have to wait long for Auba to make amends. A lovely move involving 10 Arsenal players found Pepe on the right wing. He played a perfect cross to the back post where Auba came steaming in and contrived a terrific finish with the outside of his boot.

We threatened again before the break and could easily have gone in 2-0 up.

Unsurprisingly, City came out more determined in the second half and we seemed to realise as a team that we’d need a backs-to-the-wall defence with no room for passengers. To the great credit of Arteta and the players he sent out, there were no passengers. Everyone played their part in an outstanding effort.

At one point it was starting to feel inevitable that we would crack. I sent a Whatsapp message to my son (watching in Canada) to say “we either need to get some extended possession or we need a breakaway goal.”

I’m no prophet, but I got lucky with that call because within 60 seconds we were 2-0 up thanks to a great breakaway. Tierney and Pepe did excellent work down out left flank, the former releasing Aubameyang who nutmegged Ederson for the goal.

By this stage 71 minutes had been played and I doubt whether, even at 2-0, any Arsenal supporter felt the result was in the bag.

Sure enough, City came at us in waves of attacks. But everything they threw at us was met by the most committed Arsenal defending I have seen for years. You might almost have thought it was George Graham on the touchline, not Arteta.

Martinez, in another dominant goalkeeping performance, made a great low stop from Mahrez; Laporte fired a powerful shot just wide; Sterling had a chance inside our six yard box… but we kept them out.

The seven minutes of extra time added palpitations to this Gunner’s heart, but we saw it though.

Luiz was a monster, throwing himself into blocks like a Winterburn; Mustafi battled for every scrap; Tierney was magnificent; Bellerin had the right flank sewn up; Xhaka played a perfect game and Ceballos was outstanding.

So now we’re off to yet another Cup Final against either Chelsea or Man Utd. Neither will be easy, but who would bet against us now?

Player Ratings

Martinez – 9

Gets better and better. A truly dominant performance.

Bellerin – 8

One misplaced pass early on which put us in trouble, but completely reliable thereafter.

Mustafi – 8

Back to the form he was showing prior to the Totteringham game. It was sad to see him go off late on with what looks like a hamstring injury.

Luiz – 9 MoTM

A splendid centre half performance. He won everything in the air, completed tackles and blocks and used the ball really well to set up attacks.

Tierney – 8

Such a cool head on those young shoulders. A real Mr Reliable.

Maitland-Niles – 7.5

Outstanding “compete level” on the defensive end, including some terrific one on one defending against Du Bruyne. Had several great opportunities to set up team-mates in goal scoring positions but his crossing with his left foot let him down.

Xhaka – 9

Close call for MoTM. Perfect positioning and reading of the game, particularly in the second half as we stifled City’s waves of attacks.

Ceballos – 8

Whatever magic Arteta has worked on him, it’s certainly impressive. He’s a talented, committed and creative player who was really grown into the rough and tumble of English football.

Pepe – 7

Involved in both goals. Still loses possession a little too easily for me.

Lacazette – 8

No goal, but a typically hard working outing for Laca.

Aubameyang – 8.5

His goals take us to the Cup Final. Two beauties, and he’ll be kicking himself it wasn’t a hat trick.


Willock – 8

Worked hard and did well disrupting City’s attacks.

Torreira – 8


Holding – 7

On late but added to the cause.

Kolasinac – 7






37 Responses to Arsenal Are Best Team in England – Cup Semi Final Report & Player Ratings

  1. […] via Arsenal Are Best Team in England – Cup Semi Final Report & Player Ratings — […]

  2. LB says:

    Waking up to the warm welcoming feeling of a wonderful win.

    I just read that report slowly and savoured every word. “Next goal wins” (:

    Great stuff Rocky, thanks for making the effort.

  3. Well played guys,am very impress keep it up

  4. oz gunner says:

    Cheers Rocky.

    It feels so good seeing an Arsenal team defend so well. That probably speaks volumes for how rare it has been in recent years.

    Seriously what a gem tierney is! He’s going to be a massive steal. 25 million is nothing to be scoffed at but these days full backs are the new CB’s in terms of pricing. We looked at all the expensive pommie full backs and say nah we’ll grab the scot. His passing (that set up for auba… 🙂 ) and desire to win 1v1 is exactly what we’ve been missing on the left.

    Martinez continues to grow as a player.

    Hats off to Arteta. He’s done a great job turning players around and improving them (ceballos, Mustafi, and Xhaka). Although, when Mustafi slid across the ground and sterling fell over I must admit I sent a few curse words to Mustafi via the tv. I apologised after.

  5. VCC says:

    What a great win for the good guys, followed by a Rockylicious post, yet again.

    Together with LB, I read that post slowly and savoured every word, thank you Sir.

    Arteta seems to have our boys singing from the same hymn sheet. Its called “Good old Arsenal, we’re proud to say that name”

    On Monday morning, If Arteta knocks on Stan’s door, and asks for two quality signings and gets his wish, I can see us making the top four next season.

    Bring on August 1st, 2020.


  6. RockyLives says:

    So who would you rather face in the final?

    The Chavs or Manure?

  7. Thanks for the excellent post match post Rocky. It’s always a bit scary when spud associates tell you how well you’re team are playing 😉 as if I even needed to be told 🙄

    So ……. between the other two teams I think ManU are probably harder to beat at the moment, they’ve galvanised into a team which they weren’t earlier in the season. Chelsea meh …… they’ve got that handsome bloke up top that I used to adore that might need to spend sone time in Mustafi’s pocket. Lampard has done well to get chavs into top four contention. Actually it would just be marvellous to beat either of them and win that FA Cup again. We don’t half deserve it and it’ll put spuds out of Europe 🤣🤣🤣

  8. LB says:

    Deciding between the devil and the deep blue sea? Either, as neither has a particularly good defence but maybe United’s attack are a bit better. So Chavs, our defence is probably slightly better equipped to deal with their attack.

  9. RockyLives says:

    “the devil and the deep blue sea”

    Very clever LB

    I agree with your conclusion (and that of Peaches).

    ManU have found a groove at the moment and are playing well.

  10. Good review Rocky. I think Maitland-Niles left foot crossing can be excused due to him being basically right footed. I’d say he was played in that position to counter Mahrez & stop him coming inside onto his goal scoring left foot, which he did admirably for most of the game till Mahrez was subbed off.

  11. RockyLives says:

    Agreed. AMN had a good game and performed his main job admirably.

    It was just a shame that he couldn’t make more of those excellent attacking opportunities because he was on his weaker foot. Something for him to work on.

  12. Would it be advantageous for us to be playing Chelsea in the final due to them probably already having qualified for Champions League, so we’d get Europa qualification by default in the unlikely event of us losing to them?

  13. RockyLives says:

    Going back to ManU or Chavs…

    I was thinking about Luiz and our defence generally. It occurs to me that he (and they) perform better against a team that’s coming on to us for most of the game.

    If the balance of possession is with the opposition (as with Liverpool and Man City), we are forced to play deep and our defence has a midfield wall directly in front to help out.

    Where Luiz (and Mustafi) get most exposed is when we have pushed up and teams hit us on a fast break. Neither player has the speed to cope with fast strikers, leading them to either pull down their opponent (Luiz) or make desperate sliding lunges (Mustafi).

    So, with this in mind, might we not do better in the final against a ManUre team full of attacking confidence and verve…?

    Just a thought.

  14. RockyLives says:

    Is that definitely the rule?

    That if our Cup Final opponents have already qualified for the Champs League we get Europa League win or lose?

    If so it’s a no-brainer that we want to play a team with a top four place secured, except that it’s by no means certain Chelsea will finish ahead of ManU, or that Leicester won’t spoil the party for either of them.

    The Chavs have Liverpool away followed by Wolves at home – neither an easy fixture.

    ManUre are home to West Ham then away at Leicester. You’d expect them to beat the Hammers who are now safe from the drop. Leicester is another tough one.

    Basically, we want whoever gets to the FA Cup Final to also secure a Champs League spot before we play them at Wembley.

  15. RockyLives says:

    Hopefully an incentivised Leicester will thrash the Spuds today.

    I feel confident we’ll get six points from our last two league games. if that happens, a Leicester win today will be enough to ensure we finish above the Totts.

  16. Mikel A says:

    What a fine, positive post and ratings. Rocky, you are a beacon for supportive Arsenal blog writing.

    What a week this has been. From the depression of losing to the Spuds, to outfighting the Champions, to outmanouvering Pep’s Gslacticos. Mikel is the man.

  17. Rasp says:

    Wonderful report, thank you Rocky. What a performance. It seemed like all the faults that had plagued us over recent years had been eradicated. I’m a very proud Arsenal supporter again. The class has returned … epitomised by the suave Mikel in contrast to the shredded jeans clad Pep – did nobody tell him that a semi final at Wembley is a prestigious occasion?

  18. I think I read somewhere last night that there’s been a change of rules regarding ‘losing team in FA Cup final getting Europa place by default if the winner has already qualified’ but there’s certainly a lot of confusion. Need RA to read up the rules 😉

  19. Rasp says:

    As regards our favoured opponent in the final, if we were thinking about European qualification, then we would want to face whichever of the two teams is going to make it into next year’s Champions League, because even if we lose that means we still gain entry into the Europa league. But of course we are not going to lose, we are going to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup final to get our revenge on them after the Europa league final and to show Mr Giroud that we can be classy in victory.

  20. Rocky. Yeah, I think it’s the rule but more informed people than me might disagree, and I’m assuming it will be Chelsea already in the CL on cup final day, but as you say, nothing’s certain yet.

  21. Rocky. Looks like I’m creating false hope as someone on The Athletic has pointed out that Watford didn’t qualify as losing finalists last season, so we’ll have to do it the hard (and probably more honourable) way.

  22. RockyLives says:

    So much for my theory about Leicester beating the Spuds 😩

  23. RA says:

    Lovely Post(s) Rocket, thank you. oh, Great One. 😁

    We will win the FA Cup, and provided we have not already qualified for the CL or the EL, we will automatically qualify for the Europa League.

    That’s it? Well not quite.

    UEFA CL or EL Qualification by the Premier League:

    FA Cup winners enter the Europa League at the group stage.
    Losing finalists, if they have not already qualified for Europe via the Premier league, will begin earlier, at the play-offs, or third qualifying round stage.

    UEFA does not allow the FA Cup runners-up to qualify for the Europa League through the competition.

    If the FA Cup winner has already qualified for Europe through their Premier league position, the FA Cup berth is then given to the highest-place team in the league who has not yet qualified.

    That seems clear. 🥺 There is another bit though, that might affect Arsenal, if they have not qualified for Europa via the Premier League, and lose the FA Cup Final — heaven forfend.

    A breakdown of how PL clubs can qualify for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League

    Below is a breakdown of how Premier League clubs who can qualify to play in UEFA competitions.

    The maximum number of English teams in UEFA competitions is seven.

    (Please note UEFA reserves the right to change the conditions of the access list so these criteria can be subject to change.)

    1) UEFA Champions League (UCL) qualification

    In normal circumstances, four UCL places are given to English clubs who fulfil the following criteria:

    1a) The top four teams in the Premier League qualify for the group stage proper.

    2) UEFA Europa League (UEL) qualification
    In normal circumstances, three UEL places are given to English clubs who fulfil the following criteria:

    2a) The fifth-placed team in the Premier League qualify for the group stage proper.
    2b) The winners of the FA Cup qualify for the group stage proper.
    2c) The EFL Cup winners qualify for the second qualifying round.

    Possible changes:
    a) If the FA Cup winners finish in the top five of the Premier League, their UEL group stage place will go to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.

    b) If the EFL Cup winners finish in the top five of the Premier League (or top six if (a) happens), their UEL second qualifying round place will go to the next-highest ranked team not qualified for UEFA competitions in the Premier League.

    How does winning UCL/UEL affect qualification?

    Should a Premier League club win the UEFA Champions League they will automatically qualify for the group stage of next season’s competition regardless of their league finishing position.

    Should a Premier League club win the UEFA Europa League they will automatically qualify for the group stage of next season’s UEFA Champions League regardless of their league finishing position.

    A maximum of five Premier League teams are eligible for UEFA Champions League qualification.

    In the event that a Premier League club win the UEFA Champions League and another win the UEFA Europa League and neither of these clubs finish in the top four of the Premier League, the club lying fourth in the table will drop into the UEFA Europa League group stage.

    Basically — the losing FA Cup Finalists do not qualify for the Europa League by right.

    {unless the Premier League Mandarins or UEFA have changed the rules, and have not properly publicised the changes}– then …… if we are losing finalists, and either Chelsea or Manure win, but have already qualified for one of the top 7 places in the Premiership, then — provided Arsenal finish 8th in the Premiership, we will qualify for the Europa League.

    Don’t hold your breath — the Premier League, the FA and the UEFA people do not make anything clear.

  24. RA says:

    Re-reading the above comment — I realise it has some contradictory seeming clauses, as UEFA has made changes over the years which do not make easy interpretations.

    Doesn’t matter – Chelsea or Manure – we will win!! 😜

  25. Aaron says:

    Just win out and AFC will qualify.
    Always great to win silverware, especially if our least favorites do not win any.

  26. RA – I knew you’d be the man to know 🙈

  27. Aaron says:

    Arsenal v Chelsea in FA Cup final.

    Going to be pumped for that game.

  28. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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