Arsene Wenger made a point of letting everyone know that his future wouldn’t be affected by the outcome of Arsenal’s FA Cup journey, but after a 2-1 semi-final extra time victory over Manchester City at Wembley he might be changing his mind on that one.
Wenger: Arsenal answered critics
The Gunners rode their luck at times during an epic clash against Pep Guardiola’s men, particularly in the second half as Yaya Toure’s volley hit the post and Fernandinho clipped the crossbar in quick succession.
City’s possession-based football tormented an Arsenal side who came into this game low on confidence despite winning, unconvincingly, at Middlesbrough on Monday. The decision to field three defenders at the back seems to be working right now – with Gabriel Paulista and Rob Holding impressing once again - even if Arsenal did only have 28 per cent possession in the first half.
But, in truth, this game was all about one man. Alexis Sanchez has been heavily linked with a summer move to City over the past few weeks and Goal understands that the Etihad side would be the Chilean’s first choice destination if he were to depart the Emirates. Sanchez has drawn plaudits from Guardiola and the 28-year-old provided a typical work-horse performance which ended with him scoring the crucial winning goal in extra-time.
El Nino Maravilla was in the right place at the right time once again to score his fourth goal in three appearances at Wembley for Arsenal. It is no surprise to see such a trophy-hungry player producing the goods on the biggest stage and it’s vital that Wenger keeps him at the club if they are to challenge for the silverware that players like Alexis want to be winning every season.
With a top four finish not completely ruled out yet and an opportunity for Arsene Wenger to become the most successful FA Cup-winning manager in the competition’s history, what was first deemed a season of underachievement, embarrassment and disappointment could turn into something better than expected come May.
'Sanchez an animal and is staying'
Wenger’s favourite competition is quite evidently the FA Cup. Three FA Cup finals in four years, and six trophies in total, is an excellent achievement and while it doesn’t cover up the team’s inability to challenge the big boys in Europe or domestically, another appearance at Wembley could be just the tonic which is needed after a season of discontent and protests.
As speculation mounts, Alexis has a tough decision on his hands. Does he stay at Arsenal? Does he run his contract down? Does he sign a new deal? Or does he move to a new club where he may have an increased chance of success?
If anything is likely to persuade him to commit to the Gunners then it would be by winning silverware and the victory over a City team who themselves will end the campaign trophyless – and perhaps even out of the top four - goes some way to doing that.