Arsenal is heading back to Wembley. Seriously.
The once-feared Gunners, who have struggled mightily this season and currently sit 10th in the Premier League standings, will play for England’s second most prestigious trophy after stunning mighty Manchester City Saturday on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s two goals, advancing to next month’s FA Cup final in London.
Arsenal will meet Chelsea or Manchester United in the Aug. 1 finale at Wembley Stadium. Those two English titans face off in the other semifinal, slated for Sunday.
The victory by Mikel Arteta’s team is as instantly famous as it was unexpected — visiting City entered the match as the overwhelming favorite — but it wasn’t an accident, either. The home side was just sharper in the first half, and they could’ve taken the lead even earlier had Aubameyang not squandered a golden scoring chance that looked easier than either of the two he eventually converted. Moments after that miss though, the Gabonese striker made up for the mistake, finishing off a slick passing play by Arsenal with a scrumptiously delicate touch:
Again, that opening goal had been coming. City strangely lacked the precision and execution that made them back-to-back Prem champs in 2018 and ’19 and kept them in second place (behind Liverpool) by a country mile for most of this coronavirus-interrupted season.
City had arrived in superb form, too, having gone 4-1 in its last five league matches and outscoring its foes 16-2 over that span. But while they had most of the ball on Saturday, as usual, the end product was nowhere to be found. By the time the final whistle blew, just two of their 11 shots had been on goal.
And in truth, Saturday’s match was over the second Aubameyang scored his second with about 20 minutes still to play:
The victory is especially sweet for Arteta, the former Gunners playmaker and City assistant coach who was lured back to the capital after Unai Emery was fired in November for overseeing the club’s worst stretch of results in almost three decades.
For Arteta’s former boss Pep Guardiola, it’s this season’s latest disappointment. After losing out on its bid for a Premier League three-peat, City was hoping to retain the FA Cup after winning the domestic double last season.
The Cityzens were eyeing another potential double this summer; Guardiola’s side remains in contention for its much-coveted first Champions League crown and will take a 2-1 aggregate lead into its round of 16 second-leg meeting with freshly minted Spanish La Liga winner Real Madrid when Europe’s top club competition resumes next month.
Instead, against the odds, Arsenal is off to Wembley, where it will get the chance to end its most tumultuous campaign in recent memory with some hardware.
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