Premier League English

Arteta puts FA Cup clash with Bournemouth over the weekend to good use for Arsenal

Whilst there may have been a hullaballoo and a hue and cry for some managers over the weekend concerning the FA Cup replays in the middle of the Winter Break, one very focused manager has seen it fit to use the Cup platform as the perfect launchpad to demonstrate his able steering of the Arsenal vessel under his new command.

Regardless of how his peers may be ruffled and perturbed by the sudden turn of events put into place by the inopportune timing of the FA Cup replays occuring right smack in the first ever Premier League winter break – with even Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp making a stand that he wouldn’t front any of his top XI players in the lineup in the shrewsbury Town replay – Mikel Arteta was determined to offer a glimpse of how promising even the immediate future could hold for his balanced team of youthful potential and irreplaceable experience that vanquished Bournemouth to set up a trip to Portsmouth for the fifth round. This is a man and manager with a core vision to fulfil. And one in a hurry. 

It was a clear commitment to enterprising, boundless youth pressing forward that resulted in a dazzling first half from Arsenal. Joe Willock broke through prominently as Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah’s forays found their target as fine goals forged in the smoldering furnace of the Gunners academy. Together with Gabriel Martinelli and Nicolas Pepe, this formidable foursome of young musketeers was a beacon of radiant hope in the first half of the match. Arsenal, with pedal to the metal, tore off into a comfortable lead with Bournemouth offering feeble resistance. The south coast hosts were rendered largely ineffective.


The second half saw the more experienced members of Arteta’s squad assume the reins of command in defending their lead, with Granit Xhaka looking and playing like a man transformed under the new Gunners commander. The Swiss midfielder, his earlier quibbles against Arteta already amicably resolved, made his presence felt deep from midfield, alternating with Saka when the winger turned full-back made raids forward. 

Arteta was exuberant: 

“In the first-half I think we were really, really good. I’m excited that everything we planned came together in a good way. They [the young players] are important, the core of that team at the moment. So to play with that accountability, I really like it.”

“They were terrific, their work-rate, and for me as well the courage to play, to make big decisions and not just play it safe.”

Although there was a slightly visible dip by the Gunners in the second half, the indefatigable Spaniard kept doggedly coaxing his charges, pressuring Nketiah to press on, determinedly running himself into the ground since his return from Leeds. Despite the lingering tailing off by the Arsenal side, Bournemouth fizzled out and could only manage a goal through Sam Surridge two minutes into injury time. Arteta and his boys breathed a huge sigh of relief as there would be no need for a replay. 

Arteta and his boys are well aware of the ground they have to cover to reach the heights Arteta has set his sights on to reclaim Arsenal’s greatest glories of old. The results could’ve been a lot less rosy had they come up against a better opposition. As has often been the case since the Spaniard took over at the helm, his boys are still lagging in the second half which could prove to be their Achilles heel if not rectified speedily. 

Willock aptly summed it up: “We’re all trying to get fitter to play that sort of game. It’s Arsenal Football Club. We’ve never sat back, we’ve always pressed and always played brilliant football. That demands fitness. That’s what we’re trying to do. 

“Last night we did it for certain periods of the game and it won us the game. We need to carry it over the 90 minutes, then we can be a force.”

Arteta knows himself exactly where this FA Cup competition lies in the club’s historical annals. The FA Cup salvaged Arsene Wenger’s turbulent final years and gave him solace and comfort. 

Mikel Arteta is buoyantly hopeful it can be the platform to trigger off a glorious revival for the club he so dearly loves and believes in.