Manchester City contained Arsenal for almost 100 minutes in an exciting, hard-fought FA Cup semi-final. The Blues had a little over 15 minutes to get a second goal after Alexis Sánchez gave Arsenal the lead in extra-time, but they didn’t do enough and will have to watch Arsenal take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final.
Here are three things we learned:
1. Bad Luck
Arsenal dominated the pace and direction of play at times, but City never lacked opportunities to score.
Yaya Touré saw a shot glance off the far post; Fabian Delph caught a deflection to hit the outside of the net; Fernandinho’s header was only inches away from giving City a second goal, but hit the crossbar; Kevin De Bruyne’s first-touch shot across his body almost found the far corner.
It’s a theme for the season. Bad luck has cost City at least a dozen points in the Premier League, a spot in the Champions League quarter-finals, and an appearance in the FA Cup final. That's football.
It is uplifting to see how City can turn possession and create chances. Touré provided Sergio Agüero with a wonderful ball over the top that allowed the Argentine to beat Petr Cech. Later in the match, a handful of players combined to work the ball forward for De Bruyne, who then set up Delph for a shot that nearly went in.
In these two very different maneuvers, City were able to challenge Arsenal quickly. They have sharpened their counter-attacking tools over the course of the season with some of their best chances coming from high-speed transitions, and that aspect of their offense will only improve in the future.
3. Dealing with pressure
Disarray caused the Blues to suffer from Arsenal’s determination in the box. Set pieces have tortured City too many times. Even with Vincent Kompany in the team, the core of City’s defense was undone by the Gunner's hunger for redemption.
Claudio Bravo is not solely to blame. Both of Arsenal’s goals were created by overwhelming the box. Decisive strength in front of the net gave the Gunners the opportunity to meet Chelsea in the final.
There are many things to learn from and many things to enjoy in the way that City played. It was a pleasure to see Arsenal increase their work-rate in response to the heightened atmosphere of Wembley. The Blues didn’t go down without a fight.
Finding the angles to score and the defensive deftness to stop hungry opponents will be a matter of mindset, training, and summer transfers. Judging by their response to frustration throughout this season, City will fight for every final point in the remaining minutes of the Premier League campaign.