We won the game against Hull in what turned out to be an anticlimactic replay of the final. We were the better team from the start and grabbed a solid 2:0 victory in a professional performance with which we should be satisfied. One opponent down, five more to go on our way to defend the Cup. Here are the pointers from the game.
1. Will Alexis Sánchez ever get a rest?
Despite the fact Arsene Wenger has said that Alexis is in a red-zone regarding fitness, the Chilean has played in every single game during the festive period. He was substituted in the 86th minute of the game against Hull. He put on another excellent performance and was involved in both of our goals: first Mertesacker headed his corner home and then it was his brilliant finish from the outside of the box that put the game to bed. It was Alexis’ sixteenth goal of the season in 29 appearances.
2. Does Alexis need a rest at all?
I wanted Alexis to get a rest against QPR. I wanted him to get a rest against West Ham. I wanted him to get a rest against Hull. He didn’t get any. However, I started to think: does Alexis need a rest at all? We have a relatively fresh example of a player who didn’t need a rest to perform well. Robin van Persie featured in each one of our 38 league games in 2011-12 and in only one of those he came on as a substitute. Furthermore, he played every single minute in the league between Week 10 (Chelsea) and Week 38 (West Brom). The Lying Dutchman also featured in eight out of ten Champions’ League matches (twice as a substitute) and two out of three FA Cup matches. Still, Wenger did give him a rest too after The New Year – van Persie didn’t play against Leeds in Thierry Henry’s big come-back match.
3. Francis Coquelin – the DM-beast we have been craving for?
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The young Frenchman – whose Arsenal days had looked numbered only a few months ago – wants to stay a member of the starting XI as much as possible. He fights for his place with such a passion that he was lucky not to see red against Hull on at least one occasion. Dangerous tackling – including two-footed attempts – can get him into trouble so he needs to forget about that. However, his skills and aggression are mostly welcomed as we need every soldier we can get, especially in the midfield. He has shown a battling spirit and he can create chances for the attackers as well – let’s hope he won’t get sent off in the next few matches and that he will use his second chance at the club well. Don’t take our desire about having a DM-beast in the team too literally, Francis!
4. Tomas Rosicky should be a regular first team member for a while.
The Czech maestro gave another fine display and – given that Aaron Ramsey hasn’t returned yet and even if he does return for the next match, he’ll be too rusty to start against Stoke – should get a run of games. He adds energy, drive, pace and directness to our game. In combination with Santi Cazorla and Coquelin, The Little Mozart can compose a requiem for the opponents’ hopes. Speaking of Cazorla…
5. Santi Cazorla keeps his good form over the festive period.
The Spaniard’s powder was wet against Southampton but he did manage to create a goal for Alexis against Hull. He was unlucky not to grab another assist for a perfect through ball for Theo Walcott. Once Theo gets sharper, Cazorla’s assist-tally will be even more impressive. It’s like 2012-13 all over again – we are out of the title race already but Santi is as sharp as back then. That said…
6. Mesut Özil shouldn’t return straight back in the first eleven.
I like the German a lot but he should return slowly as Cazorla deserves to be in the first team. The German playmaker should make a breakthrough with his assists and goals.
7 ….and neither should Szczesny.
The Polish goalkeeper was awful against Southampton and his season hasn’t been so brilliant even before that. David Ospina, on the other hand, hasn’t had too much time to impress given that injuries have attacked him at Arsenal. The Colombian keeper was solid against Hull, didn’t have any brain-farts or attempt to dribble the opponents and his distribution looked more comfortable than Szczesny’s. Goalkeepers live in the constant hope that their rival will screw something up so they can get a chance – Ospina got his chance and now we’ll see if he is going to use it.
8. We need to be patient with Theo.
The English winger returned to the starting eleven on the sad anniversary of his injury against Spuds. The hero of the famous two-nil banter could have celebrated his return to the FA Cup action with a goal but his touch is still too heavy which is a logical thing given that he has been out for almost a year. Once he gets his touch back, Walcott will rip defences apart and score loads of goals.
9. Joel Campbell needs his first goal for Arsenal.
The Costa Rican winger failed to score from a promising position in the first half and his cross-cum-shot in the second half wasn’t the best move either. Still, it’s obvious he works hard so the goals will arrive eventually provided that he gets a chance to play more often.
Next match: Stoke at home (league). We owe them for two straight league defeats at their stadium. In both of them Charlie Adam was a massive jerk which makes that repulsive team even more hideous. We must win that game to keep pace with the clubs that aim for the Champions’ League places.