Welcome back. So the draw for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup was made earlier this evening and we’ve landed another home tie, this time against Watford, providing we can beat Hull in our fifth-round replay.
So if we needed any extra incentive to turn over the Tigers at their place, here it is. Win and then beat the Hornets, and we’re in the semis and back at Wembley for the fifth time in three seasons.
Elsewhere in the draw, Everton drew Chelsea at home after the latter brushed aside Manchester City’s under 9s at Stamford Bridge earlier today, Manchester United or Shrewsbury will host West Ham, and Tottenham, oops, I mean Crystal Palace, will travel to Reading having eliminated Spurs this afternoon. All of which is to say we’re now surely favourites and a hat-trick of consecutive Cup wins really is on. Let’s DO this …
But back to yesterday’s game now and some reaction from a couple of the players. First up it’s Per Mertesacker, who says that though he’s happy with our defensive performance against Steve Bruce’s men, we’ll need to be more composed in front of goal versus Barcelona on Tuesday:
We had a couple of good chances and we couldn’t keep the pressure as high as we wanted, especially in the second half. We had enough chances to win, but we were unlucky at times. Overall it was disappointing, especially our finishing. We allowed [Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic] to make some decent saves because we were not that decisive. It is down to us, we produced a good defensive performance but overall in the final third, that little final pass at the end, we always rushed ourselves at times to finish so we need to learn from that. Overall, we missed a bit of something today and we have to come back quickly in three days time. We have a very important game, the first leg against Barcelona, and we will see the fans again, it will be another buzzing night but it is up to us how we perform.
Which is pretty much spot on. Rushed and a little over-elaborate at times is how I’d sum up our attacking yesterday, that and a little unlucky. Hopefully fortune will favour us a lot more against the Catalans because there’s absolutely no doubt we’ll need a healthy dollop of it to beat them.
One of the positives from the Hull draw I felt was Mohamed Elneny’s display. He’s still some way from being physically prepared to really stake a claim for a start ahead of say, Francis Coquelin, in our first-choice selection and was second best in one-on-one duels too often, but what I did like was his penchant for a first-time pass to the feet of team-mates. That suggests a quick and forward-thinking brain to me and that’s exactly what a pass-and-move style like ours needs from the centre of the pitch.
The Egyptian midfielder, and Alex Iwobi, certainly seem to have impressed the third member of our midfield yesterday, because Mathieu Flamini was full of praise for the pair when he spoke after the game. He said:
I think they both played very well. They were very good in their positions, very good technically and also in transition [both] defensively and offensively. It was a good partnership and I enjoyed it but we have to continue now. It was a very, very frustrating game. We had the opportunity a few times to close the game and win it. Unfortunately we didn’t so I think frustration is the main word of the game today. We were a bit lucky last weekend to score in the last second of the game against Leicester City, but it didn’t happen today. We had many opportunities and chances and this is not the first game that has been like that. Even against Southampton and Leicester it was like that and today we had plenty of opportunities. If you don’t finish it, it is not enough. Now we have to play away and win that game.
Every game that we endure where we create chances but fail to score does of course add weight to the opinion we need to buy an elite striker, but I don’t know if that’s true and if it is, who that player is. Suggestions welcome …
Right, a brief one tonight but that’s it from me. See you tomorrow, after Arsene’s held his pre-Barca presser.