By Tony Attwood
“When we beat Arsenal, we have to wait four weeks after our last league game to play the Cup final.”
Steve Clarke, the Reading manager, in his last pre-match press conference.
We are the cup holders and in the semi-final again, so it is not surprising to see the statistics starting to appear on various gambling related websites that tell us we have won most of the last ten FA Cup matches. And as we know from previous articles, Arsenal score against Reading.
And the fact that we have scored at least four goals in each of the last three matches against Reading in all competitions is not bad either – although that tends not to tell the whole story. The details of that one are here – scroll down to get the complete set of results between ourselves and Reading.
The last FA Cup match we lost was 16 February 2013, Arsenal 0 Blackburn 1. We then won five of the next six in the league, and lost just one of the remaining 12 league matches to the end of the season.
In fact in last year’s cup run and this year’s cup run there was only one match in which we didn’t score two or more, and that was the 1-1 draw with Wigan which we won on penalties. That game should be the warning to us not to think this is a walkover.
On the other hand that means we have scored at least two goals in nine of the last 10 FA Cup games. But then again we have one hell of a forward line, and we are the cup holders.
We scored four against Coventry and four against Everton last year, so maybe it is time for another four, or more, this weekend.
Incidentally, just going back to the Coventry game, you will remember that at the time Coventry did not have a stadium of their own, because of the activities of the hedge fund that owned them. So they played in Northampton. We supported their supporters in protesting about that during the game. And now they have their own stadium back. Not that our support was in any way responsible, but it was good to show awareness I thought.
But back to Reading. In the league they have on Tuesday this week lost to Bournemouth and are now five games without a win since they won their quarter final round replay. Which could be good news for them as they are fully focussed on the semi-final, or bad news because they are losing the feel of how to play as a team and win.
But as we all know, the FA Cup is different. Bradford beat Chelsea, Sunderland and Millwall before being knocked out by Reading. Man City lost at home to Middlesbrough.
And this is the fourth time we are appearing at Wembley in 12 months. Semi-final, Final, Community Shield, Semi-Final.
You’ll know all there is to know about our current form, because Untold mentions it from time to time (and even the papers have picked up on it a bit), but what about semi-finals historically?
Arsenal have only lost a semi-final once to a lower league team. Here is our list of being knocked out at the semi-final stage…
- 1906: Newcastle 2 Woolwich Arsenal 1
- 1907 The Wednesday 3 Woolwich Arsenal 1
- 1928: Blackburn 1 Arsenal 0
- 1973: Sunderland 2 Arsenal 1 (Sunderland 6th in second division)
- 1983: Man U 2 Arsenal 1
- 1991: Tottenham 3 Arsenal 1
- 1999: Manchester Utd 2 Arsenal 1, after 0-0 draw
- 2004 Manchester U 1 Arsenal 0
- 2009 Chelsea 2 Arsenal 1
So just Sunderland then, which is a good sign.
But what about Reading last night? Did they really show they were full of fight and vim and vigour and all that stuff that seems to be associated with the FA Cup?
It was Reading 0 Bournemouth 1 on Tuesday, and Steve Clarke played his regular first teamers making only one change from the team that played Blackburn at the weekend.
What Bournemouth did was to make a full on non-stop attack from the off, and scored in just four minutes. Reading then did come back into the game, and there were a couple of close saves from the Bournemouth keeper but that was it.
So now their table looks like this.
|19||Brighton and Hove Albion||43||10||16||17||43||50||-7||46|
Going back to the opening lines of this piece, the Reading manager was slightly more realistic thereafter when he said,
“It’s a long break! If we get to the final, what are we going to do from May 2 to May 30? What do we do? Everyone else has played, so we won’t be playing games. It’d be a great puzzle to have though!”
Anyway, I was having a look at whoscored.com which claims to be able to tell us Reading’s style and it seems they are strong on creating long shot opportunities and protecting the lead. They are weak at
- Finishing scoring chances
- Avoiding offside
- Defending against skillful players
The style that is reported for Reading is that they…
- Attempt crosses often
- Attack down the right
- Play with width
- Rotate their first eleven (except they didn’t in the last game)
Obviously we’ll do a match preview from Arsenal’s point of view before the game, but for now here’s a possible line up for us…
Debuchy, Mert, Kos, Monreal
Coquelin the Constable, Santi Cazorla-a-drifting forwards
Ramsey on the left, Ozil-a-wandering, Sanchez-cutting-in
From the Anniversary Files – Arsenal on this day
16 April 1977: Freddie Ljungberg born. He made his debut for Halmstads on 23 October 1994 and was signed by Arsenal in 1998 for £3m. It is said that Arsène Wenger had never seen him play when he signed him – but just saw him on TV but that seems unlikely.
16 April 2000: Before the game Arsène Wenger and the players then presented bouquets of flowers to their counterparts to honour the Leeds fans murdered in Istanbul. Arsenal beat Leeds 4-0 away as Henry scored his 20th of the season to go above Leeds having been 10 points behind.