Is Aubameyang bigger than Arsenal as the Gunners beat Chelsea in FA Cup final?

All of a sudden Arsenal seem back. After a poor season which saw Unai Emery sacked before Christmas and former player Mikel Arteta brought into the dug out it seemed like Arsenal would be waiting a long time for any type of silverware. However they have ended the season by winning the FA Cup against the odds.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift their 14th FA Cup which is a record. Indeed Arsenal have won 4 cups in the last decade and their name is becoming part of the cup itself- just go ahead and put red and white ribbons on permanently why don’t you?

A burning desire and their name to be scripted onto the cup seemed to come when they upset Manchester City at the semi-final stage. Arteta had changed up the system and even David Luiz was playing with confidence. This was the first glimpse that under Arteta Arsenal could end up being a force to be reckoned with.

In the final it was going to be incredibly difficult given that the last time Arsenal had faced Chelsea in a cup final was in the 2019 Europa League showpiece where Chelsea simply outplayed the Gunners as the game went on and ended up running out 4-1 winners. Sure Eden Hazard who is now at Real Madrid orchestrated the win but still that game surely had to be playing on some of the minds of the players?

Maybe then it was to no surprise that Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through Christian Pulisic who has been outstanding this season for the Blues. With 56 points earned this season the American international was the 3rd best player for Frank Lampard’s team.

Chelsea started brightly but couldn’t find a 2nd and there was just that feeling creeping in that they were not putting this game to bed. With under 30 minutes played Arsenal were awarded a stone wall penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who else? stepped up to take and convert it and the game was back on.

Whilst the 2nd half had it’s lull periods Arsenal were looking more and more of a threat, how much difference from their second half performance in the Europa League. Chelsea hoped for extra time but the Gunners could sense blood and Aubameyang got his brace and the match winner with just 3 minutes left to play.

True Chelsea will feel that Mateo Kovacic’s sending off was harsh, though he was already on a yellow card. It’s unfortunate though that VAR perhaps isn’t used in the big decisions like this, because on this occasion the referee looked to have got it wrong. It’s also worth pointing out that Kovacic has racked up 8 yellow cards this season from just 14 starts in the league.

This cup win feels like a turning point for Arsenal though because finishing 8th in the league represents their worst season in a generation. Arteta has said the win was his most important of his career, now he will be hoping that his statement won’t hold true in a decades time.

The last word has to go to Aubameyang. He has scored 22 league goals this season and assisted in a further 3, meaning that he has contributed to almost 50% of Arsenal’s league goals. He has been phenomenal, the one truly world class player in the side that can change a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

Aubameyang stands above as the lead man in this Gunners side and the club will be hoping that he will sign a new contract and stay with the club. They most likely have little chance of that happening if Barcelona or Real Madrid come knocking but given how teams have had to step back somewhat following the pandemic maybe that call won’t happen and maybe Aubameyang will realise that at Arsenal he is the king of the hill, at another club that might not to be the case.

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Finishing 8th is terrible for Arsenal but there might be light at the end of the tunnel under Mikel Arteta

What a disappointing season it has been for Arsenal. Not many fans could have predicted that the Gunners would have fallen so far, finishing 8th in the Premier League for a club like Arsenal is just not acceptable.

It was an odd season for the club who saw 2 different managers in charge, this coming after having the same one in Arsene Wenger in the hot seat for two decades. Unai Emery was sacked at the end of November after a poor run especially away from home and Mikel Arteta was brought in.

Arteta’s arrival did raise eyebrows simply because this was his first managerial job but he had been working under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for several seasons and that was deemed good enough for the job at the Emirates.

Arteta has a win rate of 55.5% with Arsenal since December, at the same time and with more games under his belt Unai Emery had a win rate of 55.1%. Also when Emery was sacked Arsenal were in 8th place in the league, in that respect Arteta has not improved the club. From the 20 Premier League games that Arteta was in charge for the Gunners earned 33 points. On average in a season Arsenal would currently finish on around 60 points under Arteta, again no huge improvement.

But these are all small steps and under Arteta the play of the team and the way he has changed up the system is showing positive signs. Arsenal lost 5 times under Arteta in the league, four of those were away from home and it is clear that the Gunners will need to improve on their away travels.

But what has been encouraging is some of the results the club have churned out. Beating Liverpool, only the 3rd club to do so this season was impressive even if the league title was over by then.

Despite a poor season by Arsenal’s standards their season isn’t over just yet, and this is why there could be light at the end of the tunnel under Arteta. The young manager has steered Arsenal into the FA Cup final where they will meet Chelsea in an all London derby. Even without fans present this is sure to be a cracking game.

Arsenal will want revenge after last seasons Europa League final where Chelsea crushed the Gunners. A trophy would justify for now Arteta’s appointment and really give the club a boost they need ahead of the new Premier League season which is due to start on September 12th.

On the face of it then Arsenal haven’t improved under Arteta, stats wise. However overall there has been quite significant improvement on the pitch. He has his own philosophy which is natural and it is taking time to implement that onto his team. We have seen flashes of it.

The future is looking a little brighter for Arsenal, you just have to look deeper to find it, but surely Arteta will find his way and next season will be a huge improvement for the Gunners.

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Treble would be Pep Guardiola’s crowning achievement in England

When Pep Guardiola arrived in England, becoming Manchester City’s new manager in the summer of 2016, they said he would find a very different environment to the one he’d made his own so emphatically in Germany and Spain. Across the board, it was claimed that the Catalan coach would receive the test of his career in the Premier League.

How those suggestions look foolish now. Guardiola has done to the English game exactly what he did to both the  Bundesliga and La Liga, winning back-to-back Premier League titles, collecting an astonishing 198 points over those two seasons. And City’s dominance could be underlined further still this weekend.

Manchester City v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C

Indeed, Guardiola can complete a treble of domestic trophies by leading Man City to victory over Watford in the FA Cup final. It might not be The Treble, which traditionally comprises the Champions League trophy, but a clean sweep of domestic honours would provide a stark illustration of where City are as a team and a club right now.

Not even Sir Alex Ferguson’s Treble-winning team of 1999 were as dominant of the English game as Man City are now. Guardiola and his players stand on the brink of an historic achievement, but not even the sight of three domestic trophies in the cabinet at the end of this season will effectively reflect the quality of this team.

They might get even better next season. Guardiola is relentless in his quest for excellence and so it has been speculated that City will sign a long term replacement for the ageing Fernandinho this summer and possibly even a new right back. Ben Chilwell, a left back, has also been spoken about for quite some time.

The English game is entering a new phase in its history. City are kings and it will take an almighty effort to dethrone them. Liverpool, of course, finished just one point behind the Etihad Stadium side in the Premier League table and yet the gulf felt somewhat bigger than that. Liverpool gave everything the had to stretch to 97 points. City, on the other hand, strolled to 98.

Guardiola always viewed England as the true litmus test of his managerial ability. Whether that was warranted or not, he has succeeded in glorious fashion. Victory on Saturday would provide Guardiola with his crowning achievement in English football.

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Watford, ownership and the beauty of reaching the FA Cup final

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Next weekend Watford will play in the FA Cup final, their first since 1984 when Everton beat them and Everton’s fans sang out to Watford owner at the time Elton John ‘I guess that’s why they call us the Blues’ a reference to one of John’s famous lyrics.

Nobody saw it coming for The Hornets who have had a fantastic season in the Premier League culminated by this superb cup run. Even at the semi-final stage it seemed that Watford were down and out when they were trailing Wolves 2-0. But they came back in one of the great cup ties and won the game 3-2. They will play Manchester City where they will clearly be the underdogs but at the same time they have nothing to lose and might just pull off one of the great surprise results.

But how did it all come down to this? It was only last summer that the club lost Marco Silva as manager to Everton in a deal that brought alongside it a lot of animosity between the clubs. But Silva did not achieve the heights with Everton that in coming manager Javi Gracia has. a 40.7% win rate with the club which is his personal highest in years and there has been a determination within the club to do well this year, led by outspoken but ultra confident captain Troy Deeney.

Last summer it was time for the club to do business and they started off with brining Gerard Deulofeu into the team. The Spanish player had played some time in the Premier League before switching back to Barcelona so he already had experience and pace of the game in England. It was a great deal for the club who paid just over £11m for the playmaker who has had a solid season for them.

Domingos Quina also made an impact and was bought for just £1m from West Ham, it is unfortunate that the player picked up an injury in the second half of the season. The club have played more with wingers so that meant that they didn’t really miss the sale of Richarlison to Everton and got £40m for the player. By being patient and not making rash decisions they have been able to release over 10 players to make room in the squad but also bought new players but made a profit too. For now Watford are the perfect business model.

The season may have started off with the team feeling robbed of  a manager and their star striker but in return that anger has turned to hope, passion and hunger, and now they have a genuine chance through hard work behind the scenes and on the football pitch to win their first trophy in a generation.

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An FA Cup victory will not equal success for Arsenal

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If you want to pin point the difference between Arsenal of the late 1990s and the Arsenal of today look no further than how the players have reacted when winning a game. They have celebrated like they have just won the Premier League. This has been on show for the past decade as the Gunners have fought their way to finish within the top 4, just so they can pick up their invitation to the Champions League. Continue reading

Manchester United win the cup but Mourinho set to take Van Gaal’s job

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Even when Louis Van Gaal finally won some silverware a black cloud that has seemingly followed the Dutchman’s managerial career at Manchester United remained. Minutes after winning the FA Cup a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace (their first trophy since Sir Alex Ferguson retired three years ago) Van Gaal’s job was coming to an end.

If reports are right Jose Mourinho former Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager will be the new manager at United in a matter of weeks. Mourinho’s name had been touted since his sacking at Chelsea in December but it was often felt that the talented coach just wasn’t the right fit for the club. From loaning out young academy players to never having built a new team or legacy at any of the clubs he has managed he does seem the polar opposite to United’s traditions, add to that a man who stays on average 3 years maximum at a club and the choice may seem a little odd for the Red Devils.

Despite that though there is no denying Mourinho’s record as a manager. In 16 years of management he has won 22 trophies including 2 Champions League titles. Indeed it is the fact that Van Gaal failed to qualify for next seasons Champions League which has most probably cost him his job.

Van Gaal’s time at United will mostly be remembered for the manager failing to use the right line ups and blowing near to £200m on players that rarely changed the playing style of a club that desperately needed it. It is no secret that the players found it hard to warm to Van Gaal’s tactics and his stubbornness and leadership qualities were tested. And yet it wasn’t all failure. After all an FA Cup win is still a trophy. But one could well argue that a cup win for Crystal Palace the losing team on Saturday would have meant much more than it does to United who, in hindsight, will look at the cup as a consolation prize.

Van Gaal’s legacy even more than winning the FA Cup will be that he gave some of the youngsters a try. One notable choice was selecting Marcus Rashford who has been superb this season, if the player can get time under Mourinho who could be quite a find, but will Mourinho accept a youngster in his squad over a world renowned striker with a reputation? He hasn’t done in the past, and this could be a worry for the United faithful, only time will tell.

As for Van Gaal he had one more year on his contract and the plan was to retire from the game. He could ride out into the sunset with the FA Cup but then again a sacking if it indeed likely comes seems like a blunt way to end such a prestigious career. Perhaps for one season only the Erdevisie Dutch League will come calling to gracefully give Van Gaal the retirement he deserves.

As Arsenal and Hull prepare for the FA Cup final, here are their star performers of the season

The 133rd FA Cup Final takes place this weekend, with two clubs desperate to get some long-awaited (by their own respective standards) silverware added to their trophy cabinets, and as a result many Fantasy Football managers will be keen to get as many of those players into their own lineups as possible – especially those who have enjoyed a nice, point-laden season for the fantasy bosses out there.

For the favourites, Arsenal are likely to name Wojciech Szczesny as the stopper, and the 24-year-old has indeed established himself as Arsene Wenger’s no.1 this season, with his 370 fantasy football points placing him only marginally behind the club’s top pointsman, Olivier Giroud. He also has the fourth best points to value rating of the entire squad, behind only Aaron Ramsey, Laurent Koscielny and Tomas Rosicky – at €8.50m, the Poland international surely represents great value.

Frenchman Giroud goes into the game only 10 points ahead of his side’s custodian, earning himself 10 points in the final league game of the season against relegated Norwich. His 16 goals from 36 starts surely make him one of the first names on Wenger’s Wembley teamsheet, especially with eight assists, tying him in second place alongside Ramsey and Santiago Cazorla, and behind only club record signing Mesut Özil.

Gunners defender Thomas Vermaelen spoke earlier this week about seeing the Hull game as a potential catalyst for the north Londoners to return to trophy-winning ways, but the Belgian has not had a great season by any standards – while his 45 points earned this season represent a marked improvement over last term, where he scored -15, fantasy football managers would surely be mad to move him into their squad at this stage. This omission from the first team owes largely to the fantastic partnership Koscielny has formed with Per Mertesacker in the Arsenal defence this season – Mertesacker’s 245 points thus far will have helped managers who picked him early on massively, and of course also helped the club qualify for Champions League football next season.

Moving the attention over to Hull now, the fantasy points totals are understandably much lower overall – after all, Hull scored the third fewest goals in the Premier League this term. On-load star Jake Livermore has been the Tigers’ best performer this season in fantasy football competition, and while his 170 points may pale in comparison to many of the competition’s top players his value of €2.50m give him a P/V ratio of 68 – better than any player in the entire Arsenal squad. His influence will be ignited by the fact the opponents are Arsenal – bitter rivals of his parent club, Tottenham.

Shane Long has had a great time since joining Hull in January, the Republic of Ireland international becoming a regular and popular figure in the striped shirt. He is second only to Livermore in Hull’s top points scorers as far as fantasy football is concerned, though he has failed to add to his 150 points in two games this month.

Allan McGregor’s debut season for the club looks set to climax in a Wembley start, though his 105 fantasy football points total leaves him sitting 70th among the goalkeepers in this season’s list.

Arsenal, on paper at least, look set to claim a win and send an echoing sigh of relief among their supporters, but one need only look as far back as last season when Wigan beat Man City in this fixture to know that surprises are still more than capable of being sprung. Overall, however, Arsenal have enjoyed the better season – the likes of Mertesacker and Giroud especially should be considerations for any fantasy team moving into the 2014-15 campaign.