Arsenal confirmed their place in the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win against League One promotion contenders Portsmouth at Fratton Park on Monday. After a cagey opening 45 minutes, it was Sokratis Papastathopoulos who popped up to slot home the opener on the stroke of half-time before Eddie Nketiah grabbed the second from close range to send Mikel Arteta's men into the last eight.
As the game went on it was clear to see that Arsenal gradually became more structured on the ball, knocking it around from side to side and opening up Portsmouth at the back. There was a certain grit to how the Gunners went after the lower leaguers, and while they had to ride out a wave or two, they didn't take any prisoners when it came to dispossessing their opponents and keeping a high tempo.
Arsenal allowed Pompey a great deal of space and freedom both down the wings and through the middle, especially in the first half. The visitors' attacking inexperience was on display for large portions as there was a distinct lack of cohesion up until they took the lead, and defensively speaking, they were often static with how they tried to build up from the back and dispossess the League One side.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- There was a perfect blend of experience and youth in Arteta's team, and if things had gone south, questions would've been raised as to why he made so many changes from the loss to Olympiakos. The 4-2-3-1 formation allowed Arsenal to gradually stretch Portsmouth at the back, and after the break, the movement was better and there was enhanced aggression when moving forward.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Emiliano Martinez, 7 -- It was a quiet enough day at the office for the backup keeper who seemed composed and commanding between the sticks.
DF Bukayo Saka, 7 -- The youngster showed great pace and ability to break from the back after being tested defensively by Portsmouth, weaving in and out while challenging them at every available opportunity.
DF Pablo Mari, 8 -- From solid timing in the air to a clear comfort on the ball, Mari showcased the maturity of a player who looked as if he's been in this team for a decade.
DF David Luiz, 7 -- It's clear to see that the Brazilian is suffering from a lack of confidence from his decision making to his set pieces, but with that being said, he frequently cleared the ball well enough against their third-tier opponents.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 -- He may have struggled against Portsmouth's pace for a while, but the Greek centre-back put any concerns about his performance to rest with a superb volley to open the scoring.
MF Lucas Torreira, N/R -- The midfield maestro suffered an injury early on in the game and was subsequently substituted off.
MF Matteo Guendouzi, 7 -- Aside from a bizarre yellow card, the young Frenchman produced one of his best performances this season, courtesy of top-class leadership in midfield and a real desire to track back and help out defensively.
MF Gabriel Martinelli, 7 -- The popular forward turned provider with an energetic display out wide, and from his distribution to his consistency on the ball, Arsenal fans should be excited about the future.
MF Joe Willock, 5 -- It was a really poor showing from Willock as he misplaced passes, was sloppy on the ball and generally didn't link up well with anyone.
MF Reiss Nelson, 8 -- Fizzed the ball in perfectly for assist number one and played a nice cross into the box for assist number two in a well-rounded showing.
FW Eddie Nketiah, 7 -- After snatching at a few chances and occasionally being smothered by Pompey's defence, Nketiah did well to poke the ball in from a tight angle for Arsenal's second goal.
MF Dani Ceballos, 7 -- While he's fluid on the ball with a strong work ethic, Ceballos needs to work on his vision and ability to track his man through the middle.
MF Granit Xhaka, N/R -- It was a fairly uneventful cameo towards the end of the game for the first-team regular on the South Coast.
DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, N/R -- Helped to kill a few minutes in injury time with the game having already been won.