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Can Arsenal retain the FA Cup

Arsenal Football Club are on their way to Wembley yet again for a FA Cup semi-final. On Monday night The Gunners booked their place at Wembley after a historical victory over arch rivals, Manchester United, at Old Trafford. It was the first time Arsene Wenger’s men managed to record a victory at The Theatre of Dreams since 2006. Louis van Gaal’s team were far from perfect on the night and Arsenal were quick to capitalise on their opponents’ mistakes to grab a 2-1 victory.

In the last two years we have been seeing a much organized Arsenal set-up in the FA Cup, compared to recent years where they couldn’t even progress to the 4th or 5th rounds. Before last year’s semi-final against Wigan Athletic, Arsenal failed for 5 years to even make it to that stage but after that memorable comeback against Hull City in the final it was almost expected to see the Gunners at Wembley again this year, in other words they were expected to reach at least the semi-finals no matter how tough their opponents in the previous stages. Going up against Manchester United is never easy, no matter where you play them and if you look at the past decade’s results between the Gunners and the Red Devils it is no surprise that Manchester United is Arsenal’s bogey side. Manchester United have been more than dominant over the men from North London in recent years and also handed them quite heavy defeats that sat clearly in the back of Arsene Wenger’s mind when he walked out onto the Old Trafford pitch on Monday evening, but luckily for him and every Arsenal supporter, they now have a much more fond memory of Old Trafford after that famous win.

Arsenal striker, Danny Welbeck, was named in the starting xi in his first return to his former team after he made the move from Manchester to London in the summer transfer window last year and what a mark he left on his return. Welbeck scored the winning goal in the second half after Antonio Valencia gave a very poor back pass to keeper, David de Gea that Welbeck intercepted before De Gea could get to it, only to tap the ball past the Spaniard keeper and into the back of the net. Arsenal opened the scoring in the first half when left-back, Nacho Monreal found himself in loads of space inside the United box after Alex Oxlade Chamberlain beat three defenders to lay the ball up for Monreal. The Spaniard kept his cool and blasted the ball past David de Gea. Arsenal’s glory was short lived however, when Wayne Rooney, who always seems to score against the Gunners, headed a Angel Di Maria cross past Wojciech Szczesny moments later. That was how it ended in the first half and the Danny Welbeck goal in the second was enough to secure a spot at Wembley for the second year in a row.

Arsenal’s opponents in the semi-final will be either Bradford City or Reading FC as these two teams still have to face off in the reverse leg after Bradford were kept to goalless draw at home by Reading. The same happened at Anfield on Sunday when a determined Blackburn Rovers outfit also kept Liverpool to a 0-0 draw. The winner between these two clubs in the reverse leg at Rovers will play Aston Villa at Wembley on the 19th of April. Villa were in terrific form against West Brom on Saturday in the quarterfinal clash at Villa Park. It has been a very dismal season for Villa but new coach, Tim Sherwood, has brought some new life into the club and there is a great sense of optimism surrounding them when they take the famous trip to Wembley on the 19th.

Arsenal on the other hand will hope that second choice keeper, Wojciech Szczesny, will be in perfect form for their semi-final on the 18th of April. The Polish keeper has been far from his best in this season and it is no surprise that Columbian keeper, David Ospina, has taken over the main role in goal for the Gunners lately. Ospina has been one of the best keepers in the league for 2015 so far and has assured a more aggressive defensive approach by the Arsenal backs. Mesut Ozil was back to his very best on Monday evening and has adapted a much more physical style of playing lately, which makes him much more dangerous for defenders. Oxlade Chamberlain limped off in the second half with a hamstring injury that caused a lot of concern for everyone at Arsenal. The midfielder is a massive asset for the team and can play in any attacking position and will definitely still have a valuable part to play in Arsenal’s aspirations to finish in the top four of the league.

Come the 18th of April tens and thousands of Arsenal supporters will flock to Wembley stadium with the hopes that their side can go one match closer to retaining the FA Cup and book a place in the final. One thing that is for certain though when you play at Wembley, no matter against who you play there, your opponent is going to be determined and fired up to cause a upset or victory over you and that is exactly what happened in last year’s semi-finals and final, when Hull City beat Manchester City and Arsenal had to rely on Lukas Fabianksi in a penalty shootout to secure their place in the final, only to be 2-0 down after 9 minutes against Hull. Luckily for them they were also determined to be crowned champions and won the game 3-2. Nevertheless, Wembley is the ultimate of world football. It hosts the semi-finals and finals of the oldest tournament in football history with the FA Cup being even more valuable than the stadium the games are played on. Come the 18th and 19th of April only two teams will have booked their tickets back to Wembley for the grand final on 30 May. Can Arsenal become the most successful club in the tournament’s history by claiming the title for a record 12th time, the most by any other club in England, or will it be Liverpool who gives Steven Gerrad the perfect going-away present and don’t wright off Bradford, Reading or Blackburn, this is after all the FA Cup.

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