The Gunners had plenty of chances in the fifth round of the FA Cup but couldn’t finish the job in the goalless draw with Hull on Saturday. The subsequent replay means a fixture congestion that could hurt Arsenal in the race for the Premier League title.
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Wenger rested his key players by leaving Cech, Ramsey and Ozil out of the squad while Monreal, Bellerin and Coquelin stayed on the bench. Sanchez, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain played the last 20-25 minutes of the game but couldn’t make the difference in the final third. We definitely need to improve our finishing if we want to pip Leicester and Tottenham to the post.
Arsenal couldn’t find the net despite 24 goal attempts and a shooting accuracy of 61.1%, which is decent. Jakupovic really pulled off two outstanding saves, tipping Campbell’s free kick onto the far post in the 54th minute and turning Welbeck’s curling shot around the post in the 63rd. He also made two saves that you would expect from a decent goalkeeper, parrying Welbeck’s angled effort in the 16th and stopping with his leg Walcott’s angled strike in the 28th. The Gunners did their best on those four chances.
On the other hand, I thought they poorly placed the ball on four other chances. Welbeck met Walcott’s cross in the 12th to head the ball straight at Jakupovic from seven yards. Two minutes later, Walcott curled a tame shot straight into the goalkeeper’s arms. In the second half, the Gunners shot toward the middle of the net again. Stopping Walcott’s first-time effort from 10 yards in the 47th and Sanchez’s free kick in stoppage time proved routine saves for the Hull goalie.
Two penalty appeals
There was also the issue of composure in front of goal with Iwobi having none of his three shots on target and the Ox firing a half-volley wide in the 87th. Finishing is a tricky business. Obviously, you want to test the goalie by catching the frame first. But you don’t want to make it too easy for him and therefore you aim at the corners, which is technically tough.
Actually, we wouldn’t even be talking about Arsenal’s wastefulness if the referee had awarded the hosts two penalties. Bruce deliberately blocked Elneny’s first-time effort with his arm in the eighth minute and Meyler clearly brought down Chambers with a mistimed tackle in the 52nd. At least, Dean was smart enough to book Maguire in the 31st for a blatant dive inside the Arsenal area.
The Tigers often sat deep to deny space and only threatened on the fast break. Koscielny was booked in the 41st for killing a counterattack with a foul on Diomande. Hull substitute Aluko then tested Ospina in the 87th but was flagged for a marginal offside.
Elneny performed better than in the previous round against Burnley. He cut his turnover rate by quickly releasing the ball and won 2 of 3 tackles and 50% of his duels. He also made 96 passes, the most for an Arsenal player, and had two shot assists. In a nutshell, Elneny is a decent back-up option, but he’s not at the level of Coquelin or Ramsey yet. Elneny does not have Coquelin’s tactical discipline and ability to win duels, while Ramsey is a bigger goal threat than the Egypt midfielder.
Sanchez’s poor cameo
Iwobi had a decent game but did not shine as much as in the two previous rounds of the FA Cup. Inconsistency is normal for a teenager. His percentage of duels won is still weak. It would make sense to loan him out to a Championship side next season so that he can improve the physical part of his game.
Welbeck seemed sharp on Saturday. However, I don’t think a match against a makeshift Hull side can be as intense as a Premier League game. Remember, Sanchez scored in the 2-1 win over Burnley last month but is still struggling to rediscover his form in the league. Sanchez replaced Welbeck in the 67th on the left wing and produced a poor cameo with a passing accuracy of 40% and just 1 of 3 shots on target. That must a confidence issue because the Chile striker has enjoyed a lot of playing time since his return from a hamstring injury.
Some fans are excited about the Champions League game against Barcelona on Tuesday. Well, I believe that competition should be the least of our priorities simply because we have weaknesses in some key positions and we currently lack the depth to compete on three fronts. The more important game is definitely the trip to Old Trafford next Sunday. A victory over Manchester United would help us put pressure on Leicester whereas a draw would make us depend even more on their results.