We are through to the next round after a typical FA Cup battle against a first meek, and then resurgent, Brighton & HA.
Our football during the first half was very, very good. Wenger had opted to play Giroud central, with a beautiful variety of midfielders and the king of speed behind and around him. The Seagulls’ pitch looked very large on TV and we really knew how to use the space. Of course the very early goal helped to settle our nerves, as we could strut our stuff with flair and confidence. Rosicky was rampant and Ozil majestic, Rambo was motoring and Theo looked indeed like a brand new, shiny signing.
We played like the Arsenal we know and love and I guess the only thing missing was the all important third goal. In a cup game there is always a chance that the opponent gets an unexpected goal and then hell breaks lose…. and so it did.
A wild clearance by Rosicky puts Chambers in trouble and the young Englishman’s response is not strong enough; O’Grady smells his opportunity and skins Flamini far too easily; his shot is instinctive, hard and well placed: Koz, on the unfamiliar Right CB side, cannot block it and Szczesny has absolutely no chance. 1-2 with forty minutes to go: not good.
Luckily, we score the all important third goal within 10 minutes of O’Grady’s and all seems under control again. But another piece of bad collective defending leads to a good through ball which Baldock chipped impressively over Szczesny, who once again had no chance. A game like this helps us all to see how important the BFG is for this team: his organisation and leadership skills and reading of the game were badly missed today.
2-3 with 15 minutes to go, and, given this weekend’s freak results, this does not feel good. Luckily, Arsene can bring on fresh blood and both Akpom and Alexis succeed in taking the pressure away from our brittle, makeshift looking defence and midfield. We have a few more good chances for a fourth goal, but the game finishes without any further goals.
Arsenal are through and survive the FACUP-apocalypse. Reason for collective happiness? Ahhh not so in spoilt Goonerland..
- How good is Rosicky? A fine, measured assist for Ozil and a brilliant goal to take us to the fifth round. It is such a bonus to have him in our side and I hope he will stay a few more years at least. He drove us on and made such good use of the fantastic movement of his fellow attackers. What a player.
- Ozil looked very good, especially given his lengthy absence. His goal was very well taken, with a great first touch and using both of his feet very well to get the shot away. Is there a slicker looking, more intelligent midfielder in the country? Pure class.
- Theo was hungry and healthily selfish, and his goal was sublime: a superb first touch, followed by a quick turn and razor sharp shot into the corner. WOW! He had great energy and thrust and once fully up to speed, he will be unstoppable, especially if he can find a balance between selfishness and VCC.
- All three goals were beauties. We have seen Liverpool, Man City and Man United play 90 minutes against lower league opposition and not score a single goal this weekend. We score three and all of them are very well taken goals; and we could have had more. And today our usual goal scorers, Giroud and Alexis, did not even get on the score sheet. Having our goals spread across the team is just brilliant.
- Szczesny had a faultless return to the team and played with great concentration. I was particularly pleased to see he had no rush of blood for Brighton’s second goal: rather than diving desperately in front of Baldock, he just made himself as big as he could to put the striker off. It did not pay off but at least he did not cause a penalty and a red card. I am not the biggest fan of Wojciech but he impressed me today.
- Akpom is no Giroud and will never be, as they are two different types of centre forwards. But his cameo impressed me. There was plenty of space for him of course, as Brighton & HA were taking more risks at the latter stage of the game, which suited him well. He ran well at defenders and helped to release the pressure on our defence a lot, and I liked his confidence.
- Giroud played really well for the team and gave great shape to our attack, especially in the first half. How important has he become? His goals and assists tally per game is very impressive this season, but he is also happy to play for the team and work hard to create space and opportunities for others. Is there a better holding striker in the PL? Top man and vitally important.
- Last but not least, is the strength of our squad right now. When we had to dig deep, we brought on Alexis, Akpom and Coquelin, and there were other options like the BFG and Cazorla on the bench. At the business end of the season, it is great to have such strength in depth and let’s hope that Paulista, if indeed his signing for Arsenal goes ahead, can stand in for BFG, as we are desperate for a proper left sided back-up CB in the short term.
An intriguing game with the desired outcome and plenty of positives to take to our next game: bring on the Villians! 🙂