1 – 0 Mertesacker (20)
2 – 0 Sanchez (82)
Arsenal’s defence of the FA Cup began with a comfortable win over last season’s vanquished finalists. It was the most curious of ties, played out with the energy of a practice match on the part of the visitors whilst Arsenal provided enough energy to win. A real sense of perspective on the contest with more attention focused on Jimmy Bullard’s attire on television than on events on the pitch.
No criticism should be levelled at the players; after all, winning games at a canter is only a problem if you cannot move through the gears when required. There was precious little danger of that yesterday.
Alexis garnered praise for a tireless performance, capped off with a fine goal to seal the victory. Others put in a good night’s work as well, most notably Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla. Against lacklustre opponents, the pair asserted their creative authority on the game, giving the maestro the stage upon which to sparkle.
The concern is the toll the continuous playing is taking on the Chilean. Phil Neville may have overstated the case in claiming Alexis is carrying the team but he isn’t far off the truth. Arsène sought to allay fears that the Chilean was in the ‘Red Zone’, arguing that it was just ‘Flaming Orange’ at the moment.
For once it is difficult to argue with Wenger’s post-match assertion that Arsenal were in control of proceedings,
We were in control and it was a positive game. We created many chances and it took us a while until the 82nd minute to get the second goal but overall I think we had a serious, positive and good collective performance.
The margin of victory might have been wider. Alexis could have scored a couple before the 82nd minute whilst Theo Walcott’s ring-rust denied him the chance to cap his return to first team action with a goal. The positive from that is his ease at making the runs to get into position. Timing will return over the coming matches.
Steve Bruce was lost for words at the paucity of Hull’s offering, a feeling intensified by the embarrassed disbelief at Per Mertesacker scoring from a corner. The resignation as he spat – I’ll paraphrase – “Conceding from a corner to them?“, suggests it will be a long hard five months if his charges don’t improve significantly in the Premier League.
Dover fans might have taunted Palace with, “You’re going down with the Leicester“; both sides will hope Hull replicate this lacklustre outing to give them hope.
Mertesacker will have enjoyed the respite from the tribulations which have haunted his season. Rarely harried in possession, he was quick to intercept in the event of Hull mustering anything which resembled an attack through the middle. Even his goal was minimal effort; a loping stride or two and a little hop off his tiptoes to guide the ball home.
It’s a match into which nothing too much can be read. Arsenal were so far superior that it was almost too easy. David Ospina had to a couple of saves to make as the rumour mill went into overdrive that the position of first-choice custodian was his to lose. Which will probably be soon and due to injury, if the misfortune which has blighted his time at the club so far is anything to go by.
Coquelin was busy here, there and everywhere on the pitch. Arsène gave him hope that a squad place might be forthcoming if he keeps it up but the jury remains out on Joel Campbell. The Costa Rican international understandably drifted in and out of the game which is unsurprising given what little playing time he has enjoyed this season. It might have been different had he scored the early opportunity presented to him. He huffed, harried, played and neat pass or two but offered nothing to suggest he has a long-term future in the starting line-up.
Prior to the match, it was suggested the club had offered him a new contract. A dubious turn of events in view of the closeness to being sold he came last summer and on the basis of the rarity of his appearances this season, strange especially as he has not been able to use them to force more than the most fleeting of movement off the bench.
It was a pleasant way to finish off a difficult week. Tonight’s fourth round draw will no doubt throw out tougher tests – let’s face it, they can’t be much easier – but immediate attention turns to Stoke City’s visit at the weekend and transfer window.
The first rumour of the week surrounds St Etienne’s centre half, Loic Perrin. Yes, Reggie’s younger brother which with all the comedy defending this season, means he will fit right in.
From The Vaults
An interest contrast this morning from this day in 1932 as Arsenal prepared for their forthcoming FA Cup Third Round tie with non-League Darwen.
The defending champions were becoming bigger news, the first story from the inside pages as opposed to the sports sections, but underline what the romance of the FA Cup was all about. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker; they were just about the only professions not represented in Darwen’s £25 squad (equivalent of £9.5k today) as the prepared to face their opponents whose value was £40k (£15m) today.
No mercy was shown by Arsenal the following Saturday as Darwen were put to the sword with an 11 – 1 scoreline.
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