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View From The Town End: Arsenal

Reading head to Wembley tomorrow for the pretty insignificant matter of a first FA Cup semi-final since 1927. Our Gooner cousins from the SB Nation family over at The Short Fuse gave us their thoughts ahead of the match.

Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

You can read Wimb's Q&A with The Short Fuse over on their site here.

1. How would you sum up Arsenal's season to date?

You know those albums that you take a while to warm up to, because the first couple tracks weren't that great, only to realize one day that it's one of your favorite albums ever? That's Arsenal in 2014-15. They were hamstrung by injuries early in the season - Ozil, Sanchez, Walcott, Giroud, and the still-absent-but-in-the-squad-finally Mathieu Debuchy all saw significant time lost to injury at the start of the season. Arsenal didn't have the luxury of fielding a primarily first-choice XI until about three months ago. 9 straight wins tells you how we all feel about Arsenal's season now - had full health been the default mode in August, we would be looking back at Chelsea, not looking up at them.

2. Last year's FA Cup win ended a 9-year trophy drought, so are fans fully behind Arsene Wenger again?

Ah, that's the million-dollar/pound/euro question. The trophy drought you mention created a Grand Canyon-sized gulf between those who will defend Wenger almost no matter what because of what he's accomplished (which is the camp I'm in) and those who would like nothing more than to thank Wenger for his wonderful service and send him on his way. Unfortunately, that gulf is so calcified now that everything Wenger does is viewed through the prism of whatever side of it you're on; the pro-Wenger camp tried to be patient through the early part of the season and Wenger's attempts at cobbling a side together out of two regulars and a backroom staff, while the anti-Wenger side wanted to use that start as a lever to get Wenger out the door ASAP, at the end of the season at the latest.  You want to do something fun? Find an Arsenal fan and ask them their feelings about the 4-1-4-1 Arsenal tried to use in the fall and winter, and watch them - no matter what side of that debate they're on - curl up into the fetal position and cry.

To your question, though, winning cures all ills - the fans are behind Wenger for the moment, and the Cup last year did buy him some goodwill, but there will always be a significant portion of the fanbase (Call them Piers Morganites) who want to see Arsene ride into the sunset.

3. What have you made of Reading from what you've heard, seen and read this season?

I will be honest, I haven't watched a ton of Reading matches this season, but once I knew that they were Arsenal's semi-final opponent, I started paying a bit of attention. Reading seems like a team that just needs one or two pieces to be a promotion contender - they keep a good defensive shape, they make things happen in the attacking third, but (and this is frustratingly like my other team, the Portland Timbers) their final ball seems to be where things founder a bit. They are the kind of team that could easily frustrate Arsenal, if the Gunners aren't ready; Arsenal like to play, and when they're denied the chance to play the way they want they tend to get a bit frustrated. So if Reading can defend stoutly, it could be a very interesting match.

4. Any fond memories of games between the two sides?

I think I speak for all Arsenal fans when I say the one that is the best memory is the 7-5 Capital One Cup match from 2012. That game was a hot mess, but man, was it entertaining. From our perspective, anyway.

5. Usually I'd ask if there were any not so fond ones but that would be a stupid question ;) So instead I'll ask if fans have any genuine fear of an upset on Saturday?

This is the thing about Arsenal and Arsenal fans. Even with a nine-game winning streak going, there's always this little voice in the back of my head that says "MUFC 8-2 Arsenal. Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal. Monaco 3-1 Arsenal", etc. Arsenal have had a recent history of not showing up for big games, both in the league and in Europe. This season has started to dismantle that narrative, though, at least domestically, with Arsenal winning at Old Trafford in the last round of the Cup and destroying Manchester City at the Etihad, so while that fear is still there, and will always be there, it's less than it would have been last season.

6. Any Reading player you're looking forward to seeing?

Individually, to be honest, I'm not that familiar with most of Reading's players (sorry!). I am, however, very interested in seeing how well they can stay organized as a unit in the back, because as I mentioned, that seems to be an area of strength for Reading and if that's working well on the day, it could really frustrate Arsenal.

7. Which Arsenal player in particular are you counting on to make a big impact?

The answer to this question is almost always either Alexis Sanchez or Mesut Özil, depending on how you value things like movement without the ball and distribution. If you value highly visible, amazing, sometimes breathtaking contributions, you'd say Sanchez, but seriously, spend some time watching Özil closely if you can, because he is an absolute genius. He moves well, he knows where to be, he's great at drawing defenders out of position, and oh yeah, he's a great attacking force as well.

Another one to watch is the ever-polarizing Olivier Giroud. A lot of fans aren't convinced he's good enough for Arsenal; I'm not one of them. He's fantastic.

8. Score prediction?

I am, historically, Very Very Bad at these things, so take this with a grain of salt. Or a whole salt lick.  After starting and settling a few nerves, I think Arsenal will settle in and impose themselves on the game. 3-1.