The Gunners are taking their FA Cup defence seriously, Hector Bellerin is a major attacking weapon and other things we learned from Arsenal 3 Sunderland 1
By Editor Wayne Veysey
Wenger can make it a magnificent seven
Judging by Arsene Wenger’s touchline conduct, he has no intention of relinquishing his grip on the FA Cup without a fight. The weakened Gunners came from a goal down to comfortably sweep aside their Premier League opponents to clinch a 14th consecutive FA Cup win and put their name in the hat for the fourth-round draw. This was the 20th successive season Arsenal have made it beyond the third round, an achievement not to be sniffed at. With their increasingly impressive track record in marquee matches, and the 2014 and 2015 FA Cups in the trophy cabinet, Arsenal are a team to fear in this season’s competition. Wenger has already won the competition six times and can make it a magnificent seven FA Cup triumphs.
Bellerin is a huge weapon
Watching the Spaniard zoom up and down the right flank and deliver surgically precise crosses on the run, it is hard to believe that it is little over a year since he was fast-tracked into the Arsenal team. Bellerin got his chance due to injury to Mathieu Debuchy and his progress has been little short of remarkable. The right-back has virtually ended the Gunners career of Debuchy, who will go out on loan this month, and has emerged as one of Europe’s most promising players. This entertaining cup tie provided further evidence of how important Bellerin’s electric pace and quality of crossing are to the team’s attacking play. He set up the crucial Aaron Ramsey goal with a brilliant run and cross, before handing the third on a plate for Olivier Giroud. Bellerin’s defending has also improved, too. It is no exaggeration to hail him as the next Dani Alves.
Iwobi shows encouraging signs
On three of the four previous times Alex Iwobi had featured for Arsenal, they had been thrashed – at Sheffield Wednesday, Bayern Munich and Southampton. This was far more encouraging for the 19-year-old, making only his second start for the club. During his 66 minutes on the pitch, Iwobi looked comfortable on both the ball and the big stage. He was not afraid to run at the Sunderland defence from his central role and was involved in most of the team’s best moves before his withdrawal. This will provide the teenager with a major confidence boost.
Oxlade-Chamberlain looks comfortable in centre
With Arsenal fielding a new-look 4-1-4-1 formation, Calum Chambers protected the defence behind a more advanced pairing of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Iwobi. Using almost exclusively on the flanks, the England international has had a disappointing season. But he looked quite at home in a position where he saw more of the ball than he normally does out wide.
Wenger’s No1 priority is Premier League
There was nothing new or unexpected in the manager’s rotation for an FA Cup third-round clash. Wenger tends to use a mixture of fringe and first-teamers for these occasions and the five changes he made from the team that defeated Newcastle seven days earlier was about par for the course. Nevertheless, Mesut Ozil was rested entirely from the squad, as were Per Mertesacker and Mathieu Flamini. With a still lengthy injury list, the bench was padded out with rookies Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chris Willock and Matt Macey. Yes, Wenger fancies a third consecutive FA Cup win. But the Premier League is his clear priority.