Arteta’s ‘faith in kids’ pays off as Arsenal reach FA Cup quarter-finals
Goals from Sokratis and Nketiah earn Gunners a 2-0 win at Portsmouth and a place in Wednesday's last-eight draw
02 March, 2020 — By Steve Barnett
FA Cup: Fifth Round
ARSENAL 2 (Sokratis 45+4, Nketiah 51)
MIKEL Arteta’s “faith in the kids” paid off tonight (Monday) as Arsenal overcame Portsmouth to book their place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
Pompey played well in the opening exchanges at Fratton Park. But Sokratis Papastathopoulos’ volley on the stroke of half time, followed by Eddie Nketiah’s bundled effort minutes after the restart, proved enough to earn the Gunners a 2-0 victory over their League One hosts.
After the game Arteta heaped praise for his young crop, singling out Reiss Nelson, who set up both of Arsenal’s goals. He said: “It’s a difficult place to come but I have faith in these kids. They always respond and I always knew they would do that.
“They have to learn from the difficult moments and manage them, but they have the talent and desire and look how hard they work.
“We have pace up front. Reiss is a special player and can eliminate players one on one. He’s been out for a while but he’s back now and he showed what he’s capable of doing.
“I’m really enjoying working with this group of players. It’s a process. I know everything has to be today or yesterday but in football it doesn’t happen like this. I’m seeing a lot of things I’m happy with but there is a lot of room to improve.”
Arteta made nine changes from the side dumped out of the Europa League by Olympiakos on Thursday, fielding a youthful looking line-up that featured six players aged 20 or under.
Pablo Mari was also handed a debut, the January loan-signing brought in to partner David Luiz in the heart of Arsenal’s defence.
Reflecting on how the pair worked together, Arteta added: “The clean sheet is really important and we defended set-pieces much better.”
One of the most experienced players in the visitors’ team was Lucas Torreira, but the midfielder lasted less than 12 minutes before being stretched off following what looked a hefty challenge from Pompey’s James Bolton.
Incredibly, referee Mike Dean didn’t even give a foul. But Dean wasted little time brandishing a yellow to Matteo Guendouzi just after the half-hour mark for dissent.
After twice being ordered to take a free-kick from the proper spot, Guendouzi theatrically picked up the ball with both hands before crashing it down to where the referee wanted it.
It resulted in a silly, albeit harsh booking, that would have become a lot more controversial had the Frenchman later been sent off for a second yellow.
On the stroke of half time, and some what out of the blue, the Gunners grabbed the lead. Nelson’s initial corner was headed clear, but only as far as Dani Ceballos, who played a quick pass back to the winger.
With a better angle, Nelson whipped it in again finding Sokratis, who side-footed home a crisp volley that any striker would have been proud of.
Just minutes after the restart Nelson was playing the role of provider again. He burst past Steve Seddon before putting in a dangerous cross, which fell nicely for Nketiah. The young striker reacted well before smashing the ball into the roof of the net to seal the 2-0 win.
The draw for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup takes place on Wednesday night at around 9.50pm, with ties being played on the weekend of March 21.
PORTSMOUTH: Bass, McCrorie, Bolton, Burgess, Seddon, Close, McGeehan, Williams, Evans (Cannon, 74), Harness (Curtis, 67), Harrison (Marquis, 67)
Substitutes not used: MacGillivray, Raggett, Whatmough, Naylor.
ARSENAL: Martinez, Sokratis, Luiz, Mari, Saka, Guendouzi, Torreira (Ceballos, 16), Nelson (Maitland-Niles, 90+1), Willock (Xhaka, 87), Martinelli, Nketiah.
Substitutes not used: Leno, Holding, Pepe, Lacazette