I don’t know if visiting Brighton & Hove Albion every other year in the last weekend in January and beating them 3:2 will become a tradition, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if it does.
The results of this weekend’s FA Cup clashes served as warning ahead of our trip to Brighton, one we had to take very seriously. Manchester City, Chelsea, and the Spuds all suffered surprising home defeats, while Liverpool and Manchester United are facing replays against Bolton and Cambridge respectively.
After a fantastic start to the game, it should have been a far more comfortable victory for our boys. In a competition like the FA Cup however, teams very rarely roll over and accept defeat. Getting the win is all that matters though, and retaining the cup is still a dream we could see become a reality.
Here are the key points from today’s game:
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1) Theo Walcott is back…
The Englishman scored a well-taken goal in opening minutes, and was constantly looking to add to his tally. He is still showing a few signs of rust, but was getting into great positions and the goals are sure to start flowing soon. Whether he finds his best form immediately or not, his hunger and desire is hugely positive and fantastic to see.
2) ….but we’ll have to be patient with him.
The pacey forward was trying so hard to find the net a second time, that he often ignored his teammates. He should have released the ball far quicker on a number of occasions, instead trying to bulldoze his way through the Brighton defenders.
His in-game awareness is likely to improve over time, and it’s understandable that he is missing a beat or two after a year on the sidelines.
3) Mesut Özil scored an important goal.
The German was in the right place at the right time to receive a delightful pass from Tomas Rosicky, and looked calm and composed as he doubled our lead.
The commentator claimed that Rosicky was the only player who saw the pass, but I would disagree. Özil’s vision is unrivaled, and he could clearly see the pass he would have made if he were on the ball.
The German is still a little rusty, and was obviously tired in the second half. He is a great asset to have however, and gives Arsene Wenger the kind of selection headache he must love.
4) If Inigo Calderon has a Master’s in sport psychology, then Tomas Rosicky has a PhD. in football.
The Czech maestro was the key to victory today, and his importance cannot be stressed enough. He started the move for the first goal by releasing Calum Chambers, picked out Özil superbly for our second, and – just to make sure there were no questions regarding the MotM award – scored one of the best goals of the competition to restore our two goal lead.
5) Aside from an assist, Calum Chambers had a difficult day at the office.
It was a fairly poor defensive display from the English youngster, who was partially at fault for Brighton’s first goal. Most of the home side’s attacking threat came down our right side, and Chambers visibly struggled. His versatility is of course a bonus, but perhaps he should see more time in the centre of defence rather than out on the flanks.
6) Laurent Koscielny is not a leader.
The Frenchman is usually a rock in defence, but was all over the place today. He was lucky an error at 2:0 didn’t prove more costly, and defended poorly during both Brighton’s goals.
7) Chuba Akpom has goals in him.
The speedy youngster gave a very solid cameo, forcing the opponents onto the back foot with his pace. He should have put one on a plate for Alexis Sanchez after some great work down the left, but poor decision making cost him.
He is an exciting prospect nevertheless, and with three other attackers going out on loan this January, it seems Akpom has the manager’s faith
8) Wojciech Szczesny had another frustrating afternoon despite not really being at fault.
Let’s use a rather poor metaphor on this one: If Szczesny worked in a laundry, he would have been fired by now. He failed to keep a clean sheet yet again, although it was a poor defensive performance all round. This will do nothing for his confidence unfortunately, and David Ospina is likely to return against Aston Villa next weekend.
9) The FA Cup is ours to lose.
Yes, it’s a brave statement given that both Liverpool and Manchester United are still in the competition; especially as we haven’t beaten the latter since 2011. With Chelsea and Manchester City going out of the competition before the Fifth Round however, it seems that we are favourites to retain the trophy. And that would mean…
10)…we would become the most successful club ever in the competition.
We currently share that accolade with Manchester United, but could claim it for ourselves this season. Arsene Wenger would also become the most successful manager in FA Cup history along with George Ramsay.
On top of all that, we would become only the fourth club in the history of the competition to retain the trophy on more than one occasion.