Reiss Nelson was the game changer while David Luiz and Pablo Mari did a solid job in defence as Arsenal beat Portsmouth 2-0 on Monday.
Pablo Mari made his long-awaited debut as Arsenal took on Portsmouth in the FA Cup fifth round, and was immediately tested, with the hosts being the better of the two sides for much of the first half. However, after failing to make much of their dominance, Pompey fell behind at the stroke of half-time.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos struck a fine volley from Reiss Nelson’s driven low cross to make it 1-0. Minutes into the second half, Arsenal were two to the good, as Nelson provided another assist, this time to Eddie Nketiah, who rounded the win off. With Arsenal reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals at Portsmouth’s expense, The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Mikel Arteta’s men.
Emiliano Martinez: 6/10
Martinez made a nervy start to the game, flapping at an aerial ball in uncomfortable fashion. But, thereafter, the Arsenal goalkeeper collected himself and put up an assured display, collecting a pacy delivery confidently while playing out from the back in composed fashion. Hardly tested by the Portsmouth attack, though.
Sokratis Papastathopoulos: 7/10
This was not an entirely enjoyable evening for Sokratis. While he did score a marvelous goal by volleying in Reiss Nelson’s cross, his personal duel with Marcus Harness was not a pleasant watch at times.
The Greek defender did improve defensively as the game wore on, but had very little to show for his pursuits down the right flank, having little to no end product. Still, did his bit to earn Arsenal the win over Portsmouth on the night.
David Luiz: 8/10
Donning the armband for Arsenal in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Luiz was a solid presence at the heart of the defence. His presence inside the box alongside Pablo Mari was key during Portsmouth’s early onslaught, with Luiz making as many as six clearances.
The Brazilian also won 9 duels over the course of the game, but what was another pleasing aspect of his performance was his precision with the ball at his feet – Luiz completed 92 percent of the passes he played against Portsmouth.
Pablo Mari: 8/10
A superb effort on debut for Pablo Mari. Like his central defensive partner Luiz, Mari remained alert during a tricky first half and made 5 clearances over the course of the game. His ball-playing abilities came to the fore on the night, as Mari completed 13 of the 17 long balls he attempted. A busy evening, but one wherein he might have earned himself more minutes.
Bukayo Saka: 6/10
With Sead Kolasinac and Kieran Tierney still out, Saka continued as Arsenal’s left-back. This time around, though, the teenager was a bit subdued, making little impact on his bursts down the left flank. Saka also lost possession 18 times, although he was not punished for it much as he defended diligently. Could do with some rest.
Matteo Guendouzi: 7/10
Making a rare start on the night, Guendouzi was solid in the middle of the park and had the most touches across both teams (102). Accurate when linking up with teammates, the French midfielder completed 93 percent of his passes, which in turn helped Arsenal assume control of the game. Did some good clean-up job while covering for the full-backs as well. Decent effort.
Lucas Torreira: N/A
A frustrating evening for Torreira, who lasted just 15 minutes on the pitch and had to be taken off with an ankle injury. Quite a concern for Arteta.
Reiss Nelson: 9/10
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 2, 2020
Nelson was anonymous in the early stages of the game, when Portsmouth were dominating the proceedings. However, once Arsenal took control, the youngster was in full flow, taking charge and leaving the Portsmouth defenders back-pedaling. A fine cross for Gabriel Martinelli was a sign of things to come.
Nelson then delivered the powerful low cross from which Sokratis scored, as Arsenal took the lead. Nelson was then in action once again, playing the ball to Eddie Nketiah, as the win was sealed. Made key passes in all while his passing rate was an impressive 93 percent. A big step in the right direction for Nelson.
Joe Willock: 5/10
Coming into the side in place of Mesut Ozil, this was Willock’s chance to make an impression on Arteta, especially with Torreira being sidelined for the foreseeable future. However, this ended up being an opportunity missed for the young midfielder, who struggled to impose himself. Did play Nelson in the build-up to Nketiah’s goal, but that was a rare positive on a sub-par evening.
Gabriel Martinelli: 6/10
Game time has been hard to come by for Martinelli lately. So, this was his chance to get himself back in contention for regular minutes. However, the Brazilian was not quite at his best, losing the ball a few times and failing to convert a Reiss Nelson cross in the first half. Did not shy away from taking on Ross McCorie, but the end product could have been better.
Eddie Nketiah: 7/10
Nketiah just continues to impress when leading the line for Arsenal. The young striker showed some improvement in his overall game, holding the ball decently. The big moment came early in the second half, though, as he collected Nelson’s delivery well before finishing past Alex Bass.
With Alexandre Lacazette not in good touch, Nketiah is doing everything he can to force Arteta to make him a regular in the Arsenal attack.
Dani Ceballos: 7/10
With Torreira injured, Ceballos appeared on the pitch earlier than anyone would have anticipated. However, his arrival helped Arsenal exert control in the middle of the park, enabling Guendouzi to play more freely as well. Completed each of his attempted long balls and 93 percent of his passes. Superb once again in midfield.
Granit Xhaka: N/A
Xhaka replaced Willock in the 87th minute and helped see the game out.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: N/A
A late introduction, Maitland-Niles did not even touch the ball during his short time on the pitch.