Football Features

Guendouzi’s “moment of petulance raises more questions” – Five things learned as Arsenal beat Portsmouth to reach FA Cup quarter-finals

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:00, 2 March 2020

Arsenal have booked a place in this season’s FA Cup quarter-final after running out 2-0 winners at Portsmouth.

Mikel Arteta’s men secured progression during a six-minute spell either side of half-time with the hosts ruing their failure to capitalise when on top in the early stages.

The Gunners had lost Lucas Torreira early on after he collided with Pompey defender James Bolton, but rallied and were rewarded when Sokratis put them in front on the stroke of half-time following a corner. Minutes after the game resumed Eddie Nketiah cleverly finished to once again get himself on the scoresheet.

As the dust begins to settle, here are five things we learned from this encounter.

1. Sokratis ends the streak

Heading into this game the Gunners weren’t exactly troubling the scorers in this season’s FA Cup, their previous two outings against Leeds United (home) and Bournemouth (away) yielded only three goals. But it was the identity of those scorers which undoubtedly delighted manager Mikel Arteta who, since taking over the reigns in north London, is seeking to live up to the club’s reputation of promoting from within.

Eddie Nketiah, returning from a loan spell at Leeds, would score in both games with temporary left-back Bukayo Saka grabbing the other against Bournemouth, meaning their goals before Monday were exclusively registered by English players under the age of 21. Both started at Fratton Park but that pesky veteran centre-back Sokratis would break the streak courtesy of a stunning volley from a Reiss Nelson cross just before half-time.

2. Pompey lay siege but can’t penetrate

Although no fewer than 34 places separate Portsmouth and Arsenal in the English football pyramid, you couldn’t tell when the League One outfit, for large spells, gave their Premier League opposition something to really think about.

Carried by their vocal support, Kenny Jackett’s men would regularly visit the Gunners’ final third, but lacked that sharpness (which an Olympiacos would possess for example). And despite attempting 11 shots on Emiliano Martínez’s goal, with the bulk (four) coming from midfielder Gareth Evans, just one managed to be on target.

3. Arteta will not be proud

There was a surprise omission from Arsenal’s matchday squad following the recent winter break. Arteta, who in February supervised a hard-fought 4-0 win over Newcastle United, hinted afterwards that behavioural issues were behind Matteo Guendouzi’s absence. The young French midfielder and his manager have since cleared the air but you can’t imagine the reason behind his unnecessary booking in tonight’s game would go down well.

Guendouzi, who wears his heart on his sleeve for all to see, was shown a yellow by Mike Dean in the 35th minute after being adjudged for behaving unsportingly when placing the ball down in a sarcastic manner when told the Gunners had taken a free-kick too quickly. This moment of petulance, though, raises more questions over his attitude.

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4. Nketiah’s run continues

Sokratis might have broken one streak involving Nketiah, but another continued when the 20-year-old forward doubled Arsenal’s lead six minutes after the break. It was a clever finish — with Nelson again the creator — befitting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who he must be learning so much from in training.

This strike, his sixth for the club, means he’s now registered a goal in his last four domestic cup appearances which stretches into that aforementioned loan spell at Leeds. Being in this rich vein of form you can see Nketiah starting their upcoming quarter-final, barring any unforeseen setbacks.

5. Avoiding banana skin

Arsenal’s away shirt is clearly inspired by the bruised banana jersey worn in the early 1990s and it was back in January 1992, when donning that now legendary kit, fourth division Wrexham (2-1) got the better of them. History wasn’t going to repeat itself this evening. Since that “cupset” they’ve now progressed from their last 13 ties against sides from the third tier or lower.

It’s a run that will not be extended or placed under further threat this season as the remaining teams play in English football’s top two leagues. Given the club’s recent record — winning half of the last six finals — plus Arteta being part of Pep Guardiola’s winning backroom staff last season, don’t be surprised if this young and impressionable side goes all the way.