Most of the work on the FA Cup triumph was done by Olivier Giroud, who suddenly can’t stop scoring (although against a vastly inferior opponents), but defensive malfunctions set up Theo Walcott to save Arsenal from an embarrassing result with a goal that probably caused him some deja vu.
Nothing comes easy for Arsenal this season, not in the FA Cup as well. After clawing their way through the double match scenario against Swansea, the visit to Brighton wasn’t much easier. The local defended well way before their own box, making it very hard for Arsenal to create chances for most of the match. The fact that both Wilshere and Cazorla were off the pitch, instead being replaced by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky seriously halted the team plenty of times.
Sometimes, individual ability is enough. Olivier Giroud, wouldn’t you know it, has reached 13 goals in all competitions for Arsenal; 8 in the league, one in Europe and now four in the domestic cup competitions, scoring a brace demonstrating his shooting ability with a brilliant opening goal from the edge of the box and using his frame and strength to make it 2-1 in the second half. He still can make you wonder with some of his misses, which seem to be easier to spot on his bad days, usually coming in the Premier League and not other competitions, but he’s certainly out of whatever funk was possessing him, denying him from looking like a suitable Premier League player.
And then there’s Walcott, who came to the pitch instead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Many claimed that Chamberlain is the next Walcott when he arrived at the Emirates from Southampton with the same kind of hype Walcott carried with him back in 2006. So far, it hasn’t been exactly a huge success story. Chamberlain switches wings and puts in quite an effort, but it’s hard to remember anything special he does with the ball from any match he’s played in with both Arsenal and the national team.
Walcott isn’t always playing where he likes to – Olivier Giroud’s good form is grabbing most of the space in the middle, but he feels more confident, more counted on. The goal he scored to win the match with five minutes left to play must have brought him back to the Euro and the 3-2 win against Sweden – coming off the bench to score the equalizer from the edge of the box, making the most of a corner rebound.
After an incredible match against West Ham, it was almost expected from Arsenal to put in a bad one. If there’s one “big” EPL team you expect to mess up in the FA Cup, it has to be Arsenal, and they almost did. Per Mertesacker was a stabilizing presence last season when he arrived after a rocky start. This season he’s just slow and always too late, and almost worthless when he’s not next to Thomas Vermaelen. We’ve already made our opinion about Laurent Koscielny heard loud and clear. Even if Arsenal become that free flowing team with consistency, this defense of simply out of sorts centre backs can keep them away from achieving their goals this season.