Arsenal are going to Wembley.
They reached the FA Cup semi-final with a thunderous 4-1 win over Everton at Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
This passionate, pacy quarter-final was decided in the closing 20 minutes.
Mesut Ozil and Romelu Lukaku had swapped goals in a whirlwind first half. Both sides went for it after the restart but the excellent Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was clipped by Gareth Barry in the 70th minute and Mikel Arteta scored a twice-taken penalty.
Olivier Giroud sealed the trip across London for the semi-final with a brace in the last 10 minutes.
This win was crucial in itself. However with massive games against Bayern Munich and Tottenham in the next seven days it was an important scene-setter too.
Arsenal were worth their victory, the likes of Ozil and Giroud looked back on top form while the crowd backed the team to the hilt.
A huge day for Wenger’s men.
SETTING THE SCENE
It was the start of a busy week and changes were expected. In the end Wenger made six.
Lukasz Fabianski, Yaya Sanogo, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ozil, Mathieu Flamini and Thomas Vermaelen all came in.
The following players dropped to the bench: Giroud Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky. Jack Wilshere and Laurent Koscielny were injured. Wojciech Szczesny was left out entirely.
Everton were almost at full strength. The main alteration was Joel Robles for Tim Howard in goal.
It was a beautiful day in north London and Emirates was simply splendid at kick-off. Everyone was well aware that a trip to Wembley was at stake.
This was Arsenal’s fourth successive home draw in this year’s competition. The last time they had been given that advantage in opening four rounds was 1950.
The historians among you will know they had won it that year.
If anything, Everton settled the quicker. Leighton Baines sent a penetrative cross over and Sylvain Distin nearly scrambled home at the far post. However Arsenal had scored early against Liverpool in the last round and they did the same today.
Santi Cazorla ushered a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Ozil, who kept his cool and passed the ball into the net. It was his first goal since the Premier League meeting between the sides at Emirates in December.
Arsenal were alight. Sanogo and Oxlade-Chamberlain fired in vicious shots that Robles did well to parry.
However Everton were not intimidated and when Kevin Mirallas hooked the ball back from the byline only the attention of Bacary Sagna forced Steven Pienaar to slice wide.
The game was 15 minutes old but it had packed in enough action for a full first half. Meanwhile the pace, passion and desire of the game was pure FA Cup.
Ozil cut the ball back perfectly for Kieran Gibbs, whose goalbound effort was blocked.
As we reached the half-hour, Arsenal had taken control. They were testing Robles with plenty of shots and early, hanging crosses. Sagna sent over one of the latter and the keeper was fortunate when he inadvertently tipped it onto his own bar.
Even Everton’s equaliser on 33 minutes came when Arsenal were on the offensive and Arteta’s attempt was blocked. Ross Barkley broke away and arrowed a cross to the far post where Mirallas miscued from four yards out. However the ball fell to Lukaku, who prodded the ball into the unguarded net from close range.
It was a blow. Arsenal had never been entirely comfortable but they had enjoyed the greater control.
Both probed away before the interval but, when the whistle went, this game was on a knife-edge with the outcome entirely uncertain.
Arsenal were back on the front foot at the start of the second half. However the opening ten minutes brought only a couple of half-chances.
Everton would create the clearest opportunity when Lukaku profited from Vermaelen’s slip and Barkley fired just over the bar from the edge of the area.
Cazorla thought he had threaded a shot just inside the far post but Robles tipped his shot aside in the second.
On the hour, Wenger replaced Sanogo with Giroud. The latter nearly slid home Ozil’s near-post cross with his first touch.
Arsenal looked better for the change and, shortly afterwards, they had the lead again. Barry clipped Oxlade-Chamberlain as the midfielder tried to wriggle past on the byline.
Arteta put the penalty to Robles’ right but referee Mark Clattenburg spotted Giroud encroaching in the area.
So Arteta took it again and put it high to Robles’ left.
The relief was immense but the concentration had to match it immediately.
Everton now had to gamble to stay in the competition.
Unfortunately for them they lost.
Giroud steered home from close range after excellent work from Sagna. The full back had been superb going forward all afternoon.
A minute from full time, the Frenchman ended a sweeping move including Ozil, Cazorla and Rosicky to make it 4-1.
This was great win but, more than that, it was a fine performance against very good opposition.
Arsenal have two more huge tests this week but, on the basis of this game, they are in fine fettle.
And their trip to Wembley is secured.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
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