10th December 2016: Campbell, Bellerin, Iwobi, Wellington Silva

Evening all. We travel to Liverpool on Wednesday of course, but with a few days still remaining until that game, time now to look back at some of the reaction to yesterday’s FA Cup win over Sunderland.

First up it’s the manager Arsene Wenger, who compared the rise to first-team prominence of Joel Campbell this season, with Francis Coquelin’s ascension from Championship loanee to undisputed first-choice defensive midfielder for the Gunners last term. The boss said:

He is kind of in Coquelin’s position last year. Nobody expected him [to do well] and now he is taking his place in the team and he is ready to fight for the position and he is efficient. I agree [that he is playing with confidence]. That comes out of his game. Compare one month ago to today, he believes he belongs there and has a right to play.

I shared my thoughts on how good a player I think the Costa Rican has become for us in yesterday’s post, but one word I didn’t use to describe his game was ‘efficient’, as Arsene does above. Yet that’s probably the best one to sum him up.

He’s efficient going both ways; in attack he picks the right pass 99 times out of a hundred, or shoots first-time if at all possible, and when chasing back he doesn’t merely track an opponent’s run, he tries to forcibly win the ball back at the earliest opportunity. When you consider he’s not 24 until June, Campbell’s still got plenty of time to improve a great deal and if he consistently produces performances like yesterday, he’ll surely stay first-choice even with everyone fit, just as Coquelin has.

Aside from Campbell though, the other standout players for Arsenal against the Black Cats were the two youngest members of our starting line-up, Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi, and both spoke to the official site after the game. Bellerin discussed the club’s aim of winning a third, consecutive FA Cup, as well as the team’s performance against Sunderland, saying:

That is the goal of the whole team. We love this competition and the fans love this competition so we need to try and do our best. We are trying to get the third in a row. We knew it would be a hard game. It is always hard in the third round of the FA Cup. We had a tough opponent and a lot of changes so we had to adapt to that. We didn’t start really well but the team responded like it should. It was a great effort by the team and it was very nice to get through to the next round. They started pressing really high and we knew we had to be a bit safe when playing the ball. Sometimes we make mistakes and that is normal but we knew how to respond to it. The team was up to the challenge. We didn’t rush the game and we knew we had to be patient. It is nice to get the three goals and that is confidence for the team as we have a difficult week ahead.

Whilst a jubilant Iwobi expressed his delight at realizing a child-hood dream of being an Arsenal player, saying:

It is amazing. It is the best feeling ever. It is a dream come true. Since I was a young boy I have always wanted to put on my shirt with Iwobi on my back with the Emirates [crowd] screaming my name. As a young kid I always wondered if I would get there and to have this opportunity today, I’m just thankful. It was a young boy’s dream come true. Playing at home with everyone screaming your name and giving you the confidence to express yourself – it felt like a proper debut. Training and playing with them [the first team] every day is such a learning curve. Hopefully I can train with them more and play more so I can develop every day.

The lucky, lucky (but obviously extremely talented) b*astard. I remember dreaming about pulling on an Arsenal top with my name on the back, the fans chanting my name as I left five defenders for dead, beat the keeper with a dizzying piece of skill before stopping the ball on the goal-line, kneeling down and heading home …

But back to reality and Iwobi really does seem another great prospect with a stride similar to Abou Diaby and a penchant for low-hanging socks like Alexander Helb and Paulo Dybala. He did the simple things well yesterday from a central midfield stationing and fully deserved the applause he received from the fans when he was substituted in the second half.

Finally, Wellington Siva was in Cup action for Bolton yesterday and very brief highlights of our Brazilian prospect in action can be seen on the BBC website here. For the record, if you haven’t followed this blog since I started it in June last year, you’ll be unaware how highly I rate Wellington, so I’ll tell you now: very, very highly.

Higher than any other un-established player under contract at Arsenal and although there were reports in the past questioning his mentality and fitness, I think those issues are now non-existent and I fully expect him to stake his first team claim at Arsenal next season, having had a year to acclimatize to the English game.

Til next week.

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