Four things we noticed v Portsmouth

We booked our place in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on Monday night with a hard-fought 2-0 win at Portsmouth.

Here are four things we noticed from the match at Fratton Park:


On his first appearance in seven weeks - and his first start since January 6 - Reiss Nelson had a point to prove. It must have been difficult for the England Under-21 international as he looked on from the sidelines, recovering from a hamstring injury, as fellow youngsters such as Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka took their opportunities to make a mark on their new head coach. Now back to full fitness, Nelson was clearly determined to impress here and finishing a 91-minute stint with two assists to his name will do him the world of good. Not only that, but the 20-year-old kept possession well in testing circumstances, and finished with a 93.1 per cent pass completion rate - bettered only by Matteo Guendouzi of those starting the match - and delivered 13 crosses into the box, nine more than any other player on the pitch. This may only have been a first step back and there is plenty more work to do, but Nelson can feel rightly satisfied with his evening's work.


The decision to keep Eddie Nketiah for the remainder of the season after his return from a loan spell at Leeds caught many by surprise, but it is looking to be inspired. Mikel Arteta had been impressed by the 20-year-old's performances in training, and that has translated to four starts under our head coach and three goals. The young forward's strike here showed his penalty box prowess as he reacted first, after the ball had initially struck him, to force the ball into the top corner and put the game beyond the hosts. But it was not only his work in front of goal that caught the eye, but also his energy, hold-up play and the intensity with which he pressed the Pompey backline. It was another memorable performance for another young player who is seemingly growing in stature with every passing week.


After two 45-minute run-outs for the under-23s, Pablo Mari was thrown in for his first-team debut at a noisy and windswept Fratton Park and tt was something of a baptism of fire for the Spaniard in the opening stages. Firstly, with just 90 seconds on the clock, he blocked Gareth Evans' goalbound shot, then followed it up with another block to deny Ellis Harrison, before a vital header to beat the Portsmouth striker - all before 10 minutes were on the clock. After that, as the game settled down, we saw a calm and composed performance as he won 80 per cent of his duels, won 75 per cent of his aerial duels and played 86 passes with a completion rate of 89.5 per cent. Considering the circumstances, and considering this was his first game in an Arsenal shirt, there was plenty to like about our first look at Pablo Mari.


It was some finish from Sokratis that gave us the lead at the end of a fiercely-contested first half. Ghosting into the box like a born striker, the centre back - playing at right back here - raced to towards the near post and calmly slotted the ball on the volley into the bottom corner. As you might expect, there were no histrionics from the Greek centre back as he celebrated - and why were we surprised by his cool finish? After all, the 30-year-old has scored with all three of his shots on target this season - although this was by far the most impressive of them. Aside from his goal, this was another understated but composed performance out of position on the right side of our defence, winning 71.4 per cent of his duels - bettered only by Pablo Mari - and making two tackles and two clearances. He may not enjoy the limelight, but there is huge value in a team player like Sokratis, someone happy to play out of position for the good of the team and still deliver like he did at Fratton Park.

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