Arsenal knocked Portsmouth out of the FA Cup in a fairly comfortable night for Mikel Arteta’s side, despite a fast start from the hosts.
Arteta rotated heavily for the Arsenal fifth-round FA Cup tie against Portsmouth on Monday night. Six of his 10 outfield players were under the age of the 21.
Of the other four, one was Pablo Mari making his debut, another was Sokratis Papastathopoulos playing at right-back. Only David Luiz and Lucas Torreira (who quickly picked up an injury) could realistically claim to make Arsenal’s first XI.
Perhaps the team showed a little rustiness early on as a result. Portsmouth had a few early chances, but Sokratis gave Arsenal the lead with a great finish from a whipped Reiss Nelson cross just before half-time.
That goal effectively killed the game. Eddie Nketiah scored early in the second half, and the League One side didn’t even threaten to make a comeback.
Let’s have a look at our Arsenal player ratings for the match.
- Emi Martinez 6 – Had a bit of trouble with an early chance, with David Luiz bailing him out somewhat. Made a decent save later on and passed well enough, albeit under no pressure.
- Sokratis Papastathopoulos 7.5 – His finish for Arsenal’s opening goal was excellent. As expected, he did a solid job defensively but didn’t support Nelson on the wings much at all. Not that you expect more from a centre-back on the flank.
- David Luiz 7.5 – Won a lot of headers, and made one risky but effective run through the Portsmouth team to create a chance for Nketiah. Still needs to stop taking free-kicks.
- Pablo Mari 8 – A very strong debut, particularly in possession. Mari completed 90% of his passes and a huge 13 long balls. No one else even attempted 10. You can see why that side of his game appealed to Arteta. The defender was also strong in his duels, winning four out of five, and he made five clearances.
- Bukayo Saka 6 – Had one really nice piece of play leading to a dangerous shot the goalkeeper had to tip over. Seems tired at the moment though, which is completely understandable given his recent workload. Got dribbled past three times to his one tackle.
- Matteo Guendouzi 7 – Got a yellow card for hurting Mike Dean’s ego, so that’s a bonus point. Overall, a pretty well-rounded performance, other than in the air. He continues to struggle in the aerial duels, winning one of four this time.
- Lucas Torreira 5 – Made a few passes, but that was it before an injury ended his night in the 16th minute.
- Joe Willock 5 – Willock was excellent in the last round, but nothing came off for him against Portsmouth. He dribbled well, completing four of five attempted, but his passing was way off. As usual, the social media overreactions with him are to an insane degree. He was an ‘Özil replacement’ after Bournemouth, now he’s ‘useless’. The reality is it just wasn’t his night.
- Reiss Nelson 8.5 – This was Nelson at his best, taking players on at pace and getting dangerous crosses in. He set up both goals, even if the second won’t go down as an official assist. He created a game-high four chances and hardly misplaced a pass. A strong return after his injury and subsequent difficulties breaking into the team.
- Gabriel Martinelli 7 – Martinelli led the team in tackles, which barely even merits a mention nowadays, it’s so standard for him. Unfortunate to be slightly ahead of one of Nelson’s crosses. Had a couple of effective runs on the left.
- Eddie Nketiah 8 – Took his goal really nicely, adjusting his feet to redirect the ball with his left. Linked up with his teammates behind him well. Only Willock completed more dribbles, and only Nelson created more chances.
- Dani Ceballos 8 – Impressive in midfield after Torreira had to come off early. Completed all eight of his long passes and 93% of his passes overall, won four free-kicks and gave Arsenal a lot of control in the middle.
- Granit Xhaka N/A – Didn’t misplace any of his five passes, including one long ball, but he only played the final three minutes of normal time at 2-0.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles N/A – This sub only really seemed to be for time-wasting purposes, with Maitland-Niles coming on a minute into injury time.