2016-17 FA Cup Semi-Final Preview
Arsenal v Manchester City
Sunday 23rd April 2017 – 15:00 Kick-off
The joint-record-holding twelve-time FA Cup winners Arsenal face five-times FA Cup winners Manchester City, in a semi-final which will surely feature a fair few goals. Neither of these two teams have been the best defensively this season and with the attacking talent at their disposal, you’d like to think this’ll be a high scoring game. However, I’ve probably jinxed it now and it’ll turn out to be a tentative and dour affair…
Both teams go into this game knowing that the FA Cup is now their only chance of silverware for this season, and quite frankly has been their most realistic opportunity for a number of months. I think it’s fair to say that both teams will be relatively disappointed with the way their league campaigns have gone, but for very different reasons.
For Manchester City reality – but certainly not the media – will tell you that this is a transitional season in the sense that they’ve got a new manager coming into a squad which is in need of an overhaul, as there are arguably a number of players within their squad for whom the peak of their careers is behind them.
On the other hand, the situation at Arsenal is one which is both divisive and somewhat perplexing. They’ve got a manager whom has been steadily steering the ship in difficult circumstances for quite some time now. The division between the fans and the growing discontent towards the manager’s and the team’s performances, coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the futures of stars, such as Sanchez and Özil, have been both contributory and symptomatic factors that accompany the club’s (highly probable) first finish outside the top four for over 20 years. The Gunners have been successful in the FA Cup in recent years, having won the cup back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
Manchester City’s most recent FA Cup triumph was the 1-0 win over Stoke in 2011, courtesy of a Yaya Toure goal. Roberto Mancini was hailed for ‘removing that banner from Old Trafford’ by guiding City to their first major honour in 35 years. For many that victory can be seen as a the foundation to City’s recent success in the league and league cup, and the start of new era at Manchester City. It arguably gave the club the spark of confidence to go on and win the Premier League the following season.
City’s last appearance in an FA Cup final however, came in 2013 and it was a stark contrast to the joyous and emotional scenes that had occurred just two years earlier. In what turned out to be Roberto Mancini’s final game as manager, City pathetically limped to a 1-0 defeat to “plucky” Wigan Athletic. If the 2011 final had been one of the brightest days in City’s recent history, the 2013 final was arguably one of the darkest. There had been rumours going around the night before and morning of the game, that Roberto Mancini had lost the dressing room and would be sacked regardless of the result. I recall being at the game and feeling completely ambivalent; it was an FA Cup final and City were heavy favourites to win, but there was just this awful air of sadness about the place, a level of disbelief that the most successful manager the club had had in decades was being shipped out. I’m sure I’ll revisit this subject in greater detail one day. However, getting back on track, City’s last FA Cup semi-final, was also 2013 and it was a convincing 2-0 victory over Chelsea, with goals coming from Samir Nasri and Sergio Agüero.
Aside from the Wigan FA Cup Final defeat, the new Wembley has been a happy hunting ground for City in the main having won the EFL League Cup there last season… That said, the last time they played Arsenal at Wembley didn’t end so well. The two teams went head-to-head in the 2014 FA Community Shield and it turned out to be a 3-0 win for Arsenal. City will have their work cut out to beat The Gunners this time, but they can take some confidence in the fact that they’ve not lost to Arsenal this season. City won the first meeting between the two sides 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium back in December, and their meeting at the Emirates finished 2-2 at the start of this month.
Both teams like to play face attacking and free flowing football and neither are the best defensively which, as I’ve mentioned, suggests there’ll be a few goals in this one. Out of the two semi-finals, I peg this one to be the least firey in terms of tackles, but I’d still expect this one to be the most entertaining for the neutral, in terms of football and flair.
Paul: 3-1 City
David: 3-1 City
Mark: 2-0 City