Is FA Cup progress a distraction?
I am delighted that we made it through to the next round of the FA Cup. This competition helped the club get the “trophy monkey” of its back, and winning it for a third consecutive season would be amazing.
However, I can’t help but have doubts over our ability to sustain a title challenge, defend the Cup and progress in the Champions League. Realistically, I feel that we have a chance to make an impact in one of these competitions. If I had to pick one, it would be the Premier League.
With this in mind, progressing in the FA cup could prove an unwelcome distraction from what should be our main target. Should we fail to win the league, but secure another FA Cup trophy, it would be a bittersweet victory.
Mohammed Elneny shows potential
Elneny only managed to make the bench for the first two games when he was available to play, leading some fans to question his quality. Stoke away and Chelsea at home would have been trial by fire, so I can see why the manager decided to spare him.
After seeing him play the full game against Burnley, my early impression is mostly positive. I think he has a lot of potential. He has a good engine, was strong positionally and was somewhat unlucky to not find himself on the score sheet. Unfortunately he was pushed off the ball a few too many times – a common trait for a lot of players coming in from other, less physical leagues.
On the evidence of this game, he could prove an able understudy or partner to Coquelin, who still remains our first choice defensive midfield option. He has a lot to learn still, and will surely benefit from being around senior players like Arteta in the coming months.
Alexis provides a much needed boost
When a player is out for a while, there is a tendency to build them up as being better than they actually are. Welbeck is a perfect example of this – the longer he is injured, the more fans seem to forget that he was not a huge upgrade on Giroud, if at all.
This was certainly not the case with Alexis, who came back even better than what we had remembered. He is a rare breed of talent and application, and it is a delight to watch him play football.
He added much needed enthusiasm to the side, and was a constant danger whenever he was on the ball. The capped a wonderful performance with an unselfish assist and a decisive winning goal. Keeping him fit is going to be vital to our ability to secure silverware at the end of the season.
Fringe players play their part
One of the reasons I enjoy cup games is that it provides an opportunity to see players in action who would otherwise sit on the bench of make brief cameos in “bigger” games. This game gave us a chance to see both promising youngsters and second choice players trying to make an impact.
Chambers had a decent game at right back, and capped off an impressive performance with a wonderfully taken goal. He could have done a bit better defensively, but given he mostly played in the centre or even in midfield recently, he did well.
Iwobi also had a great game, and was unfazed by having to fill Ozil’s shoes in the coveted No. 10 position. He was involved in a lot of our counter attacks and had a hand in the build-up to both goals. While I don’t see him starting many games in the league, he could be a viable attacking option off the bench.
While it was a decent team performance, none of the fringe players really showed enough to usurp first team regulars. However, having good options for rotation in a congested run-in could give us the edge we need to compete on three fronts.
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