And other observations and afterthoughts from an important FA Cup win.
I don’t know about you, but I thought yesterday’s game against Hull was a bizarre one. The Tigers were toothless and sedated, clearly just making up the numbers and focussing merely on their defence. Arsenal played some fabulous football but lacked killer instinct, seemingly unable to finish off our opponents.
Never change a winning team, they say; unless, of course, you don’t believe you can win and feel there are bigger fish to fry. They had made ten changes to the team that beat Everton on New Year’s Day and, although some rotation is necessary around this time of year, this was a clear indication of how Bruce viewed his chances/the importance of making it to the next round.
Yet, Arsenal had looked shattered in their last game against the Saints, and continuous injuries to a large number of key players meant that Hull could and should have had a go. But, I guess if you are only two points above the relegation zone, and think of Wigan, who won the FA Cup just 1.5 years ago but are now second from bottom in the Championship, one can understand Hull’s reluctance to go all out for a win at the Home of Football. Survival in the PL is surely, but to some extent sadly, their one and only objective this season.
We played some good football with the rejuvenated Rosicky making the difference in the beginning. Rosa on the ball in full, elegant flight makes me think of those streamlined skiers doing the down hill slalom. His nickname should be graceful dynamo (JM take note! 🙂 ), and his energy and quality end products were key in the first half. Cazorla was also involved and effective, and behind them ‘last-chance-saloon’ Le Coq offered almost solid protection to our make-shift back-four (Bel-BFG-Cha-Mon). Hull did not pressure him much it has to be said, but he still had a very good performance (except for one or two reckless looking moments, maybe).
Wenger had positioned the hardly tested Campbell and long-term injured Theo on the wings and workaholic Alexis in the centre. There was great fluency up-front and the Hull defence were pulled all over the place. Our Chilean full blooded Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be a very good stand-in for Ollie, as he was able to find a good balance between playing the holding striker role as well as being deadly in the box himself.
However, we were wasteful up-front, and we did not capitalise on all our running and passing the ball round so well early on. Luckily, the BFG, despite having played in all recent games, was strong and fresh enough to out-jump the switched off Hull defence and score a Giroudesque opening goal after twenty minutes.
After that, there were more chances but the rusty Walcott and disappointing (and rusty) Campbell were wasteful when the game should have been put to bed. Our inability to put weakened opposition decisively to the sword – think of our shenanigans against 100% ‘away-games losers’ QPR on Boxing Day – remains a worry.
And I reckon this is what Alexis foresaw from the start and why he was desperate to start the game, even though he had been offered to have a rest. Everyone knows that winning the FA Cup remains our best chance for silverware this season and the red hot chilli pepper does not want to miss out on it. However much Cazorla has improved and Rosicky and Ox offer drive and enthusiasm, without Ollie, Rambo and Pod, and Theo and Joel not having their shooting boots on as yet, we are simply not deadly enough in front of goal.
Sanchez scored a fabulous, dare I say, Henryesque goal to give us all a calm end to the game. And just for this, we should love him.
- Ospina and the defence did okay but, to be fair, were rarely tested.
- Le Coq needs a bit of coaching by the Flam, but might just keep himself in the squad with his recent performances. He adds bite and energy/stamina and finds through-balls easier already than Arteta or Flamini. However, we still need to add an experienced ready-to-roll DM, before anybody starts thinking differently… 🙂
- Alexis in the middle could be a long term alternative, especially if we get a Draxler or Reus to play on the left wing (this TW or in the summer). I am starting to believe Admir’s claim that Alexis will turn into the next Henry.
- Theo made some good runs, especially in the second half. His first touch and finishing were poor but this surely will improve again. The really good news is that he survived in the game and showed us again what he will bring to the team.
- Cazorla and Rosicky played very well together and should be played more often.
- Campbell tried very hard and made some good runs – with and without the ball – but his finishing and some of his passing were well below par. I hope he will get more chances to show us what he is capable off.
It was an important win as the FA cup really matters to us. We made it hard for ourselves by not scoring the second goal much earlier in the game, but the job was eventually done by one of the best Wenger signings ever. However much we doubt his ability to push us on to the next level once again, let’s never forget that he can still attract the very best to come to the Home of Football.
Written by: TotalArsenal.