|   April 13, 2014    6:32 PM ET

Arsenal reached their first FA Cup final in nine years with a penalty shootout victory over Wigan in the clubs' Wembley semi-final.

Watch the highlights from the teams' game in the above video.

Arsenal Pose More Questions Despite Semi-Final Win

Samuel Luckhurst   |   April 12, 2014    4:15 PM ET

A penalty shootout against a lower league side with possible question marks about the direction of the club is a scenario Arsenal fans are familiar with. Sixteen months on from Arsenal's defeat at Bradford City's Valley Parade, they almost experienced another dosage of that humbling medicine but eventually vanquished a valiant Wigan Athletic side 4-2 on penalties in a tense FA Cup semi final.

For 20 minutes, another Latics final appearance seemed within reach. Arsenal were on the brink of perhaps their most ignominious defeat under Arsène Wenger but instead they rallied and secured their first major final in three years. For the first time in what must feel like aeons, their hopes of ending a nine-year trophy drought will still be alive in May.

Questions will be raised, though. Ten years ago, Arsenal were the invincibles but now they are utterly unconvincing even when they reach an FA Cup final. They were bereft of influential first-teamers such as Mesut Özil, Jack Wilshere and Kieran Gibbs but their effort for 75 minutes versus Wigan was risible and those in red did little to quell suspicion of Arsène Wenger departing north London this summer.

arsenal wigan

Arsenal players celebrate their FA Cup semi-final win

The ramifications of defeat to Wigan would have been apocalyptic. Hours earlier, Everton usurped Arsenal in the Barclays Premier League table to occupy the final Champions League spot outright. You could not help but wonder whether Wenger valued Tuesday's home League match with West Ham more than an FA Cup semi-final against a Championship side that lost to Millwall midweek. However, he could not afford to underestimate a side that have twice famously humbled Manchester City in this competition within the last two years and even Yaya Sanogo's selection at the fatigued Olivier Giroud's expense was hardly unexpected.

It was, also, effectively a home fixture. Not due to Wembley's proximity to north London, but by how overwhelmingly Arsenal's support outnumbered their counterparts. A reserves set of followers, Arsenal's contingent drowned out any offerings from the travellers from the River Douglas.

Often, it resembled the Emirates. There was a sense of frustration and impatience as early as the 22nd minute as Lukas Podolski and Nacho Monreal hesitated and contrived to pass the ball out of play. That particular partnership is a sore reminder for Arsenal's support of how the club have countenanced mediocrity. It used to be Winterburn and Overmars or Cole and Pires under Wenger.

Seldom has a player recovered from withering jeers to prompt cheers of relief like Aaron Ramsey. Far from the first of Arsenal's barren era to be anointed the status of unofficial scapegoat by supporters, Ramsey's form in the first half of the season coincided with one of the most convincing periods of Arsenal under Arsène Wenger for six years. His significance is measured by how his teammates have limped on since he limped off at Upton Park on Boxing Day. Already Wales captain, he could receive the armband at club level soon, too.

In a team littered with unconvincing individuals, Ramsey's inclusion in the starting XI was greeted with euphoric relief. Even Arsenal's established first-team members, such as Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla, will have welcomed his presence. It is telling that a club annually accused of going backwards is reliant on a player whose outstanding contribution lasted for four months.

Sanogo, denied inside five minutes by a point-blank stop by Scott Carson, looked awkward and clumsy. His story about almost giving up football to become a postman is the kind usually reserved for FA Cup minnows, rather than a team attempting to equal Manchester United's record haul of ten triumphs. Gooners would rightly argue he is a preferable alternative to the absent and awful Nicklas Bendtner.

Callum McManaman injected some energy into a flat opening half-an-hour with his jinky pace which petrified Manchester City's defenders on the same turf 11 months ago and now terrified Monreal and, in particular, Thomas Vermaelen. McManaman's dynamism intensified the anxiety in the Arsenal end. Too often, Arteta shirked responsibility while Santi Cazorla's effort was again languorous. Yesteryear, the infamous Wembley pitch would have been blamed, but for a side who had no European obligations this week Arsenal looked jet-lagged. Carson, back at the scene of his lowest ebb with England six-and-a-half years ago, enlivened proceedings with some hesitantly calamitous goalkeeping Sanogo should have punished him for.

Uwe Rösler fielded four of the heroic XI that upset City last year and there were obvious parallels. Marc-Antoine Fortuné occupied the Arouna Koné role, McManaman was the adventurous outlet on the wing, while James McArthur and Emmerson Boyce complemented an organised defensive spine. They lacked a player of James McCarthy's tenacity, though, and the delicate Josh McEachran struggled even against Arsenal's lightweights.

jordi gomez

Gómez celebrates his opener from the penalty spot

Wenger laments Arsenal's nerves on a near-weekly basis and they were evident again. McManaman brushed off Monreal, dismissed Vermaelen, burst into the penalty area and was scythed down by Mertesacker. Penalty. Monreal received treatment, Wenger brought on Kieran Gibbs and even McManaman gulped from a water bottle. The wait was excruciating. All three minutes and 44 seconds. It did not fluster Jordi Gómez. The Spaniard struck the ball past Łukasz Fabiański's right hand in the 63rd minute.

And then the latest mutinous outbreak from Gooners was heard. The profligate Podolski was hauled off to boos, as Wigan fans teased Wenger he was "getting sacked in the morning". He looked utterly forlorn after Gómez's strike. Hands in his pockets, solemn and still, the end seemed nigh for one of European football's most stubborn coaches. On one occasion, Wenger crouched down in exasperation and, for a moment, it seemed he was on the brink of impersonating Basil Fawltey's meltdown. The wreath behind Wenger was symbolic.

Arsenal's approach was baffling. For a team in an FA Cup semi-final and with Champions League qualification at stake, they mirrored a team metaphorically on the beach that was contesting an exhibition match. The fear of failure was pungent. Yet they recovered.

arsenal wigan

Arsenal players and fans celebrate Mertesacker's equaliser

The onslaught was absorbing. Bacary Sagna struck Carson's woodwork, Gibbs had an effort cleared off the line by Stephen Crainey before Mertesacker atoned for his foul on McManaman when he nodded in his second Wembley goal of the season from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's snap-shot with eight minutes to spare.

Just like the Wembley semi-final 20 years ago, extra-time was required. Arsenal's fickle following was fanatical again and Sanogo, inexplicably still on the pitch, had fluffed four chances in a seven-minute spell. Quite what he possesses to merit the status of Arsenal footballer only Wenger knows, but his cult extends solely to his potency on the Football Manager 2012 edition.

Wigan were tiring. Rosler made all three of his substitutions in normal time and their woodwork was rattled again from an Oxlade Chamberlain piledriver. Wenger had one option remaining from the bench, only the most effective of the available quintet was the underwhelming Kim Källström, who arrived in the 113th minute.

Källström was one of the four nerveless Gunners who fired past Carson in the shootout. Gary Caldwell and Jack Collinson's pathetic penalties put Wigan at a disadvantage and it was left to Santi Cazorla, after Arteta and Giroud's conversions, to ensure a return to Wembley, despite Jean Beausejour and McArthur's best efforts.

  |   April 10, 2014    1:38 PM ET

Panini veterans will empathise with Joel Campbell. When you are after that elusive sticker of Phil Babb to complete your collection, rip a new packet open, anxiously flick through the stickers, only to discover he hasn't turned up again. In Campbell's case, he didn't turn up.

Yes, the Arsenal and Costa Rica striker's own contender for #accidentalPartridge involved buying 100 packets of World Cup Panini packets to get a sticker of himself, only he wasn't included in any of them.

"100 packets and no me #BadLuckCampbell," Campbell tweeted solemnly. He might cheer up when he faces England in June.

  |   April 10, 2014    1:12 PM ET

Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has demanded a strong finish to the current campaign ahead of Saturday's FA Cup semi-final against Wigan Athletic amid the threat of imminent unrest.

Forward Santi Cazorla indicated he might consider leaving at the end of his recently-extended contract and added Arsenal "haven't got a winning mentality".

However Wenger insisted it was not all doom and gloom around the club following last week's feeble 3-0 defeat at Everton.


Cazorla joined Arsenal from Málaga in 2012

"Let's see first how we finish, but we have the basics," said the Arsenal boss, who has yet to sign the offer of a new contract extension. "What is important for us is we have our players back and available.

"Our main task will be to keep the team together and think 'where did we go wrong?' because there's a lot of positives in our season as well.

"We have been the league leader 17 times and we dropped off when we lost our players at the important moment of the season, that is what we don't want to repeat."

arsene wenger

Wenger is experiencing another awkward spell as Arsenal manager

Arsenal may be favourites over Sky Bet Championship side Wigan despite the holders having knocked out Manchester City in the quarter-finals, but Wenger has something of a selection headache.

Combative midfielder Mathieu Flamini must serve a two-match suspension after collecting a 10th yellow card of the season at Everton. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Czech playmaker Tomáš Rosický will both be assessed for minor niggles, so Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey is set to come into the starting XI.

Centre-half Laurent Koscielny remains out, along with Germany international Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere.

"We have a lot of uncertainties. It is very difficult to give you any percentage because we have Gibbs, Rosicky and Oxlade-Chamberlain all at the moment not available and we will make all on these three players make late decisions," Wenger said.

"Certainly I will decide to start Ramsey because Flamini as well is suspended."

Why Is the Last Stretch of the Premier League Season So Difficult?

Joe Difford   |   April 9, 2014    3:05 PM ET

When the ''experts'' start throwing around their predictions as to where they think teams will finish in the Premier League table, these are often fairly accurate up until Christmas. It becomes reasonably clear who will be in the title race and who will be fighting to avoid relegation. For some reason, however, the post-Christmas period of the season can change everything and certain teams seem to bottle it as they approach the end of the campaign.

Arsenal are the most obvious example of this trend, falling from the dizzying heights at the top of the table to fourth in just a couple of months. The main reason for this is the lack of depth in their squad and injuries to a number of key players have been central to their downfall. Every season it seems that Arsenal have a great deal of potential, but something always seems to happen at this stage to knock them off their perch.

One of the contributing factors is the relegation battle and this can upset the teams at the top of the table. Arsenal have actually done very well against those in the bottom half and it has been the teams around them that they have struggled against. That being said, teams at the bottom who see each and every game as a must win match often cause a problem for those at the top - a draw against Swansea and a loss to Stoke have both been surprising and hugely detrimental to Arsenal's title hopes. These two sides aren't deep in a relegation scrap, but those with a stronger squad who want to confirm their status in the top flight can rise to the occasion against the bigger sides. Aston Villa are another team who have been looking to secure their safety and they managed to beat Chelsea just a few weeks ago, against all odds. Furthermore, managerial changes in the bottom half can give the team a new found feeling of belief and as we have seen at Crystal Palace this season, a change in management can make a huge difference. Tony Pulis's side beating Chelsea a few weeks ago and significantly denting their title hopes is proof enough of this.

Around this time of the season, every game is hugely important and the top sides have European football and the last rounds of the cup to deal with, so injuries are more likely to blight their squads. Of course, there are smaller teams in the cup as well, but even sides in the bottom half can plummet in the run in.

Whilst Chelsea are battling on two fronts, Liverpool have had a fantastic season and due to their absence in cup competitions at this stage, they have found winning form since the beginning of the year, failing to lose a single game. The Reds have an almost fully fit squad and are top of the Premier League table, looking increasingly likely to take home the trophy if they beat Manchester City this weekend.

West Ham United have also benefited from being knocked out of the League cup and FA cup early on as they have had a fantastic few months, winning six out of their last 10 games, lifting them from the relegation zone to 11th and are more or less safe from the drop. The return of key players has been vital and a series of wins against sides around them has helped them to finish the season very strongly.

At around this time every year, there are huge changes for certain sides at each end of the table and a consistent level of form is hard to come by. The need to win for bottom half sides combined with European football for the top sides, mean that the title can easily slip out of a team's grasp. Whilst Arsenal and Chelsea have had a poor couple of months, Crystal Palace and West Ham have improved drastically and every season there are a number of sides who do the same. Who can forget Wigan's great escape more or less every season until they went down? One thing is for sure, you can expect a whole lot more of surprises from now until May.

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Liverpool Have Had it Easy

Kamran Hussain   |   April 9, 2014    1:56 PM ET

I don't want to put a downer on Liverpool's success but they have played far fewer games than the other top teams. Liverpool fans seem to react very angrily when I mention this, but it's true!

At the end of the season, Liverpool would have played just 43 games this season.
Now let's take a look at the other title contenders.

Manchester City: League (38) Champions League (8) League Cup (6) FA Cup (5) Total: 57

Chelsea: League (38) Champions League (12/13) League Cup (3) FA Cup (3) Total: 56/57

Arsenal: League (38) Champions League (10) League Cup (2) FA Cup (7/8) Total: 57/58 (No longer title contenders)

Liverpool will have played at least 14 games less than their competitors and that's a grand total of 1350 minutes of football!

With the quality and the strength of Liverpool's squad, it is no surprise they are doing so well. Suarez and Sturridge have both been absolutely fantastic this season. They're both goal scoring machines and every defence's worst nightmare.

However, they get something which other strikers don't and that is plenty of rest! I don't tend to agree with Jose Mourinho very often but I think he hit the nail on the head when he said - It's a holiday for Liverpool every week, they have a two week rest and then turn up to play.

Liverpool would never be where they are if they had played 50+ this season. The truth is Liverpool couldn't care less how many games they have played, they want to win the league.

Liverpool fans love to hammer Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea about the money they spend. Now they're even going after Arsenal fans after they splashed out on Mesut Ozil.

Let's take the last 4 years transfer expenditure to make it somewhat representative. In the last 4 seasons Liverpool have spent over £280m.

Arsenal: £168m

I am not including Chelsea and Man City's expenditure because I have run out of fingers to count on.
The League is a marathon not a sprint. Liverpool have run the marathon with short-cuts skipping a good few miles.

They always say that the best team wins the league. Playing 14 more games than the opposition surely puts you at a huge disadvantage.

Are you surprised at Liverpool's league success this season? I'm not. I said last season- if they manage to keep their players, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

You can obviously question whether Suarez should have been sold or not. The way I see it is, if he had the contract him and his agent thought they had, he would be an Arsenal player. However, that's a debate for another day.

Samuel Luckhurst   |   April 8, 2014    8:42 AM ET

Toni Kroos has "told pals" on the eve of Bayern Munich's Champions League quarter-final second leg with Manchester United he wants to join, well, Manchester United.

The timing is as inconvenient for Bayern as it is for the (banned) newspaper that ran the Kroos story this Tuesday morning. You would have to have been living on Mars the past four months not to know United want Kroos, and the German seems quite receptive to joining the Old Trafford club.

Bayern stressed last week the German midfielder, who will start against United again on Wednesday night, will not leave the club this summer, irrespective of his contract situation. Kroos' deal runs out in 2015.

toni kroos manchester united

"Pals, I'm joining United. You heard it here first."

Real Madrid are also ostensibly interested in Kroos. The Spaniards could offer United the stiffest competition for their transfer targets, given their long-standing interest in Borussia Dortmund midfielder İlkay Gündoğan, whom United held talks with earlier this year.

It is casually added United held further discussions over the prospective signing of Sporting Lisbon defensive midfielder William Carvalho over the weekend.

Marco Verrati is so casually linked with Arsenal this morning there is no byline on the original story, while another newspaper has picked up the rumour and billed the Italian as a "striker". Verrati is a midfielder.

The 21-year-old is an integral part of Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League challenge and it is difficult to even envisage him considering a move to north London. Earlier this season, Verrati extended his PSG contract until 2018.

Arsenal, however, do need some midfielders, should their frugal manager belatedly decide to "spend some fucking money", as thousands of Gooners have so delicately put it.

marco verrati arsenal

Verrati: Skilful and tough, just what Arsenal need. But they won't get him

Nineteen-year-old Iranian footballer Sardar Azmoun should get Arsenal fans excited though, right? The Gunners face competition from AC Milan for the striker's signature, write the Star.

There could be a French exodus on the Tyne this summer. The Sun predict Hatem ben Arfa, Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux will all leave Newcastle this summer, following Yohan Cabaye, who transferred to PSG in January.

And Swansea will welcome back Ki Sung-Yueng from his loan stint at Sunderland if Garry Monk remains in charge next season, say the South Wales Evening Post.

  |   April 7, 2014   11:11 AM ET

Ashley Young's son, Tyler, has become the latest offspring of a Manchester United player to sign up for a rival club, having joined Arsenal.

Last month, it was revealed both Robin van Persie's son, Shaqueel, and Phil Neville's lad, Harvey, had joined Manchester City's academy, where one of Darren Fletcher's boys is also based.

And now Young's nine-year-old son, Tyler, has put pen to paper with the Gunners.

Young senior grew up an Arsenal fan, and despite joining United nearly three years ago he has not dissuaded his child from joining his boyhood club.

The winger's partner, Nicky Kelly Pike, posted a picture of Tyler inking his contract on Twitter.

  |   April 7, 2014    8:28 AM ET

Now Arsenal have made it 20. They shipped six at Manchester City and five at Liverpool, they sieved another six at Chelsea and Everton put three more past them on Sunday. Barely a fortnight goes by without another Arsenal identity crisis.

Yes, they did not lose to any of the aforementioned top five opponents at home in the Barclays Premier League and yes, their run-in is more favourable than their fourth-place contenders, Everton, who entertain both Manchester clubs and travel to Southampton. But that is all Arsenal seem to aspire to be these days. Fourth best.

David Dein was in the stands at Goodison Park to remind their supporters of the force they used to be. This could, finally, be the summer Arsenal realise balance sheets and aesthetic football do not appear on the honours board. Arsène Wenger's anger was so evident after their meek display on Merseyside he did not offer a single frivolous excuse. He saw all the incidents.


Mikel Arteta experienced an unhappy return to Goodison Park

Wenger's future is so opaque it is believed he has not even told his assistant, Steve Bould, whether he will stay at the Emirates Stadium beyond this season. Every year, his position comes under question and every season he just about rides it out, albeit without filling the space in the club's sparse trophy cabinet. Ironically, an FA Cup win (should Arsenal defeat Wigan Athletic in Saturday's semi-final) might hardly make a difference.

Perhaps what frustrated Gooners the most during their latest defeat was how Everton resembled the energy and spirit of Wenger's best sides.

Roberto Martínez has excelled so quickly at Everton even Steven Naismith resembles an adequate Premier League footballer. Martínez arguably blunted the Blues' attack by starting Ross Barkley and Steven Deulofeu on the bench, yet Naismith was influential for the second successive game. David Moyes deserves credit for initially identifying him as a worthy squad member, but Martínez has honed him into an impact striker with a penchant for important goals. The Scot has scored winners against Chelsea, Swansea and Arsenal this campaign.

Arsenal, however, were gormless and spineless, with a team populated by players of the same feeble ilk. Mikel Arteta, ever undroppable, was overwhelmed, Santi Cazorla appears to have a phobia of defending and Olivier Giroud seems to have forgotten the season extends beyond January.


Captain Jack Sparrow wished he had more rum to null the pain

Even Mesut Özil, one of the most celebrated signings in the club's recent history, has succumbed to the Arsenal effect. Although he is injured, he is another flamboyant lightweight who has struggled without guidance. At Real Madrid, he had Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Xabi Alonso and Cristiano Ronaldo to cajole him and nurture his mercurial streak; all of them are seasoned winners with lofty standards. Madrid only won one title in the three seasons Özil spent at the Santiago Bernabéu, but the failures were not as feeble as Arsenal's.

How dispiriting it is for Arsenal supporters that four of their substitutes were touched by Romelu Lukaku's celebratory hug for Martínez. Tony Adams abhorred defeat so viscerally he once fired a flare gun into a disabled toilet at a Pizza Hut because he was being taunted by supporters of rival clubs. Arsenal could do with channelling some of that commitment, regardless of Adams' bygone era antics.

"We have a [run-in] that is feasible but we must focus on the quality of our displays before dreaming of places," Wenger cautioned after a fifth League defeat. The use of "dreaming" was an appropriate noun for the Arsenal manager to use when describing Champions League qualification. The club's winning mentality is so risible players will pose with a mini trophy to commemorate a top-four finish. League positions are also not chiselled onto the honours board.

  |   April 4, 2014   10:18 AM ET

Arsenal have included midfielder Aaron Ramsey in their squad for Sunday's crunch Premier League match at Everton.

Ramsey, outstanding in the first half of the season, has not played since suffering a thigh injury in the Boxing Day win at West Ham. He was initially expected to be out for six weeks but suffered a setback in his rehabilitation.

The 23-year-old Welshman has scored 13 goals in 27 appearances for the Gunners, who lead Everton by just fourth points as they attempt to secure Champions League qualification for a 17th successive season.

aaron ramsey

Ramsey was in outstanding form for Arsenal before he suffered a thigh injury

"Aaron has been out for a long time and has just joined in [training] yesterday, but he will be available," manager Arsène Wenger confirmed at Friday's press conference.

"He is an all-round midfielder who can score goals and drives the team forward always, a real box-to-box player, so it is good to have him back.

"That is an area where we are short because we have many midfielders out - we have Wilshere out, Ozil out in this area, so of course it is good to have him back."

Wenger added: "He has worked very hard for a while in training now. What he lacks is competition.

"It is a bit like that (signing a new player), yes. Of course he is somebody coming back, he can help the team be very successful. It can be like that, yes."

  |   April 3, 2014    9:27 AM ET

Thierry Henry is just another athlete likely to cameo in the Entourage film after the Arsenal posted pictures of himself on set.

New York Red Bulls striker Henry had a selfie (sigh) with Adrian Grenier, while Jeremy "Mr Selfridge" Piven and Jerry Ferrara were also on set for the adaptation of the hit TV series about life in Hollywood.

thierry henry entourage

Arsenal fan Piers Morgan will also appear in the film, set to hit cinemas in 2015, along with Liam Neeson, who will be bringing along his particular set of skills.

thierry henry entourage

As well as Grenier and Piven, the rest of the TV regulars are back, including Kevin Connolly’s dedicated manager Eric “E” Murphy, Kevin Dillon’s doting older brother Johnny “Drama” Chase and Jerry Ferrara’s Turtle.

thierry henry entourage

Billy Bob Thornton has been cast as a billionaire looking interested in a new take on Dracula and The Sixth Sense Haley Joel Osment will also appear.

thierry henry entourage

  |   April 1, 2014    9:07 AM ET

Zlatan Ibrahimović was pictured attending a Parisian meeting with Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger on Sunday ahead of a potentially earth-shattering £50 million transfer.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward arrived 20 minutes after Wenger entered the Shangri-La hotel amid rumours the Swede is about to sign a three-year contract with the Gunners.

It is believed Wenger received permission from PSG to speak with Ibrahimović, who is understood to be keen on playing in England in his 33rd year.

zlatan ibrahimovic arsenal

Caught out! Ibrahimović is pictured entering the Shangri-La hotel

The potential signing of Ibrahimović would almost certainly secure Wenger's immediate future at the Emirates Stadium, too, even though his contract expires in the summer.

Wenger had been linked with the France national team coaching role, but he has all but agreed to extend his stay in north London another two years with the pursuit of Ibrahimović

Ibrahimović travelled to London for an Arsenal trial when he was a teenager in 2000, but a transfer never materialised.

arsene wenger

Wenger left for Paris after Arsenal's draw with Manchester City on Saturday

The 32-year-old is destined to bow out at PSG win a second consecutive Ligue 1 title, having won six Scudetti in Italy, two Eredivisie titles with Ajax and a Primera Liga winner's medal at Barcelona.

Often criticised by the English media, Ibrahimović's popularity in the UK could not be higher after his dazzling four-goal display against England in an international friendly last season.


  |   March 31, 2014    9:06 AM ET

Thirteen years ago today, former Arsenal footballer David "Rocky" Rocastle died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma at the tragically young age of 33.

Rocastle played for Leeds United, Manchester City and Chelsea, but is best remembered for his eight-year Arsenal affinity. He was in the line-up on that unforgettable night at Anfield when it was up for grabs for Michael Thomas in 1989, and was also a member of the 1990-91 title-winning team.

Capped 14 times by England, Rocastle never truly recovered from his £2 million sale to then-champions Leeds in 1992 and struggled to excel at Elland Road.

david rocastle

Rocastle poses with the Littlewoods Cup at Highbury in 1987

In February 2001, he announced he was suffering from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He died in the early hours of 31 March, despite hopes of a recovery.

Rocastle is immortalised outside the Emirates Stadium bowl, where his name - along with a select number of assorted Arsenal legends - are depicted in a spirited huddle.

A minute's silence for Rocastle was observed before the 2001 North London derby match with Tottenham Hotspur at Highbury. Spurs' caretaker manager David Pleat had suggested to the referee, Paul Durkin, that he blow his whistle as soon as there was the slightest interruption to the silence. There wasn't a murmur.

Arsenal Hold City To Gift Liverpool Title Advantage

Samuel Luckhurst   |   March 29, 2014    4:05 PM ET

Advantage Liverpool. Less than three hours after Chelsea slipped up on the Crystal Palace banana skin, Arsenal and Manchester City took points off each other on a significant day in the Barclays Premier League title race, as Brendan Rodgers' side enjoyed their best day off of the season. Victory over Tottenham on Sunday will lift Liverpool to the top of the League with six matches remaining.

For Arsène Wenger and Arsenal, their title drought is destined to extend past 10 years following their gutsy draw. Mathieu Flamini's second-half equaliser brought about a brief rally, but Arsenal failed to capitalise during a rousing spell in which they threatened to avenge their 6-3 walloping at Eastlands in December. Their supporters cheered and applauded them off the pitch, even though another trophy slipped away from Wenger's grasp.

City will reflect on the outcome with regret given how they cruised through to half-time. David Silva's tap-in on 18 minutes promised another resounding away display four days after they triggered the Old Trafford mutiny, but City were overcome with surprise by Arsenal's spirited reaction.

Even taking into account City's home game in hand against Sunderland, Liverpool's superior goal difference - and kinder run-in - could mark this weekend as the most important come the season's conclusion. City have to travel to Merseyside - twice - and have not won at bogey team Everton in five years. The trip to Liverpool on 13 April should be decisive.

"No, I think our next game is Southampton," Manuel Pellegrini replied when asked about the Anfield agenda.

Wenger's approach re-emphasised Paul Scholes' scathing midweek criticism. "A few nice one-twos, nice tippy tappy football" was an accurate summary of an Arsenal team devoid of pace and craft in a dispiriting first 45. Tomáš Rosický, signed in 2006, appeared to be tasked with the same responsibilities as Yaya Touré, yet this was an evening Arsenal's underachievers mucked in and refused to buckle under the pressure of a top four fixture. It was a Jekyll-and-Hyde day.

Most games between the top four have been laden with opportunities and goals in first-halves this campaign, with the exception of Chelsea's trip to the Emirates Stadium, and City did not embody any genuine relish to "destroy" Arsenal as quickly as José Mourinho's team did a week ago.

Arsenal struggled to cope with City's right-hand combination of Pablo Zabaleta and Jesús Navas, but were at least reprieved by the Latin duo's deliveries, Džeko was suffocated by fellow beanpoles Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker, while pantomime villain Samir Nasri barely received the ball. Greeted with boos whenever he did, Silva actually spared him some personal abuse when he volunteered to take a corner instead of the baying home supporters.

City struck first similarly to Džeko's 42-second opener at Manchester United. Lukas Podolski, selected ahead of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, was dispossessed on the halfway line by Yaya Touré, who set David Silva on the charge and the Spaniard's weight of pass was perfect for Džeko to unleash an effort at goal. The ball rattled off the foot of Wojciech Szczęsny's right-hand post and Silva tapped in the rebound.

Arsenal did not register a single shot on target before the interval. They relished the billing of home underdogs when Liverpool visited in the FA Cup last month - and for 10 minutes against Bayern Munich - yet were unimaginative. Rosický tried to con referee Mike Dean into awarding him a penalty and Santi Cazorla had a goal correctly disallowed for offside in a first 45 which could be best described as plucky. The Gunners were firing blanks.

Nerves had affected Arsenal again. "Maybe you never played at that level and maybe it is very difficult to explain mental insecurity," Wenger politely replied when asked about his team's tentative start.

After the pause, though, Arsenal were rejuvenated and resembled a side who believed they could win a title. Cazorla eventually tested Hart in the 52nd minute and 31 seconds later Arsenal were level. The ease in which Arsenal worked the ball to Lukas Podolski on the left will have alarmed Pellegrini, and the German's pull-back was guided into the net by Arsenal cheerleader Flamini, who levelled for the second time - and a second team this week.

"We are in the semi-final of the cup, we knocked Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton out and we lost against Bayern with 10 men and drew 1-1 at Bayern. You don't do that if you are terrible," Wenger reminded the doubters.

Galvanised, Arsenal might have quickly gone ahead had the dithering Olivier Giroud anticipated Bacary Sagna's magnificent cross. Flamini, the arch-cheerleader, screamed encouragement at the striker and applauded Sagna for his service. Arsenal could sense a momentum shift and Hart fortuitously saved a Podolski piledriver which crept through his legs and past the post.

Podolski was sacrificed in favour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose presence on the same pitch as Kieran Gibbs did not trouble the officials, when the forlorn Giroud had performed pitifully. Following one wayward effort, Rosický rushed to lift the Frenchman's chin back up again, but he remained sullen and eventually made way for Yaya Sanogo.

Džeko had deputised ably for Sergio Agüero with two goals at Manchester United but was erratic at the Emirates and belatedly hauled off for Álvaro Negredo. "You will always miss Agüero in every match. It's not easy to come here," a "happy" Pellegrini stressed. City have still earned four points from two vital fixtures in a week.

Rosický ought to have received a second yellow for upending Silva as both sides chased a winner, and although the final whistle elicited cheers rather than jeers, they will have roared louder on Merseyside.

Arsenal: Szczęsny; Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen Gibbs; Arteta Flamini Rosický; Cazorla Padolski (Oxlade-Chamberlain) Giroud (Sanogo)

Manchester City: Hart; Zabaleta Kompany Demichelis Clichy; Touré Fernandinho; Nasri (Milner) Silva Navas (Garcia); Džeko (Negredo)