Monthly Archives: March 2020

FA Cup: Thoughts on the Fifth Round and Quarterfinals Draws

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Nketiah celebrating his goal in the FA Cup

The FA Cup is one competition that is never short of drama and we saw that happen yet again in the Round of 16, or fifth round, as its fondly called in these parts of the world. It began with a 2-0 victory for Arsenal over Portsmouth with the young Gunners firing on all cylinders against a Portsmouth side that has been in inspired form – unbeaten in 19 and 10 straight home wins. There was a casualty for that game with Arsenal midfielder, Lucas Torreira, on the wrong end of a nasty challenge from Portsmouth’s David Bolton. The update we have received is that Torreira has suffered a fractured ankle which clearly indicates that his season is over.

Tuesday saw Miguel Almiron inspire Newcastle to a 3-2 victory over West Brom and it was a scare for the Premier League side as the Baggies fought hard from going 3-0 down to almost equalize the game and earn themselves a replay. Miguel Almiron hasn’t lit up any fireworks since his high profile move from the MLS (Atlanta United), so it was good seeing the lad score a brace because he’s one of the hardest working footballers you’d ever see. There was another Championship vs. Premier League fixture took place when Sheffield United visited the Madejski Stadium to take on Reading. The home side managed to take the game into extra time, but the old Sheffield stalwart, Billy Sharp, scored the goal that sent the Blades into the last eight.

The glamour fixture of the FA Cup fifth round was the Chelsea vs. Liverpool game. The Reds arrived at Stamford Bridge, still nursing the wounds from the thumping defeat they had suffered from Watford in the previous weekend. They showed some positive intent when the returning Kepa Arrizabalaga in breathtaking form, but the same could not be said of Adrian, that flapped at Willian’s shot for the first goal, before diving haplessly for Ross Barkley’s strike, effectively ruling Jurgen Klopp’s side out of the FA Cup. 

Yesterday, Leicester City had enough in the tank to see off Birmingham City with Ricardo Pereira scoring a late header that sent the King Power Stadium to raptures. Pereira has that zeal to go further up the pitch and he was rewarded for his actions, but that strike should be attributed to some brilliant play on the left wing from Ben Chilwell that lofted the ball into the box after a magnificent solo slalom run. Elsewhere, Pep Guardiola, still basking in the euphoria of his Carabao Cup victory left nothing to chance as he fielded a very strong lineup against Sheffield Wednesday, with club record scorer, Sergio Aguero, scoring the goal that was enough to give the defending FA Cup champions a well deserved victory.

There was some enthralling drama in the Spurs vs. Norwich game with Jose Mourinho fielding a strong squad in the FA Cup clash with the Canaries. Jan Vertonghen gave the hosts the lead with a bullet header that left TIm Krul with no chance in Hell but Norwich kept on pressing for the equalizer and finally got it when Michel Vorm spilled a routine shot allowing Josip Drmic to clumsily fire home the rebound. The game went to the lottery of the penalty shootouts and knowing Krul’s prowess from saving spot kicks, Spurs chances looked slim and that turned out to be the case with the Dutch goalie saving two of the five penalties he faced while Erik Lamela blasted his spot kick over the bar.

Derby County hosts Manchester United in the last FA Cup fifth round fixture but the quarterfinal draws have been made,

  • Sheffield United vs Arsenal
  • Newcastle United vs Manchester City
  • Norwich City vs Derby County or Manchester United
  • Leicester City vs Chelsea


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Lucas Torreira: Update on his Ankle Injury

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Lucas Torreira suffered a nasty ankle injury in the 16th minute of Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Portsmouth at Fratton Park on a cold Monday night. The Arsenal youngsters took the plaudits for their good performance that was enough to seal a quarterfinal berth with head coach, Mikel Arteta, lauding their efforts but it was not a good night for Torreira, that had to be stretched off the pitch to receive medical attention for what was really a nasty challenge from Portsmouth defender, James Bolton.

Torreira was seen wearing an ankle brace and had to use clutches to navigate his way around to join the team leaving Portsmouth back to London. This leaves Arteta with only Dani Ceballos, Granit Xhaka, Joe Willock and Matteo Guendouzi as his only central midfield options, which is not ideal if you ask me. No other player in the side offers what Lucas Torreira gives this team and I touched on this sometime in January, when he suffered an injury in the draw with Crystal Palace. 

 Arsenal star Torreira was hobbling in a protective boot and will need scans on his injured ankle

Lucas Torreira wearing an ankle brace

Torreira has done well to allays some fears on whether he will be out for a while, when he spoke to the media about his injury,

“I wanted to tap it and grabbed my ankle on the outside. It twisted the ankle but I can move it”

Arteta, on the other hand, isn’t sure of the severity of the injury and will be waiting for the Arsenal medical team to provide a favorable update for him. What we know for sure is that Torreira will not be available for the crucial weekend fixture against West Ham and the midweek clash against Manchester City might come too soon for him. 

In his absence, Ceballos will get an extended run in the side and we will be hoping he can forge a good understanding with Xhaka in the middle of the park. For a player that was close to leaving the club in January, Ceballos is playing on a different level and looks committed to the cause as Arteta hopes to seek qualification to Europe from the Premier League following that disaster that happened last week Thursday against Olympiakos.

Arsenal would be hoping to have Torreira available for selection as soon as possible because he remains a vital cog in the Arteta midfield machine.


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Portsmouth 0-2 Arsenal: The Kids Are Worth the Risk

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Match Report Post-Match Press Conference

Final Result: Portsmouth 0-2 Arsenal (Sokratis 45′, Nketiah 51′)

Arsenal XI (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Sokratis, David Luiz, Pablo Mari, Saka; Torreira (Ceballos 16′), Guendouzi; Nelson (Maitland-Niles 90′), Willock (Xhaka 89′), Martinelli; Nketiah

As expected, the manager made wholesale changes to the squad ahead of the clash against the League One outfit, Portsmouth. The capacity crowd made their voices heard and it galvanized the home side to come off the blocks with some attacking displays that barely threatened the Arsenal rearguard, but at the very least, earned from ovation from their loyal fans.

The first talking point of the game arrived when James Bolton went in late on Lucas Torreira’s ankle, which saw the Uruguayan midfielder writhing in pain. he required a stretcher to leave the pitch and was replaced by Dani Ceballos. We haven’t gotten any official communication from the club on how long he will be out for but I remain hopeful that it would not be an extended run out, because we don’t have adequate depth in that department. 

The Arsenal youngsters had a couple of half chances to get the lead, starting with a Bukayo Saka stinger from the left and there was that time the captain of the night, David Luiz, slalomed forward and teed up Eddie Nketiah but his hurried shot was way off the mark. Reiss Nelson also had a good run in the danger area but his cross was behind Gabriel Martinelli and the young Brazilian headed the ball over the bar from barely three yards out. That didn’t matter as the Gunners got the first goal of the game from one of the most experienced heads in the squad, Sokratis. Nelson swung in a dead ball that was cleared by the Portsmouth defense but Nelson had a second bite at the cherry and swung in a lower cross that was hit first time by Sokratis. That was a goal any striker would have been proud of.

Arsenal doubled their money at the start of the second half when Nelson made a strong run on the byline before swinging another sumptuous cross that was attacked by Nketiah, before he poked it to the roof of the net to make it two. Just like many players in the squad under Arteta’s reign, Nketiah is a striker that he saw some potential in, and rather than ship him away following his poor spell at Leeds, the gaffer instilled some confidence in him and he’s clearly repaying it with these excellent performances. 

Martinelli was also a live wire in the game, terrorizing the Portsmouth defenders and sending some killer balls that were not finished off by his teammates. There was one lovely cross that was headed wide by Joe Willock, who in my opinion didn’t play as well as I expected. Saka continued to be a force in attack, showing great footwork before blasting a piledriver that was saved by Bass in goal. He also connected with Martinelli on the left on several occasions, and continued to show improvement with each passing game.

Oh yes! How good was Pablo Mari on his debut? The Spaniard had a very untroubled game and was very decent with his passing. The jury still believes that he had such a confident and composed performance because he didn’t play against stronger opposition but this was the same man that wrestled with the likes of Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane in the Club World Cup. Championship finals last December. 

Mikel Arteta waxed lyrical about his young lads after the game, and you can’t blame him because they made a good case for themselves with the performance on the night. They didn’t put a foot wrong and did their best to show that they are the next generation Arsenal can rely upon as long as they keep showing this promise and improvement. With Arsenal safely in the quarterfinals, the fans that watch the remaining games as neutrals and hope for favorable draws that will see them book a place in Wembley come April. 

Arteta would love to win the FA Cup as a manager, especially with him winning it as a player a few years ago. In the end, these kids are worth the risk.