Arsenal’s defence of the FA Cup began with a comfortable win over last season’s vanquished finalists.
It was the most curious of ties, played out with the energy of a practice match on the part of the visitors whilst Arsenal provided enough energy to win. A real sense of perspective on the contest with more attention focused on Jimmy Bullard’s attire on television than on events on the pitch.
No criticism should be levelled at the players; after all, winning games at a canter is only a problem if you cannot move through the gears when required. There was precious little danger of that yesterday.
Alexis Sanchez garnered praise for a tireless performance, capped off with a fine goal to seal the victory. Others put in a good night’s work as well, most notably Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla. Against lacklustre opponents, the pair asserted their creative authority on the game, giving the maestro the stage upon which to sparkle.
The concern is the toll the continuous playing is taking on the Chilean. Phil Neville may have overstated the case in claiming Alexis is carrying the team but he isn’t far off the truth. Arsene sought to allay fears that the Chilean was in the ‘Red Zone’, arguing that it was just ‘Flaming Orange’ at the moment.
We were in control and it was a positive game. We created many chances and it took us a while until the 82nd minute to get the second goal but overall I think we had a serious, positive and good collective performance.
The margin of victory might have been wider. Alexis could have scored a couple before the 82nd minute whilst Theo Walcott’s ring-rust denied him the chance to cap his return to first team action with a goal. The positive from that is his ease at making the runs to get into position. Timing will return over the coming matches.
Steve Bruce was lost for words at the paucity of Hull’s offering, a feeling intensified by the embarrassed disbelief at Per Mertesacker scoring from a corner. The resignation as he spat – I’ll paraphrase – “Conceding from a corner to them?“, suggests it will be a long hard five months if his charges don’t improve significantly in the Premier League.
Dover fans might have taunted Palace with, “You’re going down with the Leicester“; both sides will hope Hull replicate this lacklustre outing to give them hope.
Mertesacker will have enjoyed the respite from the tribulations which have haunted his season. Rarely harried in possession, he was quick to intercept in the event of Hull mustering anything which resembled an attack through the middle. Even his goal was minimal effort; a loping stride or two and a little hop off his tiptoes to guide the ball home.
It’s a match into which nothing too much can be read. Arsenal were so far superior that it was almost too easy. David Ospina had to make a couple of saves to make as the rumour mill went into overdrive that the position of first-choice custodian was his to lose.
It was a pleasant way to finish off a difficult week. Tonight’s fourth-round draw will no doubt throw out tougher tests – let’s face it, they can’t be much easier – but immediate attention turns to Stoke City’s visit at the weekend and transfer window.