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