Saturday, 28 January 2017

Theo Walcott hat-trick helps Arsenal into last 16 of FA Cup

Arsenal have booked their spot in the last 16 of the FA Cup by comfortably seeing off fellow Premier League side Southampton 5-0 at St Mary's Stadium.

Both teams showed 10 changes apiece from last time out but it was the Gunners who eased their way to victory, secured thanks to two goals from Danny Welbeck and three from Theo Walcott on their respective returns from injury.

Welbeck bagged his first brace in this competition with less than a quarter of the game played, on what was his first start in 265 days, while Walcott - out for the past month - ensured that his side avenged their 4-0 thrashing here 13 months ago by adding three of his own in the remaining time.

There was a sign of things to come for the hosts pretty much from the off, as the lively Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were both picked out in good positions inside the opening five minutes.

Neither player could make their shots count, but Welbeck had no such trouble soon after as he rounded off a 16-pass move by finding the net via the crossbar to put Arsenal ahead.

A second for the Englishman was not long coming, either, as he this time latched on to a ball over the top from Oxlade-Chamberlain and rather scuffed his shot under the body of Harry Lewis.

That finally sparked some sort of response from Southampton, who saw a Shane Long strike kept out by an otherwise untested David Ospina and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg volley over the bar from a good position.

The Gunners may have taken their foot off the gas slightly but, moments after Shkodran Mustafi - the one survivor from last time out - glanced wide from close range, Walcott prodded the ball home after being picked out by two-goal Welbeck.

Ominously for the home side, Arsenal were quick to click into gear in the second half and they remained on top throughout, without troubling Lewis on too many occasions until the final quarter. 

Hector Bellerin sent a shot down the middle for the youngster to keep out, but the next attempt did not arrive until 21 minutes from time when Walcott found a way through for his second of the evening.

It was a near-instant impact from Alexis Sanchez, who came off the bench and picked out his teammate to sweep the fourth of the match into the back of the net and signal the end of the contest for good.

There was still time for Walcott to register a hat-trick against his former club - his fifth for Arsenal - by getting on the end of a nicely-weighted pass from Sanchez to tuck past Lewis, who perhaps could have done better to keep it out.

Lucas Perez should have added a sixth in the final minutes, only to be denied by Lewis in this more one-sided repeat of the 2003 final between the two sides in Cardiff.

A sixth successive away win in this famous competition for the first time in Arsenal's history was never in doubt, as the Saints failed to find any sort of response to see their mini-resurgence come to a halt.

Ray Parlour is confident of an Arsenal victory in today's game against Southampton

Ray Parlour is confident Arsenal can capitalise on Virgil van Dijk’s injury and beat Southampton in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Saturday evening.

The Gunners were 2-1 winners against Burnley last weekend in dramatic fashion after Alexis Sanchez scored a late winner from the penalty spot following Andre Grey’s added-time equaliser from the spot.

Southampton suffered a blow during the 3-0 win against Leicester City after star defender Van Dijk picked up a serious ankle injury which is set to sideline the centre-half for a few weeks.

The Saints managed to dig deep and book their place in the EFL Cup final, though, easing to a 2-0 aggregate win against Liverpool in the last four.

Indeed, Republic of Ireland international Shane Long scored an added-time winner to seal a 1-0 win at Anfield on Wednesday night.

Speaking to the Alan Brazil Up Front podcast, ex-Arsenal midfielder Parlour claimed that Van Dijk’s absence could prove the difference in the fourth-round clash at St Mary’s on Saturday evening.

“I’m going Arsenal with Virgil van Dijk being out. I’m going Arsenal to win. They’re a good cup team,” Parlour said.

Claude Puel has a lot of respect for former manager Arsene Wenger

Claude Puel is eagerly awaiting the chance to lock horns with managerial mentor Arsene Wenger once more as Arsenal travel to Southampton in the FA Cup.

Wenger coached Puel at AS Monaco between 1987 and 1995, the pair winning the Ligue 1 title in the now-Arsenal manager’s debut season.

In two meetings as Premier League managers so far results have been balanced, Arsenal winning in the league and Southampton knocking the Gunners out of the EFL Cup at the quarter-final stage in November.

On both occasions Southampton proved formidable opponents for Arsenal, with only a last-minute penalty from Santi Cazorla securing all three points for Wenger’s men when the two sides met at the Emirates in September.

When the Saints visited the Emirates in the EFL Cup in November they were even more impressive, Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand securing a comfortable 2-0 win.

“I have a lot of respect for my former trainer,”Puel said. “It’s a pleasure to see him again – for the first game in the EFL Cup it was a good thing for us.

“I imagine he’ll come to Southampton with a strong will to take a good result. All the competition is on the pitch, off the pitch I respect Arsene Wenger a lot.”

Arsenal travel to the south coast without the suspended Granit Xhaka and injured Santi Cazorla but with former Southampton forward Theo Walcott back in the squad after over a month out with a calf injury.

Wenger’s numbers have also been swelled by the returning Danny Welbeck, Kieran Gibbs and Hector Bellerin whilst Puel noted his own sizeable injury list, the second longest in the Premier League.

Arsene Wenger has been handed a four-game touchline ban

Arsene Wenger has received a four-game touchline ban from the Football Association.

During added-on time of his side's fixture with Burnley on Sunday afternoon, Wenger was dismissed from the dugout for his reaction to the Clarets being awarded a penalty, before pushing the fourth official as he refused to walk down the tunnel.

Wenger later apologised for his actions but he was soon hit with a misconduct charge from the FA, and it has now been revealed that Wenger will spend four matches in the stands.

It means that Wenger will be absent from the dugout for the games with Southampton, Watford, Chelsea and Hull City, with the Frenchman not due back on the bench until a potential fifth round fixture in the FA Cup.

Wenger has also been handed a fine of £25,000 as a consequence of the incident.