It's been a strange weekend of disappointment. I was down at Wembley this weekend for our semi-final outing and I have to say it was very strange. Pre-game, the atmosphere around the game was immense, Arsenal fans outsinging their rivals. The sense of doing something special, the sense of really making an impression on the cup was there.
There was a genuine glowing feeling around the supporters - this is our day - and we will win.
But then we all heard the team news...
Arsene had previously said "we need to rotate" and "we'll have a fresh Arshavin for the Chelsea game" but to our surprise, the dimutive Russian was left on the bench. As well as that, Alex Song, who's been brilliant in the last 4 weeks, and awesome against Villareal was also left on the bench.
My pre-game optimism turned into pre-game pessimism as surely we'd be better "playing our game" with a 4-4-2 and Arshavin in the squad - in fact, with a neutral venue such as Wembley, surely the same team as Wednesday should have started? (Nasri / Arshavin swap)... Very frustrating and you knew Diaby wouldn't be that great, he's been injured for a while. Argh!
Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
The FA Cup sponsored by E.ON
Saturday, April 18, 2009, 17:15
So, the line up was:
Eboue – Toure – Sagna – Gibbs
Walcott – Denilson – Cesc – Diaby – Van Persie
I’m a little sick of seeing Diaby in our team ahead of players like Arshavin and Song, who really have deserved to be in the first eleven.
Arsene spoke on Diaby’s inclusion:
“Alex Song has played many games and I believe when you do that you need rest. I am not sure he would have stopped the ball in the air on the second goal, but it is difficult. We know they are dangerous on set-pieces and we are a bit short. Plus they have some tall boys who make it physical in midfield and we needed a player like Diaby to be capable of fighting against them.
“As well I wanted to rotate it a bit because Nasri was sick last week and he looked a bit tired. We played with three strikers – Theo, Robin and Adebayor – and I couldn’t play with four when they had three in midfield.
“I believe we are a team with eight games in 24 days and you cannot imagine to play every game with exactly the same players.”
That still doesn’t explain the absence of Arshavin, something we’ll never know. To top it all off, Adebayor and Van Persie have both picked up knocks.
Having said all of that, we did start the game well and a good move from Ade and Gibbs saw Walcott side foot the ball home to make it 1-0. But two very bad goalkeeping errors saw Malouda equalise and Drogba score the winner in a game where we struggled to find any form in the second half. It’s a game I’m not going to dwell on too much, and in all honesty, I think Arsene made some personnel / tactical mistakes.
Arsene said of the game:
“The disappointment of the day is that we gave two cheap goals away, and in a game of that level it has a bad outcome, especially with seven minutes to go. It was a big blow. The two teams looked jaded physically, maybe us a bit more than them.
“We missed a few opportunities on crosses in the second half, and were unlucky in the last minute. They had one or two chances, but it looked like it would go to extra time, until we gave a goal away that you should not at this level.”
And that’s very true. Very disappointing for us to “throw” it away, and that’s exactly what we’ve done!
Arsenal: Fabianski, Eboue, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Walcott, Fabregas, Diaby, Denilson (Nasri 86), Van Persie (Arshavin 75), Adebayor (Bendtner 83).
Subs Not Used: Mannone, Vela, Ramsey, Song Billong.
Booked: Denilson, Toure.
Goals: Walcott 18.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Lampard, Essien, Malouda, Anelka (Kalou 82), Drogba.
Subs Not Used: Hilario, Carvalho, Di Santo, Mikel, Belletti, Mancienne.
Booked: Ivanovic, Ballack, Drogba.
Goals: Malouda 33, Drogba 84.
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).]]>