Arsenal 2 Manchester City 0

Aubameyang, 19, 71

FA Cup semi-final

Arsenal reached the FA Cup final for a record 21st time with a disciplined and resilient 2-0 win over Manchester City at Wembley. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang struck in either half to see Arsenal through to the FA Cup final where they will face either Chelsea or Manchester United. On the back of a Premier League win over Liverpool, the week got even better for Mikel Arteta’s side as he orchestrated the victory which dumped the reigning FA Cup holders out of this year’s competition.

The early exchanges were a nervy affair, possession was lost by both sides. On the evidence of their slick play, it looked as if it would be just a matter of time before City would take the lead. But having shaken off their early nerves and remembered their game plan, the Gunners grew in confidence. City’s plan to fire low crosses from the wings had been anticipated, with Granit Xhaka and David Luiz well marshalled to thwart the danger. At the other end, Luiz’s distribution from deep should have seen Arsenal take the lead, but Aubameyang ‘s shot was struck straight at Ederson.

With their next move of note however, Arsenal took the lead. This time, the move resembled something more akin to their free-flowing play. There were nineteen passes in the build- up from deep in their own half, the latter two fell to Nicolas Pepe who crossed from deep on the right, and striking the ball with the outside of his right boot, for the last of that sequence Aubameyang scored via a touch in off Ederson’s inside post.

Arteta celebrated with the now trademark two arms in the air, as his mentor and former boss, Pep Guardiola pondered on how this was happening. Arteta has spoken of his team’s need to “suffer’ collectively and at times when the game demands discipline. That’s coach’s speak for defending in numbers, and Arsenal were having to do plenty of that. Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne  have cut teams up at will this season, but here their threat was being severely dented.

That pattern continued into the second half, Kieran Tierney and Shkodran Mustafi held firm alongside Luiz as City rarely tested Emiliano Martinez. Dani Ceballos continued his midfield creativity role and to good effect. After exchanging passes with Pepe on the left, Tierney lofted a pass to Aubameyang. The Gabon striker raced away beyond the attentions of Eric Garcia to beat Ederson through his outstretched legs to double Arsenal’s lead against the run of play.

Arteta celebrated, while Guardiola looked on with a bemused look. Did we really beat them 3-0 twice in the Premier League this season, he could almost have been heard thinking out loud. One on Arsenal’s tormentors at the Etihad, Phil Foden had now come on for Riyad Mahrez. Ainsley Maitalnd-Niles had been effective against the Algeria winger, and when he did get a sighter on goal, Martinez saved low down at his near post to preserve his clean sheet.

City threatened with Aymeric Laporte from distance, while Sterling saw his low shot fizz just wide of the target. Seven minutes of time added on where to be played and City still needed two goals. Arsenal however were resilient and intelligent enough to hold in to what they had and that was a place in the FA Cup final.

Arteta praised his players on reaching the FA Cup final where his side were the clear underdogs.

“They are so happy because we had a big task in front of us today against such a big team and we’ve done it, so they are really proud. The chemistry we are generating between them is fantastic and the way they are fighting for each other too. At the moment I have the feeling that I can play any of those players and they are going to respond and they are going to perform. We changed a few players from when we played on Wednesday and when we played today, and look at the way that they are performing,” he said.

The FA Cup final will be played on August 1st at Wembley.