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.
Portsmouth host Arsenal at Fratton Park with the intentions of progressing to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup. Arsenal’s last outing against Olympiakos in the Europa League was a bitter pill to swallow with head coach, Mikel Arteta, admitting that lack of Champions League football will be damaging for the club this summer,
“I think the damage caused by the club not being in the Champions League for the third season is really big.
“Every player in the world wants to play Champions League and, if you talk about having this option on the table, players are in a much more open way to join this club or to renew their contract or to convince anybody because we want to be in that competition. Financially the impact is enormous because the structure of this club is built to be in the Champions League and you can sustain that for one year or two, but then after you have to start making decisions.”
Those decisions will entail selling valuable assets to fund a rebuild, and with Aubameyang highly sought after – with Barcelona in particular keen to bring him to the Camp Nou this summer – there may be some pain in order to put things back together.
“We don’t have margin for error with those decisions, so they have to be very thorough and clear processes of where we have to improve and how we are going to do that, and then go forward with no excuses.”
There’s no time to cry over spilled milk, as there’s the FA Cup tonight, which offers the Gunners a shot of silverware under the new boss, as well as the prospect of yet another Europa League season as the winner of the competition gets an automatic slot in the second tier European tournament.
The last time both sides met in December 2009, Portsmouth was still in the Premier League but things went downhill for the club, as they suffered relegated to League One and almost got into administration twice. Portsmouth has not beaten Arsenal in any competition since winning a league match 5-4 in March 1958, drawing eight and losing 13 since then.
Arsenal Team News
I would expect Mikel Arteta to make some wholesale changes to the squad with half an eye on the West Ham game this coming weekend. Emiliano Martinez is odds on to continue in goal as the club’s cup keeper, while there should be a debut performance for new signing, Pablo Mari, that featured for the Under-23s alongside Rob Holding that is in dire need of games following his return from an ACL injury. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is another player that has found games hard to come by and with Bukayo Saka’s increased importance in the first team, he might get a runout at the back line.
Further up the pitch, Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson , Matteo Guendouzi and Gabriel Martinelli will be expected to feature in tonight’s game in their bid to gain match fitness.
Arsenal Predicted Lineup
Portsmouth Team News
Portsmouth are in good form coming into the game, with four wins from the last five. The outfit are currently third in the SkyBet League One table and are odds to make a return to the Championship at the end of the season. Top striker, Ronan Curtis, is instrumental in that resurgence, scoring 11 goals in the league for Portsmouth with two more goals in other competitions. He currently has a knock and the club is sweating to get him fit for this all-important contest against Arsenal.
Portsmouth Predicted Lineup
Arsenal: Kieran Tierney (shoulder), Calum Chambers (knee), Sead Kolasinac (shoulder), Cedric Soares (knee). More updates on Arsenal.com
Portsmouth: Tom Naylor (knock), Ronan Curtis (knock)
Team Form Guide
- Last Five Games: D W W W L
- Last Result: Arsenal 1-2 Olympiakos
- Leading Goalscorer: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20)
- Last Five Games: W W L W W
- Last Result: Portsmouth 3-0 Rochdale
- Leading Goalscorer: Ronan Curtis (13)
Gooner Daily predicts a 4 – 0 Arsenal win.
Kick Off – 8.45pm (GMT +1) at Fratton Park.
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