Result: Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal
Competition: FA Cup
Date: 18 January 2020
Venue: Vitality Stadium
Arsenal: Martinez, Bellerin, Mustafi, Sokratis, Saka, Guendouzi, Xhaka, Pepe, Willock, Martinelli, Nketiah
Subs: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Torreira, Ceballos, Ozil, Lacazette
Arsenal will face Portsmouth in the last-16 of the FA Cup after securing a 2-1 win against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
Man-of-the-match Bukayo Saka scored and then assisted Eddie Nketiah in a dominant first half showing as the Gunners youngsters repaid the faith shown in them by Mikel Arteta.
The home side threatened to take the tie to an unlikely replay when substitute Sam Surridge grabbed a goal back in stoppage time but the visitors held tight.
Martinez came in for Leno between the sticks, Sokratis, back from illness, took over from the suspended David Luiz with Saka and Bellerin getting more minues at full-back. In the centre of the park, Torreira was given a breather meaning Guendouzi partnered Xhaka and Willock started behind a three-man attack of Pepe, Martinelli and Nketiah. A relatively experienced bench included Ceballos, who has been linked with a return to Spain.
It didn’t take long for us to find our rhythm.
One of the benefits of playing a winger at left-back is that when they’re in front of goal, you back them to score. That’s exactly what Bukayo Saka did after five minutes when he crashed the ball home off the crossbar after a slick 22-pass move that culminated with Pepe, Willock and Martinelli working possession across field. The 18-year-old celebrated his third goal of the season with a chest bump from the Brazilian. (1-0)
Eddie Howe’s side have been on a terrible run in recent weeks and despite a morale-boosting 3-1 win against Brighton last week they looked short of confidence. It’s been rare for any side to afford us so much time on the ball this season. Whenever the opportunity arose, Xhaka would tuck in at left-back allowing Saka to roam free on the left. Switching play with long diagonals was another feature that worked well for us.
Willock had a chance to double the lead on 19 minutes when he rolled his man to wriggle free in the box. Travers made a stop at close quarters and the rebound bounced clear. It was a temporary reprieve for the Cherries.
When the second goal came on 26 minutes, it was straight from the Academy training field. Nketiah and Willock worked the ball to Saka who found Nketiah inside the six-yard box for a tap in. It was a lovely move. VAR took a couple of minutes to check for an offside against Martinelli who had made a clever near post run but the goal, quite rightly, stood. Opta later revealed it was the third game this season that Saka had bagged a goal and assist in the same game. On Twitter, Borussia Dortmund’s teen sensation, Jadon Sancho, voiced his approval. (2-0)
Harry Wilson drew a good save from Martinez on 37 minutes but inside 10 seconds Martinelli had carried the ball into the Bournemouth box. A Willock shot was blocked and looped into the hands of Travers. The Brazilian’s ability to carry the ball at pace is such a boon.
After their insipid first half showing, the home side were obviously told to have a go. The game got scrappy with Guendouzi doing his best to single-handedly break up any momentum with a series of niggly fouls. Unsurprisingly, he became the pantomime villain.
Injuries to Martinelli and Mustafi further slowed things. The German, who’d had a solid game, collided with Martinez trying to clear a long ball and fell awkwardly on his ankle. It looked nasty and he was stretchered off to be replaced by Holding.
As Arsenal legs started to lag, we conceded more fouls in dangerous positions. It was reminiscent of the game at Crystal Palace earlier this month, another that we’d initially dominated. Martinez made a real hash trying to punch a corner clear and he was lucky that the ball went wide when it came off Simpson’s head.
As the rain started to pour down, Arteta made a second change, switching Pepe for the lesser-spotted Ceballos. Willock moved to the right as the Spaniard took up a central position. We started to play again which dampened expectations on the terraces.
The game descended into a series of comical, albeit painful, collisions that saw Bellerin, Saka, Gosling, Sokratis and Cook all require treatment in the space of seven minutes. The boys in yellow were dissuaded from taking it easy in the closing stages by Arteta who prowled the touchline barking instructions.
Eight minutes of stoppage time made for an extended evening. Annoyingly, the home side reduced the deficit. A teasing ball from the right was curled into the box and Surridge, on as a substitute, took the ball round Martinez before tapping home. (2-1)
There were still four minutes remaining, to which a further two were added because of another VAR intervention. Lewis Cook, in the 100th minute, had one final chance to force a replay in the winter break but he skied over from the edge of the box.