To have and to hold.
That was the front page of the Arsenal programme yesterday for the FA Cup match against Burnley.
Despite the talk within the programme, and by Arsene Wenger and players before the game about how important the FA Cup and winning 3 in a row, the game ended up being used to play players who had not played much recently. Either whether they were returning from injuries, or players considered 2nd team.
In the past, Wenger has always said that he puts out a team that he thinks can win the game. Against Sunderland, he put out a stronger team than yesterday, due to the calibre of the opposition. Yesterday, just 4 first teamers made the starting line up, 2 of those coming back from injury.
So how did the second string get on? Did any of them do enough to push themselves into Arsene Wenger’s faults for the next few games?
David Ospina – Looked nervy. Looked unsure of himself. A few good saves, but his distribution came across as someone who was questioning his own decision. He often missed the quick break away, as if he was scared of messing it up. A good keeper. But not Cech good.
Calum Chambers – Take the goal out of it, which was a very good finish, he showed again that he just is not a right back. His lack of pace means he will continually get roasted by average wingers who knock the ball past him and run. He was exposed a few times against Burnley. At just 21, he clearly is a class player, but he needs games. In 2014, you would have had him alongside John Stones as the future of England’s defence. Stones has played, Chambers hasn’t. One is now going to the Euro’s, the other will be sunning himself in Spain. Maybe needs a loan deal next season to play 38 league games at centre back.
Gabriel – A competent performance, and it certainly would put a thought into Wenger’s mind as to whether he should be given a chance alongside Laurent Koscielny at centre back. The worry would be is that in defence, it is about the partnership, not the individual. Are Koscielny & Gabriel too similar? Would it be like when Koscielny & Vermaelen played together? Both aggressive centre backs who like to attack the ball up the pitch. I have a feeling Per Mertesacker will be back in.
Kieran Gibbs – For me, Gibbs was man of the match. He shone in the match. We know he is a quality full back, especially when we are attacking. He was a danger on the left hand side, playing almost more like a winger rather than a full back. Recently, he has been out of form. When he has started, or when he has come off the bench, he looked completely out of touch. Yesterday he looked sharp. Whilst he will not be taking Nacho Monreal’s place anytime soon. It will be good to know that once more we have the two best left backs in the league
Mohamed Elneny – I have seen people go to both ends of the spectrum. Some saying he was awful. And some saying he is the new Patrick Vieira. Let’s be honest. Both are wrong. When we signed him, I saw him described as tidy, efficient, unexceptional. And that is how he performed. He seemed to be everywhere, without being anywhere. And that is the key in the position he plays. Doing a lot of the unnoticed work. Keeping the ball moving. It was very reminiscent to Mikel Arteta before he had his legs stolen. Over 100 touches of the ball (more than any other player), he was busy. We have a good player here. enough to put pressure on Coquelin? Not yet. But certainly in the future he will.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – A good performance by Chamberlain. He has now been involved in our last 13 fixtures – starting 5 of the last 7, maybe he is finally getting a run that will hopefully see him improve. Of course, it was only Burnley, and Arsenal were attacking 90% of the time. But most of what Arsenal did well went through him. He also stuck to the right hand side for the majority of the game, rather than coming inside. And the pass that put Theo Walcott through was exquisite. With Joel Campbell running out of steam, Alexis Sanchez still returning from injury, and Theo Walcott being out of form and shot of confidence, I expect Oxlade-Chamberlain to start the next few games.
Alex Iwobi – I am really not sure what to think of Alex Iwobi. I do not know whether to rate him, or whether to not. He is still just a kid – just 19 – and he clearly has ability, there is just something about him that I do not like. Maybe it is his running style, he is a flurry of arms and legs. Or maybe it is he has a really tentative touch and pass. I do not know. But he performed well. Seem to revel in the free role behind Olivier Giroud allowing him to pop up right, left and centre. Obviously he will not be pushing Mesut Ozil for a starting place any time soon, but let’s loan him out to a Premier League side till the end of the season, see how he gets on (just not to WBA).
Tomas Rosicky look tidy, got injured
Mikel Arteta will probably rarely be seen in an Arsenal shirt again
We are through, and that is the important thing. Looking at the teams still in the draw, it is anyone and everyone in football. An away trip to Leeds for the travelling fan will be nice, a home game against Shrewsbury for those who want the glory. Hopefully we avoid the big boys, and they all get each other.
Have a good Sunday