Evening all. A hat-trick of consecutive FA Cups is well and truly on for Arsenal after we breezed past Hull City last night, to confirm a quarter final at home with Watford on Sunday. Lovely.
A brace apiece from previously out-of-form forwards Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott secured a comfortable 4-0 win over Steve Bruce’s men but the celebrations were soured a little by injuries to Per Mertesacker, Gabriel and Aaron Ramsey.
The 7pm kick-off gave the game a sense of strangeness and the first half action only added to the surreal feel. Arsene Wenger picked a side very similar to the one I had guessed would play in yesterday’s post, with Kieran Gibbs’ inclusion at left-back instead of Nacho Monreal being the only difference.
In a very forgettable opening 45 minutes, Mertesacker and Nick Powell clashed heads when contesting the ball and with both players needing treatment, the game was stopped for a sustained period. After carrying on for a while, the German defender’s swelling eye caused him to be substituted for Monreal who slotted in as left-sided centre-back.
Then out of the blue, with the game as lively as a wake, on a pitch as smooth as sandpaper, one of Hull’s players decided he’s spare the stadium any more tedium and casually flicked the ball with outside of his left foot across his own six-yard box, where Giroud was waiting to gratefully strike home his first goal in about four years. It wasn’t so much a helping hand, as it was an aiding arm, but given the striker’s recent struggles in scoring, he dispatched the gift with the minimum of fuss.
I have to admit, and this is very, very rarely the case with me, even when we’re getting battered, but I was giving serious consideration to doing something else with my time at the break. Thankfully though, I resisted the urge and was rewarded by three further goals.
Before our second arrived, Ramsey replaced the injured Gabriel which meant Mathieu Flamini filled in at right-back for Calum Chambers, who shifted across to partner Monreal in the middle. Walcott got the assist this time, with a left-wing cross that deflected off a defender straight into Giroud’s path for a near-replica of his first goal.
I thought it was telling Gibbs immediately embraced Walcott, who for all his frustrating qualities as a footballer, is still human and therefore not immune from the considerable criticism he’s taken in recent weeks. And not just from fans either, becasue even if Arsene hasn’t taken Theo to task for his lack of form verbally, by dropping him to the bench for the last two games before last night’s he’s made clear Theo’s far from first-choice at the moment. Plus the fact that for 70 minutes or so again last night before claiming that assist, Walcott’s performance was pretty woeful.
Considering all that then, his last 20 minutes last night will hopefully provide the spark he needs to rediscover some sort of form and confidence beacuse he grabbed a brace of his own. First, Joel Campbell, who must be one of the most enthusiastic attackers I’ve ever seen in chasing back and helping out defensively, played what’s becoming a trade-mark reverse pass, having cut in from the right. His perfectly-threaded ball found Theo on the left and he took two touches in calmly passing it beyond the keeper.
With two minutes of normal time to play, Walcott completed the scoring, when his low strike from the right was deflected in at the near post. Scoring two heavily aided by deflections and one handed to us on a plate by Hull City, would indicate our luck was in last night, but in terms of injuries, karmic balance was redressed.
Thankfully Arsene revealed Mertesacker and Gabriel’s injuries are nothing serious but the news on Ramsey is not so good. I’m sure we’ll find out the extent soon enough but it looks like Mohamed Elneny and Francis Coquelin will get more games to develop their partnership and hopefully, Campbell will continue on the right beacuse having dropped him once already this season when he’d barely put a foot wrong, I can’t see Arsene culling the Costa Rican when he’s so consistently impressive.