A decent team performance enabled Arsenal to end Hull’s FA Cup dream for the second time in eight months, although neither side bore any relation to those that fought out the Final at Wembley last May. We called in David Ospina, Hector Bellerin, Nacho Monreal, Joel Campbell, and Theo Walcott (Good to see him starting a year to the day since sustaining his injury against the neighbours). Hull went further and made ten changes from their New Year’s Day win over Everton.
Both sides started brightly and we should perhaps have been ahead as early as the fourth minute when Alexis Sanchez put Campbell through but Harper saved with his right foot.
Francis Coquelin’s nasty looking challenge on Quinn after ten minutes might have resulted in a yellow card in different circumstances, and the Frenchman should be particularly grateful given he did eventually pick up a deserved card for a lunge on Maguire in the closing stages. Otherwise he did an impressive job in front of the back four although Hull could hardly be described as particularly creative in this area.
Per Mertesacker, skipper in the ongoing absence of Mikel Arteta, did open our account. Alexis, who had twice gone close himself shortly beforehand, finally planted a corner on the German’s head and the BFG wheeled away in delight. Both players were making their twenty-seventh appearance of the season and yet it is popular for some to be critical of the World Cup winner while pleading for a rest for Alexis. Arsene confirmed afterwards that the Chilean had refused a rest and wanted to play. Thank goodness.
Two minutes later Alexis was set up by Tomas Rosicky but McShane recovered brilliantly to slide the ball away for a corner, from which the post denied us a second goal.
McShane was booked for a high boot on Nacho Monreal as the half drew to a close. It is probably fair to say that with two-thirds possession of the ball we should probably have gone in with a bigger advantage and when we started slowly in the second-half the advantage looked a slender one.
Gradually though we awoke from our temporary slumbers. In the 66th minute Alexis was denied by Maguire’s block and a minute later Theo missed a golden opportunity to double our advantage, flicking wide went sent clear by the industrious Chilean.
On 73 minutes Coquelin’s superb through ball presented another opportunity to Walcott but he hasn’t yet got the sharpness, understandably, to convert those opportunities. A couple of minutes later he made way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and departed to a warm ovation from supporters delighted to see him back, finally.
We finally put the tie out of Hull’s reach in the 82nd minute, and what a finish it was from Alexis (who else) although credit Santi Cazorla for the assist. When those two played in close proximity we looked different class, although sterner challenges await. The ‘holic pound required a response at this point, but the only effort Hull could muster was Huddlestone’s effort which was comfortably saved by Ospina. Full marks for concentration because the ‘keeper was not overworked today.
So we are in the hat for the draw for the last thirty-two. Can we successfully defend the trophy? We need some of the walking wounded to return. Olivier Giroud will be back next week, and hopefully Mesut Ozil is close. Just as well given the knocks that Campbell and the Ox took towards the end of the game today.
A little Bunnahabhain is in order tonight, methinks.