Arsenal will be the focus of the famous Amazon documentary series All or Nothing. The documentary will cover the inner workings of the club across the 2020/21 season, giving fans an insight into the work behind the scenes and also and the kind of preparation required for senior football.
Previous All or Nothing documentaries have focused on Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus, the Brazilian national team and Tottenham Hotspur, with Mikel Arteta contributing greatly to the former during his tenure as Manchester City coach.
The documentary series grants a rare, unprecedented level of insight into the inner-workings of the club. Though fans will be treated to seeing how the players and manager prepare for games and an exclusive look at half-time teamtalks, the documentary will also show the work of other important figures at the club, such as Josh Kroenke, Vinai Venkatesham, Edu Gaspar and Per Mertesacker.
The documentary will be filmed across the course of the season and will likely be shown in its entirety at the end of the season in May, exclusively on the Amazon Prime video subscription service.
All or Nothing: Arsenal will be produced by 72 Films, executive produced by Mark Raphael, Clare Cameron and three-time BAFTA winner John Douglas.
Dan Grabiner, Head of UK Originals at Amazon Studios said: “Arsenal is a historic club going through a fascinating period, and we can’t wait to take viewers behind-the-scenes on the journey of this crucial season. All or Nothing is about intimate access to the passion and commitment behind elite sport, and in Arsenal we have the perfect subject for the next chapter. We are looking forward to Prime members around the world experiencing another Premier League season with a new club, through All or Nothing’s signature quality storytelling and access.”
While such unprecedented access to the club is certainly an enticing thought for fans, it is nevertheless a cause for concern. Documentaries of this nature are almost always a “tell-all” kind of scenario that usually leaves no stone unturned and in the case of a disappointing season, often becomes a central hub for memes and unnecessary insight into the way the team works.
There is also something sacred about the dressing room atmosphere. Mikel Arteta’s half-time team talks being broadcast for everyone to see, while fascinating, also provides people with insights into how the team works and what sort of tactics the team are likely to use, which is usually best kept behind the curtain.
Much like a magician revealing how he did his trick, some things are perhaps left behind the scenes.
We are looking forward to giving our fans around the world a unique insight into how we work day to day. We have one of the biggest global followings in the game and one consistent thing we hear from fans is their desire to see more about what happens behind closed doors at the club, All or Nothing will give our fans and sport lovers an opportunity to learn more about what makes Arsenal such a special club, our trophy laden history and our ambitions for future success.”
Mark Gonnella – Arsenal’s Media and Communications Director
However, one fascinating question remains, who will narrate the series? Manchester City’s documentary had Ben Kinglsey, where Tottenham had Tom Hardy, so who will narrate Arsenal’s?
Arsenal are not short on celebrity fans, with JAY-Z, Piers Morgan, Dido, Idris Elba, Roger Daltry, Prince Harry, Roger Waters, Mick Jagger and the Queen are all Arsenal fans, though any royal inclusion seems unlikely, if not impossible.
The beginning of the transfer window has seen the usual flurry of transfer rumours swirl around the club as Arsenal begin their preparations for the 2021/22 Premier League season. The club faces its first season without European football of any kind, for nearly 25 years and now have the unenviable task of mounting a push to get back into the Champions League for the first time since 2017.
Preparations for the new campaign will begin on the 8th of July, when the Arsenal squad returns from their holidays, though there will be a few notable exceptions; Kieran Tierney, Bernd Leno, Bukayo Saka and Granit Xhaka will all be either on holiday or (hopefully) continuing their excursions at EURO 2020. Meanwhile, Lucas Torreira is unlikely to feature owing to his involvement at the Copa América and as he will likely be sold; meanwhile, both Gabriel Magalhães and Gabriel Martinelli are likely to miss the start of the season, owing to their involvement in the Olympics.
Aside from this, there is also a hope that Arsenal will have new signings Nuno Tavares, who is expected to be announced in the coming days, following his successful medical in Portugal, and Albert Sambi Lokonga, who’s move from RSC Anderlecht edges ever closer. Also on the transfer front, is the situation of Brighton defender, Ben White. Though a deal is yet to be struck with Brighton for the England international, it is thought that Arsenal are likely to have the player signed up and a part of the first-team squad after the EUROs are over, though like Saka, Xhaka, Torreira, Tierney and Leno, he will likely require a holiday before joining up with Mikel Arteta’s squad.
Given the absence of Gabriel, Pablo Marí likely will partner one of Rob Holding and Ben White on the opening day of the season. William Saliba would have been in with a chance, though his impending loan move to Marseille means that Arsenal will likely only have one defender to choose from, two if White signs.
Meanwhile, Arsenal’s attention will also likely be drawn to the other members of the squad that need to be attended to. Lucas Torreira, Granit Xhaka and Mattéo Guendouzi are all expected to depart the club this summer, with the futures of Joe Willock, Eddie Nketiah, Sead Kolašinac and Alexandre Lacazette still yet to be sorted out.
Arsenal are unlikely to commit to any further deals until they have managed to shift one or two players along the way; not for financial reasons (though these will likely still help) but mainly to help trim the fat of such a big squad. Though rumours have persisted recently that the club has made an opening bid of around €40m for Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, sources at the club deny that such a bid has been lodged, despite the assurances of Sassuolo president Giovanni Carnevali that Arsenal’s bid is “significant”, though Arsenal do hold a significant interest in the player and will likely lie in wait for the midfielder waiting to pounce properly if Juventus are unable to agree a fee with Sassuolo, however, given the relationship between the two clubs and the player’s desire to play for la Vecchia Signora, it seems unlikely that Arsenal will be in the running.
Though Locatelli would likely be a very attractive signing for Arsenal fans, Rúben Neves of Wolves is thought to be a more immediate replacement for Xhaka.
The new season is also likely to see Arteta finally adopt the 4-3-3 formation that he has wanted to play since he arrived at the club. This would mean that Partey, Neves and Locatelli (if Arsenal were to procure both players) would play in the Arsenal midfield. A very tasty option if Arsenal can pull it off, but given that Neves is likely to cost around £30m and Locatelli around £34m, coupled with the impending arrival of Lokonga for £20m, an £84m outlay for the midfield seems a fairly unlikely undertaking.
Another issue still yet to be resolved is the future of Emile Smith Rowe. Though Arsenal sources remain outwardly confident that the youngster will sign a new contract with the club, there is still a fair amount of anxiety among Arsenal fans as talks drag on even further. Reports suggest that Smith Rowe will not sign his deal until his holidays are over, however, the news that Aston Villa have made two seperate bids of £25m and £30m respectively is causing a fair amount of unease. Whether these are just inventions of an agent looking to ensure a rise in the wages that the club would need to offer Smith Rowe or are genuine bids, these are still worrying times.
Arsenal have maintained on multiple occasions that they will accept no less than £75m for the Hale End graduate, though Villa seem undeterred by Arsenal’s stance and may yet return with a third bid.
As for creativity, Arsenal are still in the market for a creative attacker who can relieve some of the workload for Smith Rowe. Mikel Arteta’s first-choice was Martin Ødegaard from Real Madrid, who spent the past six months on loan with the club, though the chances of Ødgeaard returning to Arsenal look slim, especially given his most recent Instagram post and with Carlo Ancelotti reportedly keen on giving the youngster a chance to prove himself.
Other targets have been mooted, such as Leicester City’s James Maddison, though his price tag is likely to be an obstacle for the club. There haven’t been any concrete links to other names, although the club’s long-standing interest in Julian Brandt, Houssem Aouar and Christopher Nkunku are known, it remains to be seen if Arsenal will move for any of them in the forthcoming window. Arsenal failed in a bid for Aouar last summer, though may be tempted to return this summer if the leaks regarding Lyon’s financial situation are true and if Arsenal are unable to land any of their prime targets before the end of the window.
Then there is the club’s rather worrying homegrown quota. Though Ben White is likely to be joining, the club are likely to sell Joe Willock, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson this summer, which would see four homegrown players leave the club. The club have identified Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale as someone who can not only become the club’s second-choice goalkeeper, but one who can also provide healthy competition for Bernd Leno, though Ramsdale has mainly been targeted as he would provide additional cover for the club’s homegrown quota, though his price may again prove too costly and Arsenal make look elsewhere, with Brentford’s David Raya and West Brom’s Sam Johnstone both admired by the club.
In terms of the youth players coming through this season, Arsenal will likely hand more chances to Folarian Balogun, who recently signed a new long-term contract with the club and will also likely hand some minutes to Miguel Azeez as well, who has also caught the manager’s eye in recent months. Though it is unlikely that Arsenal will rely on both too heavily, they will provide useful cover for the future.
Over the next few weeks, Arsenal will play a series of friendlies with games against Hibernian, Rangers, Inter Milan, Everton or Millonarios, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, which will provide useful glimpses at competitive football before the Premier League season starts on Friday the 13th of August.
The lack of European football in the calendar is a very unwelcome sight for Arsenal fans, but may prove to be a blessing in disguise. Without a European fixture taking up a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday night, Arsenal will have ample chances to recover for their next few games. Small comfort, especially when the League Cup (assuming Arsenal get far enough) and the FA Cup fully kick in.
There will also be a distinct lack of experience at the club this season as well. Following the expiration of their contracts, Shkodran Mustafi and David Luiz have since left the club, but so too have Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Mesut Özil, both of whom departed in the January window amid a shroud of controversy. Though Arsenal have been known to supplement any younger signings with older players, the club’s recent transfer strategy suggests that Arsenal are aiming for younger players this time around and although stalwarts such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Mohamed Elneny, Thomas Partey, Willian, Rob Holding, Bernd Leno, Pablo Marí and Cédric Soares are all on hand to provide first-hand experience for those who need it, it does look as though Arsenal will be entering the season with a distinctly younger squad than most of their competitors.
The forward line is also an area that will need to greatly improve this season. Though no major departures are expected, Arsenal will be hoping that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has been training in Greece with A.O. Mykonos’ academy side, will find form once more. The future of Willian is also one of great interest to Arsenal fans too as the Brazilian has already priced himself out of a move to Inter Miami, with club, fans and player all keen to see an end to the former Chelsea winger’s time with the club.
Then there is also the issue of a right-back. While Héctor Bellerín is expected to leave the club this summer amid interest from Spain, Italy and France, Arsenal will need to move for a right-back before the season starts. Calum Chambers deputised impressively in the position last season, but is clearly not the favourite to start there regularly. This could prompt a move for RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, who Arsenal are reportedly keen on. Adams’ ability to play as a holding midfielder as well as a right-back will make him a very enticing target for Arsenal.
If Arsenal are able to land all of their primary targets this summer, then a 4-3-3 shouldn’t be out of the question, but a 4-2-3-1 is a more likely formation on the opening day of the season.
The fixtures for the 2021/2022 season have finally been announced. Mikel Arteta’s side ended last season in a very poor manner, failing ti qualify for a European competition for the first time in 25 years.
With new boys Brentford, Norwich and Watford now in the Premier League, the fixtures have been announced.
Depending on Arsenal’s progress in the remaining two competitions, the League Cup and the FA Cup, the fixtures are subject to change, as well as their opponents’ progress.
Looking at Arsenal’s opening three matches, the need to strengthen in the transfer market is more pressing than ever.
August 2021 14th: Brentford (A) 21st: Chelsea (H) 28th: Manchester City (A)
September 2021 10th: Burnley (A) 11th: Norwich (H) 25th: Tottenham Hotspur (H)
October 2021 2nd: Brighton & Hove Albion (A) 16th: Crystal Palace (H) 23rd: Aston Villa (H) 30th: Leicester City (A)
November 2021 6th: Watford (H) 20th: Liverpool (A) 27th: Newcastle United (H) 30th: Manchester United (A)
December 2021 4th: Everton (A) 11th: Southampton (H) 14th: West Ham United (H) 18th: Leeds United (A) 26th: Norwich City (A) 28th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
January 2022 1st: Manchester City (H) 15th: Tottenham Hotspur (A) 22nd: Burnley (H)
February 2022 8th: Wolverhampton Wanderers (A) 12th: Chelsea (A) 19th: Brentford (H) 26th: Liverpool (H)
March 2022 5th: Watford (A) 12th: Leicester City (H) 19th: Aston Villa (A)
April 2022 2nd: Crystal Palace (A) 9th: Brighton & Hove Albion (H) 16th: Southampton (A) 23rd: Manchester United (H) 30th: West Ham United (A)
May 2022 7th: Leeds United (H) 15th: Newcastle United (A) 22nd: Everton (H)
Arsenal have been announced as one of the 12 forming members of the European Super League, which was announced in a statement on Sunday evening.
A European Super League has been in the offing for a while now, with Europe’s top clubs having been disgruntled with the officiating from the top leagues, FIFA and UEFA for a while now.
The other founding members of the league are:
Arsenal released a statement late on Sunday revealing their part in the organisation of the league. In the statement, Arsenal announced their hope for discussions with the football governing bodies FIFA & UEFA in order to find an agreement.
What is the European Super League? The European Super League is a league that contains the biggest clubs in Europe for a mid-week competition, which is governed by the founding members of the league.
In a statement released by the European Super League, “a further three clubs will join ahead of the inaugural season, which is intended to commence as soon as practicable”.
How will the league work? In addition to the existing fifteen, there will be five other teams who will qualify for the league every season. The games will be played midweek in home and away fixtures, and are expected to replace the existing UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League.
The league is expected to start in August, with teams playing in groups of ten, with the top three in each group automatically qualifying for the quarter-finals of the competition, while teams finishing in fourth and fifth will compete for the remaining quarter-final spots.
From there, a two-legged format will follow, which will then lead to a final in May played at a neutral venue.
It is also rumoured that the founding clubs will not be relegated from the league for a minimum of fifteen years.
Will Arsenal still be able to play in the Premier League? While the league’s founders have said that they plan to “…preserve the traditional domestic match calendar which remains at the heart of the game”, FIFA, UEFA and the official domestic league bodies have said that this will not be the case.
In fact, the blowout from the creation of the league could cause significant ripples throughout football. If such a league were created, Arsenal, along with the other fourteen teams, could see themselves kicked out of the Premier League, the League Cup, the FA Cup, the Champions League and the Europa League, as well as any European Super Cup games and the FIFA Club World Cup.
Another significant issue, is that players playing their football at one of the fifteen clubs in the European Super League, could find themselves banned from playing in any international competitions as well and will be served lifetime bans.
Whether or not these threats are followed through, remains to be seen.
Why is this league being created? The somewhat precarious nature of the founding member’s finances in recent years have forced them into action. Also, the prospect of more money is far too alluring to turn down.
For many of the founding members, there are a number of financial issues. Barcelona and Real Madrid both find themselves in dire straits financially as a result of poor investments and the COVID-19 pandemic, Tottenham Hotspur have only recently begun playing in a new stadium estimated to cost them anywhere between £800m and £1bn and AC Milan are still clearing up the financial mess of their previous ownership.
The aforementioned COVID-19 pandemic has likely accelerated plans for the league as clubs are beginning to see their bottom line grow smaller and smaller with each passing season.
Outside of the usual financial reasons, the European elite’s issues with FIFA and UEFA has long been a point of contention, with the soon-to-be announced Champions League reforms reportedly upsetting many of the Super League’s founding members.
The prospect of controlling a league/knockout-format competition, with more money and the guarantee of no relegation for founding members within the first fifteen years or so is another tempting offer.
Do any clubs oppose the idea? Though there has been no official statement from any of the clubs talking about the idea, it is thought that Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain strongly oppose the idea. Borussia Dortmund also confirmed in a statement today that they too will not be taking part in the Super League.
Though neither club has released a statement or made any comment in the press about the idea, their unwillingness to join is shown by their absence in the founding members list, though they could be in the list of the unnamed three.
Who has spoken about it? The notoriously quiet Stan Kroenke has so far been unavailable for comment on the situation, however, Florentino Pérez, President of Real Madrid believes that the league “…will help football at every level”.
Joel Glazer of Manchester United has echoed Pérez’s statement and has spoken about the impact of wider financial support for the wider footballing pyramid.
Meanwhile, Andrea Agnelli, the Chairman of Juventus released a statement of his own speaking of the league’s importance and has resigned as Chairman of the ECA (European Club Association) and the UEFA Executive Committee.
What are the clubs doing? At the time of this article being published, there are no concrete reports of anything happening beyond the initial statements being made.
It has been reported that Liverpool are the first team to depart from the ECA, which would mean that they could no longer participate in the Champions League or Europa League, though this is still unconfirmed.
What does this mean for Arsenal’s Europa League? For now, Arsenal will continue their Europa League journey until either the competition ends or until Arsenal are knocked out, whichever happens first.
It was thought that Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, the only remaining English teams in European competitions this season, would no longer be permitted to complete their European exploits, however, it has since been announced by UEFA that they will be allowed to compete as normal.
How much would Arsenal make from the European Super League? While no figures have been formally announced, and likely won’t be, it is reported that the founding clubs will recieve around €3.5bn, which will be split among the fifteen clubs upon joining.
Now, it is unknown if this means that this will be €3.5bn each or if this will mean that the money will be divided equally. In this instance, Arsenal would likely be receiving €233,333,333 or £202,117,759.
Who is funding the league? Again, nothing formally has been announced by the league itself, but JP Morgan are the only people that have been mentioned in terms of the league’s finances.
JP Morgan will underwrite the league by debt financing and will then set this against any broadcast revenue in the future.
In fact, JP Morgan confirmed to Reuters this morning that they will be financing the Super League.
How will I be able to watch it? There have been a number of broadcast partner’s names bandied about at the moment, with no fixed answer revealed.
The rights for such a lucrative league will likely mean that companies such as BT Sport or Sky Sports will likely be priced out in the initial stages, however, the league may opt for a unified broadcaster, rather than splitting broadcasting among multiple companies.
It was thought that up and coming sports broadcaster and streaming service DAZN would be partnering with the league, however, DAZN have since distanced themselves from these reports, though an as yet unnamed global tech streaming giant could be announced soon.
What role will Stan Kroenke have in the league? The Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke, dubbed “Silent Stan” by fans and press alike, is thought to be at the very heart of the discussions and seems to have been pushing this idea along wioth Liverpool’s John W Henry and Manchester United’s Joel Glazer.
As for Kroenke’s role, it is thought that Kroenke will be given a vice-chairman role along with Henry.
What will happen with Arsenal’s standing in the ECA? With Agnelli’s departure, it is thought that many others will either follow suit or be forcibly removed from their position for their role in the creation of the league.
Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s Chief Executive has, as of this morning, stepped down from his position on the ECA board. The move comes as something of a surprise, given that Venkatesham formally joined the ECA on the 8th of March 2021.
Is there no chance this can be sorted out? For now, the league seems fairly set in stone. The founding members have yet to formally discuss the proposals with FIFA, UEFA or their respective domestic leagues or FAs.
The resulting penalties may be enough to assuage the clubs from going through with the plan and the potential fan backlash.
The potential of losing star players may also affect the team’s decisions as well. Players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being unable to represent their national sides could well mean that the teams are unable to retain their top talent.
What does this mean for the players? The players have not been consulted over this decision. For Arsenal, Vinai Venkatesham will today address the Arsenal players and will field any questions that they have over the European Super League.
However, in a more shocking development, Aleksander Čeferin, the President of UEFA has today announced that any player who partakes in the Super League, will be banned from international competitions.
This would mean that players are therefore unable to play at the upcoming EUROs in the summer, while participation in the FIFA World Cup would likely be similar.
This would be a particularly large blow for players like Kieran Tierney, Bukayo Saka and Dani Ceballos, all of whom are expected to compete at the EUROs this summer.
Such an idea has long been in the offing, with discussions dating back as far as the late ’90s, however, things began to really kick off around the mid-2000s.
Twitter users were quick to point to yet another prophetic statement by erstwhile Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger, who predicted the league’s formation in 2009, who believed that the league would be formed within the next ten years.
Though Wenger’s prophecy was perhaps only two years earlier than the reality, it is not tough to follow the Frenchman’s logic.
The Premier League has long been ahead in terms of financials, with the lucrative TV deals and the sponsorship deals often meaning that England has been well remunerated for the league’s premier talent.
The increasing frustrations with UEFA, who are expected to announce reforms to the Champions League for the start of the 2024/25 season, have finally worked as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
From here, it’s difficult to see what the next move is. The founding clubs seemingly hold all the cards with the league, as billions are expected to be spent on the league and the notion of dictating what does and what does not happen in their own league is a temptation that few are averse to.
On the flip-side, it’s difficult to see how the league can still go ahead. With clubs threatened with worldwide bans for football competitions and players looking at potential bans for international football, it could be very difficult for clubs to still go ahead with the idea.
Therein lies the problem. Can FIFA and UEFA realistically impose these sanctions on the clubs? The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) could well be forced to intervene.
The league’s formation has seen widespread condemnation, even Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer both strongly opposing the idea. Football fans seem to be divided on the idea, though the vast majority seem to be against the idea.
The formation of the league seems to be yet another example of the growing divide between football fans and the owners of the clubs. The league’s formation now means that football fans are expected to make long-haul trips in order to support their teams in the flesh, meanwhile other fans will likely have to pay premium bucks for a new streaming platform just to watch it.
It remains to be seen if this is just a power-play from the European elite or if the league is a reality, but one thing is for certain, this will get very bloody, very quickly.
The FA Cup has long been one of the staples of the Arsenal trophy cabinet. As the record winners of the competition and current holders, it is a competition that holds particular significance for the club and Arsenal fans have long become accustomed to seeing the club’s name carved into the trophy at the end of the season, with many affectionally referring to the competition as the ‘Arsenal Invitational’.
Ahead of Saturday afternoon’s kick-off, Arsenal announced a fairly makeshift team. Gabriel Magalhães has only recently returned from a bad bout of COVID-19, Héctor Bellerín was dropped in favour of the in-form Cédric Soares the previous week, Mohamed Elneny has been reduced to bench appearances in the wake of Thomas Partey’s return to the side and Willian, Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pépé have struggled for form in recent weeks ahead of the high performing front line in the league, all of which were drafted in for Saturday’s game.
St. Mary’s Stadium has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Arsenal in recent seasons and Saturday was no different. A painstakingly average performance from Arsenal was served by casual reminders of old issues. The defence looked very suspect, the midfield was as easy to open as an unlocked door and the attack was as toothless as ever.
That’s not to take away from what was a very resolute and disciplined performance from Southampton, but Arsenal didn’t exactly make matters difficult for Southampton with a string of poorly thought out passes and positioning.
It therefore came as no surprise to see Kyle Walker-Peters’ shot deflect in off of Gabriel Magalhães who looked particularly hapless on his return to the starting eleven.
By the time Mikel Arteta looked to correct things in the second-half, the damage was long done. Arsenal looked as though they could have been there until past midnight and they still wouldn’t have scored.
The final whistle brought an early end to Arsenal’s FA Cup defence.
It was possibly one of the worst performances from Arsenal this season. Defensive frailities were exposed with rather rather shocking ease, with Gabriel Magalhães in particular being the main source of disruption at the back, as he struggled to contain a very hard-working Southampton forward-line.
In midfield, Mohamed Elneny (who’s initial loss of possession led to Southampton’s only goal) was constantly caught out of position, making the midfield far too easy to overrun and leaving Granit Xhaka isolated for Southampton to pick off easily. Things noticeably picked up after the introduction of Thomas Partey.
In terms of attack, Nicolas Pépé, Willian and Eddie Nketiah did not cover themselves in glory. There was almost nothing about Pépé’s presence that seemed to inspire fear in the Southampton defence, The Ivorian winger was constantly caught out in possession and was unable to find many teammates. Nketiah looked very out of his depth and though his high pressing stance was useful, his overall performance left plenty to be desired.
Elsewhere, Willian still continues to uninspire with yet another woeful showing. Though Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar may have pushed hard for the signing, their faith in the former Chelsea man has not been repaid particularly well and his continued presence for 90 minutes will only serve to bewilder Arsenal fans.
So Arsenal’s FA Cup defence comes to an end, though this is by no means a good thing, especially given Arsenal’s historic connection with the competition, it does give Arsenal a chance to focus on turning around their somewhat abysmal league form and to focus on the Europa League, which restarts in February.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 2.) Héctor Bellerín (c) (Lacazette 72’) 16.) Rob Holding 6.) Gabriel Magalhães 17.) Cédric Soares 25.) Mohamed Elneny (Partey 57’) 34.) Granit Xhaka 19.) Nicolas Pépé 12.) Willian 35.) Gabriel Martinelli (Saka 58’) 30.) Eddie Nketiah
Arsenal subs: 13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson 33.) Mat Ryan 23.) David Luiz 21.) Calum Chambers 15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles 18.) Thomas Partey 28.) Joe Willock 7.) Bukayo Saka 9.) Alexandre Lacazette
Southampton team: 44.) Fraser Forster 2.) Kyle Walker-Peters 35.) Jan Bednarek 5.) Jack Stephens 3.) Ryan Bertrand 17.) Stuart Armstrong 8.) James Ward-Prowse 27.) Ibrahima Diallo 32.) Theo Walcott 9.) Danny Ings (Long 85’) 10.) Ché Adams (N’Lundulu 78’)
Southampton subs: 41.) Harry Lewis 31.) Kayne Ramsey 29.) Jake Vokins 18.) Yan Valery 64.) Alex Jankewitz 65.) Caleb Watts 72.) Kgaogelo Chauke 40.) Dan N’Lundulu 7.) Shane Long
Despite the doom and gloom of missing out on Champions League football for the past few years, Arsenal fans have become somewhat accustomed to seeing the FA Cup take pride of place in the Arsenal trophy cabinet. The club are currently the record holders of the competition (with 14) and are the current holders, after defeating Chelsea last season.
For what has so far been something of a disappointing campaign, it was an excellent chance for Arsenal to begin their defence of the cup at home against Newcastle United.
There were a few changes to the side that smashed West Brom 4-0 earlier in the week as Cédric Soares, David Luiz, Mohamed Elneny, Joe Willock, Nicolas Pépé, Willian and Reiss Nelson all came into the team. Gabriel Martinelli had been expected to start the match, however, the Brazilian had to drop out owing to an injury sustained in the warm-up.
The first-half was a fairly inglorious affair for both teams, Arsenal twisted and turned in their attempts to find the net, but were ultimately unsuccessful, with Newcastle defending far too low for Arsenal to really find much by way of penetration.
The second-half saw Newcastle come into the game more. The looming presence of Andy Carroll was a constant threat and though he was mostly kept at bay by the well drilled back four, the England striker came the closest to scoring with a heart-stopping moment in the first-half in which Bernd Leno was called into action to keep the score at 0-0, with the German international producing a truly superb save.
Another heart stopping moment came in the form of Emile Smith Rowe. The youngster has been a revelation for Arsenal in recent weeks, however, he looked all set for a three-match ban as he was shown a red card for a late tackle on Sean Longstaff. However, VAR overturned the decision and Smith Rowe was booked instead.
Extra time was something both Mikel Arteta and Steve Bruce would have wanted to have avoided, however, neither team having scored and replays no longer played in the third round meant only one thing.
Arsenal came the closest in the first-half with Granit Xhaka’s thunderbolt of a volley impressively kept out by Martin Dúbravka who was just able to parry it over.
The second-half finally brought an end to the deadlock. The introduction of Alexandre Lacazette saw Arsenal better able to collect the ball from deep and able to hold the defence at bay further up the field, with the Frenchman’s header finding its way into Smith Rowe’s path, who finished off a superb shot into the far corner to give Arsenal the lead.
Around eight minutes later, the always impressive Kieran Tierney was picked out Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with a sumptuous cross, which the Gabon striker took with relish to end what has been an unendurable goal drought for the Arsenal captain to give Arsenal a deserved 2-0 win.
It wasn’t a pretty game for either side, but Arsenal in particular will not be happy with how they performed. An extra thirty minutes of football will not have done anyone any favours at all, especially since the fixture list is already a congested mess.
Despite this, it was nevertheless important to see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang back on the scoresheet. The striker has not scored since the 1-1 draw with Southampton back in December and has cut something of a frustrated figure on the field in that time, but his goal at the weekend will hopefully give him the confidence he needs heading into Arsenal’s next match against Crystal Palace.
It was also another very encouraging performance from Emile Smith Rowe. The youngster has looked irreplaceable in recent weeks and his performances seem to vindicate Arteta and Edu’s decisions to leave out Mesut Özil, if only Arsenal could have done it sooner. Though he is unlikely to be a long-term solution, he will be a welcome addition to the first-team until such time as a replacement can be sourced.
Another standout performer was Pablo Marí. The Spaniard looked likely to be little more than a back-up to Gabriel Magalhães, however, Marí has fully stepped up to the plate in the Brazilian’s absence and looks to be a worthy contender as a starter. Though the former Flamengo defender is perhaps not as quick as his Brazilian counter-part, he seems to read the game well, much like Per Mertesacker.
Though it was by no means vintage Arsenal, a win is a win and the current holders will be happy to have progressed to round four.
Arsenal team: 1.) Bernd Leno 17.) Cédric Soares 23.) David Luiz 22.) Pablo Marí 3.) Kieran Tierney 25.) Mohamed Elneny 28.) Joe Willock 19.) Nicolas Pépé 24.) Reiss Nelson 12.) Willian 14.) Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (c)
Arsenal subs: 13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson 21.) Calum Chambers 15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles 34.) Granit Xhaka 7.) Bukayo Saka 32.) Emile Smith Rowe 30.) Eddie Nketiah 9.) Alexandre Lacazette
Newcastle United team: 1.) Martin Dúbravka 17.) Emil Krafth 14.) Isaac Hayden 6.) Jamaal Lascelles (c) 2.) Ciaran Clark 3.) Paul Dummett 36.) Sean Longstaff 16.) Jeff Hendrick 24.) Miguel Almirón 9.) Joelinton 7.) Andy Carroll
Newcastle United subs: 29.) Mark Gillespie 22.) DeAndre Yedlin 23.) Jacob Murphy 11.) Matt Ritchie 57.) Elliot Anderson 4.) Matty Longstaff 12.) Dwight Gayle