Good morning Postivitas and another fine Sunday to be an Arsenal supporter.
A worthy Cup semi final and thoroughly enjoyable, although at times there was anxiety and the occasional squirm of discomfort in the lower intestine. The general expectation was that Reading would be well organised and resolute, and we would have a battle to break them down. That sage of footballing knowledge Shearer even went so far in the run up to the kick off as to suggest Reading might get “physical” if they wished to get a result. Such insight from a man who has not only played the game but managed at the highest level (very, very briefly).
And so largely the template is the way the game went. As Arsene said compared to the films he had seen of their recent performances they stepped up a level. Nevertheless we controlled the first half and went in a deserved 1-0. We started the second half in third gear, a disappointing trait that we displayed with equal negative effect at Burnley and St James’ Park recently, and let them back into the game. I am not quite clear why we have developed this little post half time dip but if I can see it then I have no doubt the man who can deal with the defect is fully focussed. The outcome of course was a soft equalizer, as we all know. As the game progressed with the scores level I felt, and the number of times we hit the post, had good chances saved and possession stats confirm, we restored our control and the inevitable winner came. One surprising but definite improvement was our use of the dead ball at free kicks and corners. I cannot remember another game when we looked so threatening and could have had three goals from corners alone. Most un-Arsenal like !
Did Reading get “physical” as the Gateshead guru opined ? I saw Mesut’s heel get trod on which deliberate and should have been both a foul and a card which Atkinson missed. There was some pushing and shoving and Arsenal players had a ten minute phase of nasal grief. Other than that I thought it was an OK footballing effort from the Championship side, certainly no worse in terms of fouls than I see most weeks in the PL and no diving, face clutching or systematic cheating that I usually do see every week at the higher level. To balance things up it was good to see that the linos erred on the side of caution if a Reading player strayed toward an offside position. Whether Reading did nor not get physical may be academic however, they lost.
The winner itself I see is the subject of endless lamentation in some quarters of the mainstream media this morning on behalf of the Australian keeper Adam Frederici. Simple keeping error and a few moments before he had made another howler from an Aaron shot that hit him and bounced over. For Reading fans I have a smidgeon of sympathy, for the player however my heart is stone. As Mr Benaud used to say “Mourning all”.
Our stand out performances I thought came from Santi, Kosc and from, of course, our double goal scorer. Mesut wasted nothing. I was massively impressed to see Debuchy manage 120 minutes football after three months out and the same could be said for Kieran Gibbs whose energy and running in extra time was important on not allowing Reading to apply steady pressure late on. Gabriel also impressed, fleet of foot and prepared to put his foot in as required.
As I said in opening an enjoyable game, flashes of our ‘A’ game, the odd flutter, but if you think back 12 months a damn sight easier than penalties. And finally and to close a picture of our first Cup final;
Note the sartorial elegance of the man with the whistle.
Enjoy your Sunday.