Event: English FA Cup semi final
Date: Sunday, 23rd April 2017
Kick Off: 3:00pm (Nigerian time)
Venue: Wembley Stadium, England
If there is something Arsenal’s gaffer Arsene Wenger and his Man City counterpart Pep Guardiola are desperate for as the EPL season comes to a close, it is to lay their hands on the prestigious FA Cup trophy at least in a bid to end the season on a fairly high note and stand before their respective employers to strategise ahead of next season.
Already, Pep has admitted that City’s owners may be unhappy with the season even if the FA Cup is won. So, imagine how discontented Arsenal fans will be with the embattled Arsène Wenger if he does not claim the trophy. The two league games between these sides ended in victory for City in December and a draw earlier this month. City are seven points ahead of Arsenal in the top flight having played one more match and they enter the tie as favourites. Yet it would be no great surprise if the erratic Gunners turn it on when required.
The reward for a victory here is a showdown in the final versus Chelsea who thumped rivals Tottenham 4-2 less than 24 hours ago at the same venue.
City come into this game on the back of two very good wins and performances against Hull City and Southampton, and the Catalan will hope to see his men put on a similar type of effort and produce the same result.
Arsene Wenger is yet to announce his future, but this may well be his final season, so, he will want to leave with another FA Cup, which has been his most successful competition as the Gunners boss. Arsenal have lost four of their last eight games in all competitions and had to come from behind twice to draw 2-2 with City at the Emirates earlier this month.
They have won the FA Cup in two of the last three seasons. but also face a fight to finish in the top four in the Premier League.
These two teams love to attack and we will probably get a high scoring match on Sunday. The two defenses aren’t the best we’ve ever seen, so be ready to suffer and see your team concede. The one who wins the shootout is coming back to Wembley in May, so no matter the winner, it’ll be fun.
Meanwhile, Guardiola says the entire squad would be traveling to London, so we have no idea who starts and who stays on the bench. We do know that Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and Bacary Sagna miss out through injury, but Gabriel Jesus is back way ahead of schedule and could even start today. The Brazilian broke his foot two months ago against Bournemouth precisely on February 13 and was supposed to be out for the rest of the season, but his commitment to treatment and recovery brought him back in time for his biggest match of the season.
We have some idea of probable starters, including Claudio Bravo in goal, Vincent Kompany at center-back, Jesús Navas at right-back, David Silva behind Sergio Agüero, Leroy Sané on the left, Kevin De Bruyne somewhere on the pitch. But we really need to wait Pep’s official team news, and we also wait to know if Arsene Wenger will try three at the back again.
Arsenal have a number of injury problems to contend with as David Ospina (back), Danny Welbeck (toe), Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez (thigh) are all missing, while Jeff Reine-Adelaide (ankle) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles) will not play again this season. Wenger changed to a three-man defence for Monday’s 2-1 win at Middlesbrough and admits he could stick with the new system against City with the likes of Theo Walcott and Hector Bellerin hoping for recalls.
KEY STATISTICS TO BEAR IN MIND AS THE COUNTDOWN TICKS AWAY
-This will be Arsenal’s 29th appearance in the FA Cup semi-finals, the most of any team in the competition’s history. They’ve also won the trophy 12 times, a joint-record alongside Man United.
-Man City have progressed from each of their last eight FA Cup semi-finals, most recently in 2013 against Chelsea. Their last defeat at this stage was in 1932 against Arsenal.
-This will be the fourth meeting between these sides in the FA Cup. Man City won the first en route to winning the trophy in 1904, with Arsenal winning the next two in the 1932 semi-final (finishing as runners up) and the fifth round in 1971 (finishing as winners).
-Pep Guardiola won his only previous game in charge of a team at Wembley Stadium, beating Man United 3-1 with Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final. He also played in the 1992 European Cup final there with Barca, beating Sampdoria 1-0.
-Alexis Sanchez has scored five goals in his four appearances at Wembley Stadium (3 in 3 for Arsenal, and a brace for Chile against England).
-The Gunners come into this game on the back of just five wins in their last 13 games in all competitions (D1 L7), with two of those victories coming against non-league sides (Sutton Utd and Lincoln City).
FORM GUIDE (all competitions, most recent first)
Man City: WWLDDL
VERDICT: As usual between both sides, high scoring duel is expected here. Man City seem to have the momentum even though Arsenal appear to have find their ‘mojo‘ a little bit as underlined in their win over Middlesbrough on Monday night. This tie will be a test as to whether the storm is really over at the Emirates. I don’t see City losing this one, in fact I fancy them going through to the final to face Chelsea.
RECOMMENDED BETS: 2, GG & X2 or GG & 2.5,