Football

Arsenal starlets show Mikel Arteta that the future looks bright in FA Cup triumph


Mikel Arteta is rekindling his love affair with the FA Cup as Arsenal’s kids proved their point.

Academy graduates Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah were both on target while Joe Willock provided the support act to show it is alright play the youngsters – just as long as you win.

Just 24 hours after Liverpool’s youngsters were held at Shrewsbury, Arteta also gambled on youth over experience and his showed enough maturity to survive a late scare to book their place in the fifth round.

Gunners boss Arteta won the trophy twice during his playing days with Arsenal and has already stressed the importance of a cup run to boost their season.

And it also helped provide a glimpse of Arsenal’s future, with Saka man-of-the-match as he scored and provided an assist for England under-21 striker Nketiah.

Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring Arsenal’s second goal with Bukayo Saka

But Willock also caught the eye with his energy and runs from midfield as Arsenal eased past Bournemouth to book their place in the fifth round and a trip to Portsmouth.

A good cup run can certainly lift the mood but defeat can have a similar but opposite effect and you do fear for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.

They did at least make a fight of it in the closing stages as Bournemouth substitute Sam Surridge grabbed a consolation in the fifth minute of injury time.

But despite the frantic finish, Bournemouth left it far too late to cause Arsenal problems and now they are just left to concentrate on Premier League survival.

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Howe has traditionally rested his big players in the cup but this year he has got so many injuries that virtually every player was called into action – and they were still second best.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka scores their first goal

In fact, the biggest issue for Arsenal was yet another injury at the back as Shkodran Mustafi was taken off on a stretcher in the second half.

Mustafi fell awkwardly, it looked a nasty ankle injury and he joins the casualty list which also includes Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac.

That will only heighten the need for Arsenal to get reinforcements in the January window but time is running out fast if they are to resurrect a move for Flamengo defender Pablo Mari.

But Mari has gone back to Brazil as Arsenal wanted a loan rather than a permanent £10m deal which suggests perhaps he is not really the long term solution.

However, they are finding players to fill in the gaps and Saka is doing exactly that as the 18-year-old winger-turned-full back is growing into his new role.

Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah celebrates scoring their second goal

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Saka finished off a brilliant Arsenal move after just five minutes when the visitors put together 22 passes, all 10 outfield players were involved before Willock swept the ball wide for Gabriel Martinelli to set up the goal.

England under-17s international Saka raced in and with a mix of power and precision rifled the ball into the net off the underside of the crossbar.

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Willock’s passing and drive from midfield were key for Arsenal and he was involved in the second goal after 26 minutes. This time Saka put over a low cross, Nketiah raced in and smashed the ball home. He is a born finisher.

Bournemouth were really poor but did improve after half-time but left it way too late to mount a fightback. After Mustafi’s injury and seemingly endless VAR checks, there were eight added minutes and eventually Bournemouth got one back in the 95th minute.

Substitute Simon Francis put over a cross, Surridge raced in to score and it set up a nervy finale but Arsenal were worthy winners.





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