Written by West Moors Cherry
An enthusiastic cup crowd turned up on a rainy Monday night hoping for some excitement and possible progression to a 5th round meeting at Pompey after the draw was made pre-match on Loose Women or something, such is the value of the FA Cup these days.
This was a chance to build on the positive showing of last Tuesday’s win against Brighton and create some kind of momentum.
Unfortunately, and this may sound harsh, Eddie waved the white flag with his bizarre team selection, formation and positioning of square pegs in round holes.
Eddie made 6 changes from the win over the seagulls with Travers returning as the cup goalie, Steve Cook back from his goalie appearance at Norwich, Lewis Cook in at left-wing (?), Jack Simpson at left-back (?) with Dan Gosling and Andrew Surman making up the midfield.
The first 30 minutes was up there with the worst 3 or 4 performances we’ve seen this season as Arsenal were made to look like Barcelona and were allowed to stroke the ball around as they pleased. Our players stood off them, allowed them to move freely and the lack of effort and commitment was embarrassing. When we did get the ball we either gave it away through poor touches or lumped a ball 40 yards over the completely isolated and lost Solanke, playing as a lone striker (?). Eddie clearly was asleep during the September cup defeat at Burton.
Before we knew it we were 2 down. First Bukayo SAKO was given space on the left to smash a thunderous strike past Travers and 20 minutes later the debutant Eddie NKETIAH was given the freedom of the six-yard box to sweep home the impressive Sako’s cross.
It was all Arsenal as our players watched Guendouzi (sideshow Bob mk2) spray the ball around and look like some superstar.
It felt like game over but it wasn’t as Arsenal took their foot off the gas somewhat and allowed us 5 minutes at the end of the half to have a bit of possession and Harry Wilson hit a decent volley which was well saved by Martinez. My mate asked me if Wilson had come on as a sub because he hadn’t realised he’d be playing up to that point.
Finally, the Bournemouth scouts briefing was starting to get through to the players after 45 minutes that if you get at this Arsenal team who have leaked goals and been very beatable this season you might have a chance. Then the ref blew his whistle.
Second half we expected changes, formation and/ or subs. Neither happened.
Fortunately for the crowd, the team did up the effort, it couldn’t have been much worse.
Bournemouth suddenly showed more urgency and Arsenal changed to 5 at the back to try and nullify the threat. We were getting at Arsenal and having much more possession and this, in turn, led to every Arsenal player turning into paper and collapsing for 2-3 minutes treatment following every tackle for the remaining 30 minutes. Only Mustafi could have any complaints having to be stretchered off following a collision with his goalkeeper.
Fraser was finding a lot more room on the left and created a succession of corners that led to Jack Simpson’s header flying narrowly past the post after he beat Martinez to the ball.
Finally, the change came that had been needed for 76 minutes and we put two upfront with Callum Wilson replacing his namesake Harry, Simon Francis also coming on to replace Simpson. With 14 minutes to go and after trailing for an hour with no changes whatsoever to the team or formation Eddie finally thought the Dubai trip, not at risk so made it look like we gave it a go and changed to 3 at the back.
We spent the last quarter of an hour plus 8 minutes of stoppage time, following Bellerin, Ceballos, Sokratis and Xhaka wasting more time than I thought it possible to do and we were looking quite dangerous with Gosling unlucky with a deflected drive that went onto the roof of the net.
With 3 minutes to go, Eddie finally allowed Sam Surridge a little runout and he immediately looked to cause problems. Following Francis scuffed cross he controlled the ball and rolled it past Martinez to score his first goal in a cherries shirt. This set up an exciting last few minutes with only one real chance when following Fraser’s cross the ball came out to Lewis Cook who blazed over from a decent position.
Travers 6 – Put under pressure constantly by the insistence to use him as a 5th defender but kicked well. No chance with either goal
Smith 6 – Tried hard but little help from Harry Wilson in front of him and was swamped time and time again.
S. Cook 5 – Overrun by Arsenal’s 3 forwards and struggled first half in particular.
Ake 6 – Tried to marshal the back four and got forward when possible.
Simpson 5 – Tried his best but clearly out of his depth being, played out of position.
H. Wilson 4 – Anonymous first half apart from the shot, improved slightly in the second half.
Surman 7 – Passed the ball well when able to get hold of it and always gave 100% effort.
Gosling 5 – Still looks unfit.
L. Cook 5 – Someone who can create a spark. Spark removed by being played out of position.
Fraser 6 – Tried hard to create something in the second half and got his crosses in.
Solanke 4 – Isolated and poor.
Subs – Surridge 7 – Came on and made a difference.
Francis 5 – Assist
C. Wilson 6 – Tried to get things moving
MOM – Surman. If we go down this season I’d give him another year, we may need him once the crew abandons ship.
Verdict – It seemed to me that Eddie didn’t really have much intention of winning this game. The lure of Dubai too tempting and more important to the players than a tasty south coast derby at Portsmouth.
Resting players ahead of a relegation 6 pointer on Saturday I don’t like but have come to accept nowadays. Playing square pegs in round holes is unforgivable in my opinion and the public crucifixion of Jack Simpson was shameful. Likewise, Lewis Cook left-wing? No never. Solanke on his own upfront? Never. By the way Eddie, Harry Wilson is not a winger.
Arsenal are a team that everyone knows don’t like it in their faces, so why weren’t we at them from minute one? Surridge was crying out for a start, we give him 3 minutes plus stoppage and he scores.
Hopefully, this will all be forgotten about by the time my daughter forces me to watch the next instalment of the horrendous Masked Singer on Saturday night.
But for now, this stings. Yes, I shouldn’t be surprised but I just thought, just once Eddie, just once.
I’ve been very critical of the players for lack of effort etc this season – but yesterday I felt sorry for them. To a man we were dire and that’s on Eddie Howe.
Seriously, what was the point in playing Cook, Simpson and Fraser out of position – why not give Dobre/Surridge etc a run out in their actual positions?
This tactic of sitting back and not engaging at any point is criminal. Zero pressure on the ball – embarrassing for us to watch, must be embarrassing for the players on the pitch. How EH expects to stay up by insisting on playing this way (despite 18 months of proof to the contrary) is beyond me. – Join the conversation, click here.