Last weekend’s FA Cup semi-final victory will not be remembered for Arsenal’s fine, free-flowing football, nor will it be remembered for a spirited victory for Championship underdogs Reading.
The legacy of this particular match will be Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici’s extra time howler.
The sight of the Australian ‘keeper trudging off in tears after Reading’s cup run came to an abrupt end was a difficult for fans to see. Even a neutral or ardent Arsenal fan could feel sympathy for Federici, who in general played well.
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In the 72nd minute, as Arsenal stepped up the pressure with the scores level at 1-1, Federici pulled off a truly magnificent save to deny Gabriel Paulista his first Arsenal goal. Without this, Reading would never have made it to extra time.
Opposite Number Unconvincing
At the other end of the pitch, Wojciech Szczesny had a poor game. With precious little to do in a game that Arsenal dominated, the Polish shot-stopper should have enjoyed the occasion and made an attempt to show Arsene Wenger that he really does have what it takes to be the club’s number 1 going forward.
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Having endured terrible form in the Premier League, culminating with two well-documented high-profile howlers against Southampton on New Year’s Day, and after being caught smoking in the showers afterwards, Szczesny’s thoughts should have turned to winning his place back in the Arsenal first XI.
After being presented with the perfect opportunity to show himself as an assured, confident ‘keeper, the young Pole only disappointed. Reading’s only serious test for the Arsenal man came in the 54th minute.
With Szczesny back-pedalling, Garath McCleary’s volley took a deflection off Kieran Gibbs. Yes, the deflection changed the course of the ball, but Szczesny still managed to make good contact with it.
Wearing the number 1 shirt for a top club like Arsenal, you would expect Szczęsny, once he gets his hands behind the ball, to have enough strength to keep it out of his net. But on this occasion, it somehow inexplicably crept behind him and just over the line.
No disrespect to McCleary and Reading, who as a team put up a really spirited performance, a team like Arsenal expect shots that go straight to their ‘keeper’s hands to be saved.
Better Options Available
In the Premier League, David Ospina has been in great form, overseeing the club’s longest winning run since the Invincibles season of 2003/04.
Whether he is the man to take over as number 1 though is hotly debated, with Chelsea veteran Petr Xech available at the end of the current season. Regardless, it is clear that Szczesny cannot be trusted at Arsenal.
International colleague Lukasz Fabianski left Arsenal last summer, right after leading the club to FA Cup glory. Having excelled during the penalty shootout against Wigan in the semi-final he deserved his place in the cup final line-up.
Szczesny on the other hand does not command the confidence of fans and team mates and has not shown the right attitude throughout this season. He must be dropped for the FA Cup final to ensure Arsenal win the trophy, and then be sold this summer.
Arsenal fans: do you think Wojciech Szczesny should be dropped for the FA Cup final? Let us know below!