Lukas Podolski hits out at Arsene Wenger substitutions following FA Cup semi-final victory over Wigan

The German was taken off for Olivier Giroud late in the game at Wembley

The good news for Arsenal is that they won the tie, avoiding what would have been a cataclysm of despair had they gone out of the FA Cup to Wigan Athletic in their semi-final on Saturday. Arsène Wenger certainly sensed that.

“You know how it is today in football, if we had gone out of course it would have been questioned tremendously,” Wenger said. “We knew it was a turning point of our season. To go out would have been very different.”

But even success, after penalties, will not spare Arsenal much questioning. This was a worryingly poor performance. They were desperately short on confidence, ideas, imagination and pace, just as they have been for the last few weeks.

The main problem, as ever, was up front. Wenger gave Yaya Sanogo his fourth start of the season but he looked no closer to scoring his first goal for the club. Arsenal only got going when, after 68 minutes, Wenger threw on Olivier Giroud for Lukas Podolski and went to 4-4-2.

The Arsenal fans jeered and Podolski was not delighted either. “I always come off and, of course, you cannot be happy when you go off after 60 or 70 minutes,” Podolski said. “I am not happy to always come off and watch from outside. You cannot be happy with this situation.”

 

Wenger explained that Arsenal needed “physical presence through the middle” and it was only by going direct that they caused Wigan the slightest problem. Per Mertesacker eventually diverted the ball in for the equaliser after Jordi Gomez’s opener.

The final is five weeks away and first Arsenal must regain fourth place in the Premier League, starting at home against West Ham on Tuesday. Whether their drained players can rouse themselves – Aaron Ramsey played nearly two hours on his first start since Christmas — remains to be seen.

“We need to win all our remaining league games,” said Mikel Arteta, “but if we don’t then I don’t think we will do it.”

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