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Getting A Semi On: A Look Back

Tomorrow sees Arsenal line up in an F.A. Cup Semi Final for the 26th time in their illustrious history. Thus far we have been victorious in 17 of those semi finals and have lost eight of them. Since our maiden involvement in the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle in 1907, our encounters have produced moments of nerve shredding tension (Storey`s penalty in 1971, the last ten minutes of the win over Spurs in 1993 when a man down, the marathon encounters against Liverpool in 1980, which required 4 games to separate the sides- meaning Arsenal had to play 11 times in 28 days that month). Moments of elation (Wreh`s goal against Wolves in 1998, Pires` winner versus Tottenham), scenes of heartbreak (Spurs in 1991, Schmeichel`s penalty save) and moments of absolute genius (Giggs, Gascoigne and Seaman`s gravity defying stop against Sheffield United). Two of those 25 preceding semi finals have been against tomorrow`s opponents Chelsea- the Gunners running out winners against the Pensioners in both 1950 and 1952. Whatever happens tomorrow, we`re in for a hell of a ride, for better or worse. So let us consider some of Arsenal`s most heart stopping semi final encounters to date.

1971- Stoke City 2 Arsenal 2- Every epoch has its defining image. For the 1971 Double side, the sight of Charlie George on his back in the Wembley sunshine and the grainy television images of Kennedy`s net busting header at White Hart Lane are those- particularly to those of us who were not alive at the time. But similarly, every era defining side has its moments of doubt and defiance. For the 2002 Double side, read Lauren`s pea roller penalty against Spurs, for the Double side of 1998, Shearer`s shot that cannoned off the inside of the post in the Cup Final. Serendipity has its part to play, for the 1971 Double Side; Stoke City at Hillsborough was their moment of truth. The Gunners went into the game red hot favourites, but the occasion appeared to hold them hostage as Stoke raced into a two goal first half lead. The first arrived in comical fashion as Wilson palmed away a Stoke corner; Storey turned and leathered the ball away from danger. Well, he attempted to anyway, his clearance hit the back of Stoke`s Denis Smith and flew into the net. There was further calamity in store too, after twenty nine minutes when Charlie George`s woefully under hit back pass was gratefully lapped up by Ritchie to score. The Arsenal journeyed to the dressing rooms reeling from two killer blows at half time, staggering like drunken boxers. But this Arsenal side had made their name as gritty street fighters and nobody better epitomised that steely determination than Peter 'Old Dead Eyes` Storey. (Why do footballers never have inventive nicknames like that anymore?) Early in the second half a chipped cross from Ray Kennedy was not cleared effectively by the Potters and Storey hit a searing shot in anger from twenty yards which flew into the Stoke net. Stoke had chances on the counter attack as the side in yellow poured forward, but it was the second minute of injury time in which the drama happened. McLintock headed Kennedy`s corner goalwards and Alan Mahoney handled on the line. A penalty in the final minute. Storey has since opined, "the others were all hugging each other and celebrating, I was the one who had to stick the penalty away. And past Gordon Banks too." Storey did just that, living up to his nickname with an ice cool spot kick which he rolled inside Banks` right hand post. Banks, arguably England`s finest ever custodian, did not twitch a nerve. Arsenal escaped and won the replay 2-0 at Villa Park with goals from Graham and Kennedy. The other twist of fate? The fixture away at Tottenham had originally been scheduled for semi final day. Arsenal`s involvement meant that game was to be rearranged until the final match of the season.

1999- Arsenal 1 Manchester United 2 (AET)- In April 1999, English football`s two behemoths came face to face at Villa Park for an F.A. Cup Semi Final showdown, with both sides virtually neck and neck in the league and the Wenger Ferguson rivalry blossoming into full bloom, it promised to be a belter. It flattered to deceive, as the match petered out into a tepid 0-0 draw in the Birmingham sunshine, Nelson Vivas` pointless red card the only event of note. The sides replayed one another three days later in a blow for blow, pendulous back alley slugfest. Beckham`s open faced sand wedge curled an exquisite shot past Seaman in the 14th minute to give United a 1-0 lead. But Arsenal redoubled at half time and emerged the premier force in the second half. Dennis Bergkamp turned 25 yards from goal and hit a hopeful shot which cannoned off of Jaap Stam`s knee and past the bewildered Schmeichel and into the net. The Gunners were in the ascendancy and they scented Mancunian blood on 74 minutes when Roy Keane saw red for a pointless hack on Overmars which earned him a second booking. One minute later, Bergkamp`s low shot was fumbled by Schmeichel and Anelka latched onto the rebound to seemingly put Arsenal in front. The young Frenchman was uncharacteristically exuberant in his celebration and the Arsenal fans cavorted unaware of an errant offside flag from the linesman. United were barely hanging on when Ray Parlour raced into the area only to be hacked down by a ragged Phil Neville in the second minute of injury time. But unlike Storey twenty eight years before, Bergkamp`s penalty was neither the picture of precision or composure as Schmeichel`s imposing frame beat it out with ease. Bergkamp always spoke of his dream to play at Wembley in a Cup Final; injury had cruelly robbed him twelve months earlier, now he was fortune`s fool once more. He never took another spot kick again. With nine minutes left of extra time, Vieira turned a tired pass loose to his right hand side. Giggs picked it up and proceeded to weave and bob past a sea of tiring Arsenal limbs, all over the age of thirty and feeling the strain of 111 minutes of high octane football. Giggs manoeuvred into the area and smashed a shot into the roof of Seaman`s net. We were then treated to the sight of Ryan Giggs chest hair; which would have scarred anyone who saw it, but for Arsenal fans it is seared onto our minds like the underside of a shag pile rug, just before it is pressed mercifully over your face. United won the Treble, Arsenal finished empty handed. This was the night that ensured it.

1993- Arsenal 1 Tottenham Hotspur 0- Any Arsenal fan old enough to remember it will always list the 1991 Semi Final defeat to Spurs as one of their lowest points supporting the Gunners. It was my first crushing disappointment as a Gooner. The sight of Gascoigne`s thirty five yard free kick evading Seaman`s dive and the feint hope of Smith`s goal being extinguished by fellow ex Leicester man Lineker is inked indelibly onto my memory. The 1992-93 season was my first as a season ticket holder at Arsenal, my mother was still a Spurs season ticket holder at the same time. You can imagine the sort of domestics a fixture like this invites. Whilst in 1991 I was still a little young to attend, leaving me at home to watch on the idiot box whilst my Mum sauntered off to Wembley, by 1993, a couple of years older, a foot or so taller and with the Taylor Report now in full effect, I agitated harder to go. As it transpired, my mother took me along. We sat in the Arsenal end together. For Arsenal fans revenge was very much in the air, though Lineker and Gascoigne had by now swanned off to continental pastures, this presented an immediate chance to swat away the bloodshed of two years previous. Tottenham`s win in 1991 had been iconographic of their status at the time, entrenched in the genius of a skilful individual who fitted the mould of Villa, Ardilles, Greaves and Hoddle. The Gunners revenge mission was graven very much in their own Sid Vicious image. It was a dire, scrappy game won by a header from Arsenal`s captain Tony Adams as he ghosted around the back of the Tottenham defence to connect with Merson`s free kick and guide the ball past Thorstvedt. One of my embryonic memories of North London derbies were the ongoing tussles between Lee Dixon and Justin Edinburgh. This occasion saw one of the more combustible encounters between the two and Dixon was sent off with 88 minutes on the clock. The referee added a mammoth eight minutes injury time, which tells you all you need to know about the scrappy, disruptive pattern of the game. It was a gut wrenching few minutes but Arsenal doggedly held on to record their revenge. I missed Merson`s infamous "lager, lager" celebration as my young nine year old bladder had had all it could handle. (A few more years of games like this have done little to strengthen its resolve, though I rather think my mum was glad of the opportunity to escape before the celebrations could begin earnest). Merson`s celebration became a symbol of his own problems at the time, but it was also paradigmatic of these two semi final encounters. They were both won by troubled alcoholics.LD.




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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday April 17 2009

Time: 3:05PM

Your Comments

I haven't even read the article yet but I just wanted to congratulate you on the greatest article title ever!! LOL
Rocky7
I haven't even read the article yet but I just wanted to congratulate you on the greatest article title ever!! LOL
Rocky7
Awesome headline! Our backline is (without sounding like the**** from the lane) down to the bare bones tomorrow, that's my only worry!
navydave
Awesome headline! Our backline is (without sounding like the**** from the lane) down to the bare bones tomorrow, that's my only worry!
navydave
Great title LD! Yeah navydave, I'm worried about how we'll cope with Drogba etc too. It's a shame, because it's the first time we have all of Cesc, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, RvP and Ade all able to play together, but their work could be undermimed by our defensive deficiencies.
ArsenalRob
Great title LD! Yeah navydave, I'm worried about how we'll cope with Drogba etc too. It's a shame, because it's the first time we have all of Cesc, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, RvP and Ade all able to play together, but their work could be undermimed by our defensive deficiencies.
ArsenalRob
Also, if you look at the heights of our players compared with Chelski's, and Fabianski's eratic claiming of crosses, we will be very vulnerable from set pieces.
ArsenalRob
Also, if you look at the heights of our players compared with Chelski's, and Fabianski's eratic claiming of crosses, we will be very vulnerable from set pieces.
ArsenalRob
Hit-hunting hypocrite!
Tom14
Hit-hunting hypocrite!
Tom14
Well, that's nothing new now is it AR?
TPowell
Well, that's nothing new now is it AR?
TPowell
We just need a bit of magic from Ade and RvP again!
Tom14
We just need a bit of magic from Ade and RvP again!
Tom14
Read my comment on the other page again Tom, I promised to continue using childish sexual puns in my headlines. Voila!
Little Dutch
Read my comment on the other page again Tom, I promised to continue using childish sexual puns in my headlines. Voila!
Little Dutch
Only kidding. But I am sure the use of innuendo is just as likely to attract dumb Arsenal fans as a headline entitled "Bendtner is *****, sack the board, buy some players!"
Tom14
Only kidding. But I am sure the use of innuendo is just as likely to attract dumb Arsenal fans as a headline entitled "Bendtner is *****, sack the board, buy some players!"
Tom14
No TPowell, it's not, but we with Gallas, Sagna and Clichy, we at least had more energy and fight at the back to help us out. I don't see Eboue and Silvestre offering us much of that. I really think we should bring back Adams.
ArsenalRob
No TPowell, it's not, but we with Gallas, Sagna and Clichy, we at least had more energy and fight at the back to help us out. I don't see Eboue and Silvestre offering us much of that. I really think we should bring back Adams.
ArsenalRob
Luckily for us Kolo has dug deep and found some tremendous form recently, his expeience has been invaluable, I watched him the other night barking orders to his unit. We nullify Drogba and we win the game I think. We've been banging em in recently and Chelsea have been about as water tight as dear Liza's husband's bucket.
Rocky7
Luckily for us Kolo has dug deep and found some tremendous form recently, his expeience has been invaluable, I watched him the other night barking orders to his unit. We nullify Drogba and we win the game I think. We've been banging em in recently and Chelsea have been about as water tight as dear Liza's husband's bucket.
Rocky7
Nulify Drogba AND Play our way past Essien and we should win. It's a big ask though.
ArsenalRob
Nulify Drogba AND Play our way past Essien and we should win. It's a big ask though.
ArsenalRob
I think Cesc and Adebayor have formed a little understanding whereby Fabregas drops a little deeper and can play pin point long passes to Ade, as long as he can find some space we could leave Essien stranded ..... as long as we play long passes rather than the long ball.
Rocky7
I think Cesc and Adebayor have formed a little understanding whereby Fabregas drops a little deeper and can play pin point long passes to Ade, as long as he can find some space we could leave Essien stranded ..... as long as we play long passes rather than the long ball.
Rocky7
I would play Jay Thomas at LB, keep the midfield the same with maybe Denilson instead of van Persie. But I could see Diaby, Denilson and Fabregas in the missle with Silvestre at LB.
Tom14
I would play Jay Thomas at LB, keep the midfield the same with maybe Denilson instead of van Persie. But I could see Diaby, Denilson and Fabregas in the missle with Silvestre at LB.
Tom14
Why play Jay Thomas? Is Gibbs definately out?
Rocky7
Why play Jay Thomas? Is Gibbs definately out?
Rocky7
If Essien marks Fabregas it will leave space for Arshavin to play in the hole between midfield and attack. Hope Gibbs is fit because Songs power would be a bonus in the middle of the park.
iceman10
If Essien marks Fabregas it will leave space for Arshavin to play in the hole between midfield and attack. Hope Gibbs is fit because Songs power would be a bonus in the middle of the park.
iceman10
Diaby better not play, what with Walcott, Cesc. Nasri, Denilson, Song and Arshavin all ready to go in midfield.
TPowell
Diaby better not play, what with Walcott, Cesc. Nasri, Denilson, Song and Arshavin all ready to go in midfield.
TPowell
Tom, personally I don't think Jay is ready for this, I wouldn't throw him in at the deep end. I'd find a solution from within our first team squad, Arsene will have an answer. I don't think we will be able to just miss Essien out, becuase all he'll be doing is trying to leave out Cesc, so he can't pick out Ade etc. As for Arshavin dropping into the hole, I'd expect both him and Nasri, if he gets the nod ahead of an on-form Theo, to drift central. Mikel will probably gaurd the back four, so we if they drift in and keep him guessing where to go, rather than knowing who to mark, we should cause them some problems. This would have been particularly effective had we had Sagna and Clichy charging up the flanks after Arsh and Sam had pulled the fullbacks away, but you can't have your cake and eat it I guess.
ArsenalRob
Tom, personally I don't think Jay is ready for this, I wouldn't throw him in at the deep end. I'd find a solution from within our first team squad, Arsene will have an answer. I don't think we will be able to just miss Essien out, becuase all he'll be doing is trying to leave out Cesc, so he can't pick out Ade etc. As for Arshavin dropping into the hole, I'd expect both him and Nasri, if he gets the nod ahead of an on-form Theo, to drift central. Mikel will probably gaurd the back four, so we if they drift in and keep him guessing where to go, rather than knowing who to mark, we should cause them some problems. This would have been particularly effective had we had Sagna and Clichy charging up the flanks after Arsh and Sam had pulled the fullbacks away, but you can't have your cake and eat it I guess.
ArsenalRob
Yay the funny titles are back! :D And no, I haven't read the content of the article yet either, will do now.
GoonerLou
Yay the funny titles are back! :D And no, I haven't read the content of the article yet either, will do now.
GoonerLou
I do rate Jay too, Tomf, but we can't just throw him in against Chelsea like that. That's too radical even for Arsene, especially when other viable alternatives are available. If the kid made a glaring mistake, it'd be Song/Eboue/Bendtner all over again, so no. I'm for Sagna playing there if he's getting well. Otherwise, as Arsene said, Silvestre moves to LB, Song CB, Den back in CM.
GoonerLou
I do rate Jay too, Tomf, but we can't just throw him in against Chelsea like that. That's too radical even for Arsene, especially when other viable alternatives are available. If the kid made a glaring mistake, it'd be Song/Eboue/Bendtner all over again, so no. I'm for Sagna playing there if he's getting well. Otherwise, as Arsene said, Silvestre moves to LB, Song CB, Den back in CM.
GoonerLou
If there is any game where we could sacrifice a left back so that we have a better central midfield, this is the math. Who is Chelsea's right winger? I am sorry but moving Song (the best CM for this match) to CB would be suicidal. I personally have never rated him as a CB either. Silvestre and Toure looks solid, Thomas, Diaby, Ramsey, Denilson or even an unfit Sagna could play left back against a team who rarely ever use a right winger.
Tom14
If there is any game where we could sacrifice a left back so that we have a better central midfield, this is the math. Who is Chelsea's right winger? I am sorry but moving Song (the best CM for this match) to CB would be suicidal. I personally have never rated him as a CB either. Silvestre and Toure looks solid, Thomas, Diaby, Ramsey, Denilson or even an unfit Sagna could play left back against a team who rarely ever use a right winger.
Tom14
But our LB would still have to deal with Kalou or even Anelka on the right hand side of Chelsea's 4-3-3 (sort of, though sometimes it operates like a 4-5-1 but the need for a decent LB remains). Is Bosingwa playing? He's an attacking full-back who can cause us problems on that side too. To manage these risks, I still stand by Arsene's options mentioned above.
GoonerLou
But our LB would still have to deal with Kalou or even Anelka on the right hand side of Chelsea's 4-3-3 (sort of, though sometimes it operates like a 4-5-1 but the need for a decent LB remains). Is Bosingwa playing? He's an attacking full-back who can cause us problems on that side too. To manage these risks, I still stand by Arsene's options mentioned above.
GoonerLou
It going to be a very hard game, but I think the lads will do it for us! What with Chelski lettingin 7 goals in 2 games, should give us hope?! Come on Arsenal!!!
hackneyval
It going to be a very hard game, but I think the lads will do it for us! What with Chelski lettingin 7 goals in 2 games, should give us hope?! Come on Arsenal!!!
hackneyval
But the drivig force of Lampard, Ballack and Essien would have t be contained by Denilson and Fabregas. Now, I am Denilson's iggest fan but I would rather see Song in there and possibly have Kalou trying to go past JET on the right to be honest.
Tom14
But the drivig force of Lampard, Ballack and Essien would have t be contained by Denilson and Fabregas. Now, I am Denilson's iggest fan but I would rather see Song in there and possibly have Kalou trying to go past JET on the right to be honest.
Tom14
While Chelsea don't have a dangerous right winger per se, I recall Clichy played very well against Chelsea earlier this year but still had a hard time dealing with Bosingwa... no way should this be JET's first big game.
TPowell
While Chelsea don't have a dangerous right winger per se, I recall Clichy played very well against Chelsea earlier this year but still had a hard time dealing with Bosingwa... no way should this be JET's first big game.
TPowell
Tom, JET has only recently broken into the reserves and has never faced such tough opposition. Kalou and Anelka both have particular reason to impress, too, one being a former Arsenal target, and the latter being an Arsenal player, of course. And, as said, if he slips up at all he'll have fans on his back for ages! I too don't really want Song at CB and Silvestre at LB, but at least they've done it before at this level.
ArsenalRob
Tom, JET has only recently broken into the reserves and has never faced such tough opposition. Kalou and Anelka both have particular reason to impress, too, one being a former Arsenal target, and the latter being an Arsenal player, of course. And, as said, if he slips up at all he'll have fans on his back for ages! I too don't really want Song at CB and Silvestre at LB, but at least they've done it before at this level.
ArsenalRob
Drogba is the key of the match.
tanokan1
Drogba is the key of the match.
tanokan1
Relax fellow gooners. . . . We have Arshavin. . . . The Artful Dodger. Chelski are starting to flag and we're on the up. 3-1 the gunners
d11gunner
Relax fellow gooners. . . . We have Arshavin. . . . The Artful Dodger. Chelski are starting to flag and we're on the up. 3-1 the gunners
d11gunner
I still, and will probably always consider that giggs goal in 1999 as the most deflating moment in my decades as an Arsenal supporter.
elbondo
I still, and will probably always consider that giggs goal in 1999 as the most deflating moment in my decades as an Arsenal supporter.
elbondo
Not only am I worried about our backline but about cards and suspensions too. Those Chelski players are dirty and provocative and our boys are easily wound up. Every match I watch Chelski against one of the big 4, there's always flashpoints. Really hope Wenger has this drummed into them after the CC Final fiasco. Turn the other cheek, guys, let THEM get the cards! As for 3-1 to the Arsenal? Oh, how I'd love that.
julieloveshenry4ever
Not only am I worried about our backline but about cards and suspensions too. Those Chelski players are dirty and provocative and our boys are easily wound up. Every match I watch Chelski against one of the big 4, there's always flashpoints. Really hope Wenger has this drummed into them after the CC Final fiasco. Turn the other cheek, guys, let THEM get the cards! As for 3-1 to the Arsenal? Oh, how I'd love that.
julieloveshenry4ever
am so tense and yet quietly confident. Is that normal?
D'arsassin
am so tense and yet quietly confident. Is that normal?
D'arsassin
Me too, we're both normal.
GoonerLou
Me too, we're both normal.
GoonerLou
Drogba!! h Drogba h Drogba!! enh!! Mark!! A brace of Drogba and we will get ride of Arsenal.
tanokan1
Drogba!! h Drogba h Drogba!! enh!! Mark!! A brace of Drogba and we will get ride of Arsenal.
tanokan1
thats all ye were just semi not hard.....lol sorry just had to make that comment couldnt ressit i better be off b4 deledudu attacks me again an im on here more then him so dont say much about him.
123spurs
thats all ye were just semi not hard.....lol sorry just had to make that comment couldnt ressit i better be off b4 deledudu attacks me again an im on here more then him so dont say much about him.
123spurs
 

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