Back to Wembley again
So we go back to Wembley again tomorrow for another FA Cup semi-final. As with last year we find ourselves up against a side from the division below us. Without a doubt this in-form Arsenal side should smash Reading tomorrow. But we should have smashed Wigan at this stage last year. Nothing in football is straightforward, and definitely not in the FA Cup. If Arsenal think for one second that all they need to do is arrive at Wembley then they will get the nastiest shock of all. Reading are struggling near the bottom of the Championship but nothing can be taken for granted. Arsenal need to play at the same level, and with the same intensity, that they did at Old Trafford in the previous round. If our players do that then the result will take care of itself.
It's well worn territory but the fact we are going to Wembley tomorrow is a joke. Seeing your side play at Wembley is always special, regardless of the occasion. But for a semi-final, unless we are playing against Tottenham, it is a pointless exercise. The idea of reaching a Wembley final is the thing that excites people, not a semi-final. Perhaps for smaller clubs like Reading that might not be quite the case, but we really should be going to either Chelsea or Tottenham tomorrow to play this semi-final. As ever I am excited and looking forward to walking down Wembley Way tomorrow, there is nothing to beat it, but it's not quite the same is it?
We know that Arsene Wenger will be bringing in Szczesny tomorrow. The Pole hasn't played a game of football since the last round. He is hardly going to be match sharp. I don't like the idea of a "cup keeper" in the first place. I know Arsene does it primarily to ensure his back-up goalkeeper gets to play occasionally, but there is a reason why they are the back-up. I don't necessarily think Ospina is the answer in goal for Arsenal, and I'm not certain he's a better goalkeeper than Szczesny over all. However, Ospina is the current first-choice and Szczesny has had numerous chances only to make the same kind of mistakes time and again. It irks me that Ospina won't be in goal tomorrow, particularly as Szczesny has had no matches to get himself properly in the groove. Against a side like Reading it shouldn't cost us, but that is not to say that it won't.
In the back four it will be interesting to see how Wenger goes about things. I can see Gibbs coming in for Monreal and I don't really see that as too much of a problem. Monreal has been exceptionally good this season and deserves to be holding his place, but as far as I'm concerned Gibbs is still a better player, and he is certainly a lot faster across the ground. I can't see the centre-backs being split up so there will be no place in the starting XI for Gabriel. The interesting thing will be whether or not Debuchy is considered fit enough to replace Bellerin. My guess would be that Debuchy is more likely to earn a place on the bench in place of Calum Chambers, perhaps (though I don't see the point in having Gabriel, Debuchy and either of the left-backs on the bench at the same time).
Midfield should basically pick itself. Unless players are pointlessly rested then I see no change from the last two matches, but I am not a fan of Aaron Ramsey on the wing. I'd rather we played Theo out there. In an ideal scenario, from the available players, Ramsey would be alongside Coquelin with Cazorla out wide but Santi has been far too good to be moved from the centre.
Up front I wouldn't be surprised to see Welbeck come in for Giroud. Danny played in the last round, obviously, and Giroud had a poor game last weekend following a wonderful run of form. I think the extra pace of Welbeck can unsettle defenders from a lower level, whereas the physical aspect of Giroud's game may not be beyond less talented footballers. That isn't to say Giroud hasn't got enough skill or ability to beat them, of course he has, but pace and work rate will really upset Reading on the day.
So the yellow ribbons should all be on display tomorrow for The Arsenal going to Wembley. Sadly my car won't be decked out in the red and white as normal as the blasted thing is currently out of commission, so I'm indebted to Gary for giving me and Liam a lift. We'll be in convoy with the rest of the family and hopefully at Wembley in plenty of time to soak up some pre-match atmosphere. I'll be posting photos on the Instagram page at some point tomorrow. Depending on what time I get home I may be able to get something written late tomorrow night. Here's hoping that whatever I write, and whenever I write it, is something very positive in celebration of reaching another FA Cup Final.
As another taster I was interviewed for Reading FC's page at Vital Football. You can read the interview by following this link. In the meantime get yourself a bit of this to be in the mood for Wembley!
What did she wear?