Arsenal came through the first game of the FA Cup trophy defence with relative ease. No fresh injury concerns, some solid performances from fringe players and a convincing score line helped ease the concerns we may have had about the depth of our squad.
Going behind early was far from an ideal start, and doomsday scenarios starting running through many fans’ heads. A loss would have curbed Arsenal’s momentum, while a draw would add yet another fixture to the already congested schedule ahead.
Thanks to the excellent Hector Bellerin though, Arsenal made sure that the dream of becoming the first team in over a century to win this trophy three seasons in a row remained alive.
I expected fewer first team players in the team, but Wenger had other ideas. Despite a mid-week fixture and tough Champions League games ahead, the likes of Giroud, Walcott and Cech were included from the beginning. At least Ozil was given a break, while Alexis’ comeback was not rushed.
I would have also liked to have seen Debuchy come in to the team, but it seems that his departure is now inevitable. While I feel a degree of sympathy for him, unless we sign a replacement, letting an experienced French international in January seems absurd.
The player I was excited to see the line-up was Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. He has been touted as a hot prospect for a while now, and his highly publicized and expensive arrival from Southampton meant there was a weight of expectations on his young shoulders. I think it would be fair to suggest that he has not developed as quickly as many Arsenal fans would have liked.
He started this season really well with the vital goal over Chelsea in the Community Shield. It felt like this could be his year. Many fans and pundits suggested that if he could string a few games together, he could really start to fulfil his potential.
Injuries to key players meant that Oxlade-Chamberlain finally got a run of games in the team to showcase his talent. He seems a willing runner and attempts to dribble the ball past opponents, but too often his decision making and end product let him down.
Unlike his fellow Southampton prodigy Theo Walcott, he lets every mistake get to him. You could see that every misplaced pass and wayward shot lowered his confidence even further.
Joel Campbell found himself in a similar situation early this season. He hadn’t played many games for Arsenal, and did not even appear to have Wenger’s full backing. Despite this, he grabbed the opportunity that came to him with both hands. He runs tirelessly, contributes plenty in defence and, more importantly, showed some end product in the final third. If Oxlade-Chamberlain does not do the same – and soon – it could spell a premature end to a promising career at Arsenal.