It’s a depressing time to be an Arsenal supporter. The club is directionless. The manager and executives are blind to many of their own failures. The future looks as bleak as it has in almost two decades. Fans, as a result, are exasperated.
And the soccer gods, as benevolent as ever, apparently recognize that.
They gifted the Gunners two spectacularly lucky goals in a 2-1 second-leg defeat of Chelsea in the League Cup semifinals. Arsenal, therefore, will have 90 minutes against Manchester City at Wembley to divert attention away from the many facets of its crisis.
Its defense was gashed just six minutes into the decisive leg at the Emirates. Pedro slid in Eden Hazard while Laurent Koscielny was twisting himself into knots. The Belgian snuck his left-footed finish past David Ospina, and Chelsea had an early advantage:
— RadarVerdolaga (@VerdolagaRadar) January 24, 2018
But beautiful goals were not the order of the day. Scruffy, lucky goals were. And they eventually won the day.
The first of two arrived just five minutes later. Arsenal equalized courtesy of some slack marking, three heads, and a ball that somehow struck all three in about a half-second:
⚽️ Arsenal vs Chelsea | Rudiger (OWN GOAL) 12' pic.twitter.com/peQs3mB8ns
— D9INE (@CY_LEGACY_) January 24, 2018
Monreal’s initial header was on target. But the initial deflection, of Marcos Alonso, took it off target. The second deflection, off Antonio Rudiger, sent the ball back on its net-bound course, meaning the goal will go down as Rudiger’s.
The second, which came on the hour mark, was much less absurd. But Alexandre Lacazette’s cross required a wicked deflection to make it dangerous. This deflection, again off the unfortunate Rudiger, wrong-footed multiple Chelsea defenders and allowed Granit Xhaka to poke home for a 2-1 lead:
Il goal di Xhaka che sta decidendo Arsenal-Chelsea pic.twitter.com/qvh96P5H4a
— Severino Piacquadio (@sevepiacqua) January 24, 2018
Arsenal has been slipping for years. Its level of quality has stagnated, and now declined relative to its competitors as they have all improved. Its Premier League performances, the biggest sample size we have, bear out its deficiencies.
But Arsenal invariably concocts a cover-up. Its trip to Wembley on Feb. 25 will be its 10th since 2013-14. It has won all of the previous nine – three FA Cup semifinals, three FA Cup finals, and three Community Shields.
Until last year, the cover-up was top-four finishes. Arsene Wenger would infamously claim he was winning “trophies” merely by qualifying for the Champions League. Last year, the top-four streak was finally snapped, but the Gunners beat Manchester City and Chelsea to win the FA Cup.
Now the FA Cup is out of the equation, and top-four hopes are fading, but Arsenal has a chance to beat City and Chelsea again, this time in reverse order, to claim a less significant prize. Less significant, but nonetheless a distraction from the club’s slide out of contention for the real prizes.
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