Understudies Are No Match For The Real Stars
With bigger battles lying ahead on Tuesday – Arsenal’s against Barcelona and Hull’s against Ipswich – we saw both sides make a combined 19 changes between them for this clash, hardly the sort of approach which would have the FA Cup’s PR people purring.
What followed was a somewhat disjointed game which quickly developed a theme and stuck with it, an unfamiliar Arsenal XI dominating possession but failing – either through a lack of understanding or understandable hastiness – to do anything with it, versus a Hull side shorn of the attacking talents which has taken them to the top of the Championship but able, under an experienced manager like Steve Bruce, to stay solid.
There were no winners, least of all the competition.
Mohamed Elneny Fails To Shine On Aaron Ramsey’s Stage
Midfield cohesion has been an issue for Arsenal all season, and then most notably after both Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin got injured in November.
With the Frenchman one of the many rested for Barcelona here, along with Aaron Ramsey, we saw the January signing Mohamed Elneny pressed into service alongside Mathieu Flamini, but the Egyptian didn’t quite look mobile enough to be an effective replacement for his Welsh teammate.
This perhaps wasn’t so much about Wenger failing to notice the deficiencies in his midfield, but more about not wanting to risk the man who would have put them right.
Ramsey has become a better player simply by not being involved here.
Danny Welbeck Will Benefit From His Afternoon
Perhaps the only Arsenal player to benefit from what was a hugely frustrating early afternoon was Danny Welbeck, who got 66 minutes under his belt and looked sprightly enough to suggest that he’ll be a useful addition for the Gunners for the remainder of the season.
The Englishman was the hero against Leicester last weekend but will return to the bench against Barcelona, but at least he’ll be seeing this replay as a chance to play again.
Eldin Jakupovic Is An Able Deputy
Scotland’s Allan McGregor has been an ever-present for Hull in the Championship this season, and that is understandable, but when given his chance the Swiss understudy Eldin Jakupovic showed that he could probably do the same for someone else next season.
Experienced and authoritative, Jakupovic made several fine saves – most notably from Joel Campbell and Danny Welbeck – to earn this replay, and Arsenal won’t relish coming up against him back at the KC Stadium.
This is just a thought, and it clearly has to have a lot more thinking time put into it that pieces such as this demand, but given that everyone suddenly seems to be down on FA Cup replays, how about inventing a system in which they are elective?
How about, before the game, if Arsenal and Hull agreed to go to extra-time and penalties if the match had finished level? If one didn’t want that, then it would go to a replay.
If this was adopted across the whole of the FA Cup then you’d still get the fairytale replays that we saw for the likes of Exeter City at Anfield this season and Cambridge United at Old Trafford last, which are so vital to those clubs’ finances, but then you’d avoid replaying matches such as this one.
Just a thought.
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