Ten Thoughts: Southampton Reserves 0-5 Arsenal Reserves

Ummm...hello? Is this thing on?

I think that this, the most hassle-free game we've had since roughly 400 BC, is the perfect one on which to end my little three-month hiatus. To be honest, I had gotten a bit burned out on writing these, and the worst of the Twitter brigade sapped a lot of my joy at times.

That said, I thought I'd try out a new format, with apologies to the fantastic Elliotte Freidman - if you're into hockey, his 30 Thoughts columns are mandatory reading.

1. I know that both sides were dipping into the reserves, with important league fixtures upcoming over the next few weeks and all. However, if I were Claude Puel, I'm not sure if I would have chosen the same back four that he did:

Jack Stephens - the youngest of the lot - was the only one to survive from the starting XI that so impressively dumped Liverpool out of the League Cup. In fairness, Cuco Martina and Florin Gardos are experienced professionals (you may remember Martina's long range rocket in THAT 4-0 Boxing Day loss to this very opposition), but I can't say I know who or what a Sam McQueen is. Any amount of rotation can make life in the back four difficult, but it gets infinitely harder when you have this in goal:

I mean, maybe Harry Lewis has a future in this game or perhaps he might not, but either way it is borderline child abuse to stick a 19-year old third-stringer in against Arsenal...no matter how many reserves we have out there. Half the reason these kids go out on loan so often is that, in the end, how they do in a Johnstone's Paint Trophy second-round tie away to Southend United is not exactly consequential. The fourth round of the FA Cup is a much different story.

The point of all this is that today was a shedload of fun, but let's not forget the meteor-sized caveat here.

2. All that aside, DAT GUY WELBZ returned to the starting XI with the subtlety of the Kool-Aid Man entering a room. The boss has talked up Welbeck's determination and resilience in coming back from this horror injury, and you can see the payoff for yourself. He was bloody everywhere, tracking back to pitch in on defense and then scampering up the other end to bang in a few as well.

The two goals were an illustration of how far he's come in his recovery, each highlighting a different facet of forward play. The first, an arrogant chip over the keeper-fetus, was a brilliant bit of pure finishing. The second was more heartening for me, though. He had time and space for the first, but he had to fight off a defender to give himself a yard on the second. No matter that a more experienced keeper probably doesn't get beat on that one - the important thing is that he was willing to get in there and fight, which is damn hard when you've been out for ages with a major injury.

The Salt Bae celebration was also super super top quality.

3. Welbeck was so good that his 60-minute brace made you forget for a bit that Theo Walcott got a freaking hat trick (especially when you remember that Danny assisted on the first one, as well).

You could tell that Theo was enjoying himself, but it'd be hard not to when you're getting impeccable service from your teammates. More on that in a second. While this was not the most fearsome defense that we'll face this season, there is no downside to having one of your secondary offensive weapons get a confidence boost at this point in the season.

4. Speaking of that service, Alexis Sanchez, amirite?

Look, if it were up to me, he'd have been nowhere near the pitch today, not at 3-0 up with half an hour to go and the game well in the bag. I get that his contract situation is a bit dodgy at present, but for me there's too much of an inmates running the asylum vibe with this stuff.

However - and this is a massive HOWEVER - when a guy can come on off the bench and provide two assists with the same ease that you or I cross a street, you have to think that the usual rules don't apply. We talk a lot about tactics and checkbooks and all sorts of other nonsense, but it's places like this where top-level managers truly earn their keep. Arsene has to somehow keep this lunatic (meant in the best possible way) happy while making sure he doesn't break down at some point.

Not a job I envy.

5. Lucas Perez is another one that had an excellent game, capped off with an assist for Danny earlier in the match. Another problem I don't envy for the manager is how do you find more minutes for this guy? He's direct, good on the ball, isn't a defensive black hole that I'm aware of, can pick out a pass as well as anyone on the team AND can finish himself if given the opportunity. It says a lot for us as a club, I think, that we can't get this man on the field with any regularity.

I said to someone on Facebook recently that I think Jack Wilshere should be sold, as he isn't really up to our standard anymore. I'm reminded of that because this right here is a perfect reflection of what I mean. All Lucas does when he gets a chance is deliver, and he still never plays. It's unreal to think about sometimes.

6. So, do you like hyphens?

All three played exceptionally well, by the way. Ox has kind of been up and down all season, but let's hope this gives him a platform to kick on and force himself into first-team reckoning. Given that Chelsea and Bayern both loom in the near distance, we need all hands to the pumps in the next few weeks.

7. A quick word about David Ospina - he didn't have a lot to do today, but there were a few moments where he played himself out of trouble majestically well. Imagine that, a keeper good with his feet who can, like, make saves and stuff too. Sure, some of the criticism of Claudio Bravo is over-the-top, but how great is it to have two keepers that you can trust in big games?

Even if you want to go down a level, Emi Martinez is 24 years old with a decent amount of professional experience by now. I have some sympathy for Southampton given that Alex McCarthy (a perfectly OK backup) is injured, but it does go to show the difference in depth here. Martinez could stroll into damn near any team in the Championship, this kid on Southampton should, at best, be on loan somewhere in League Two.

I still don't get why Fraser Forster didn't play, though. Keepers don't need to be rested like outfield players do.

8. I joke in the post title about both sides being reserves, but let's not discount the overall accomplishment of getting through to the next round.

We could be Liverpool, who lost at home to Wolves.

We could be Newcastle, who lost comprehensively to League One opposition in Oxford United.

We could be Brighton, who traveled to Sincil Bank and lost to the Conference National side Lincoln City.

We could be the nearest and dearest, who went life-and-death with League Two's Wycombe Wanderers (Big Tone managed them for about 4.2 seconds, by the way!). They needed a 96th (!) minute equalizer. The utter state of it.

9. If the Alexis thing was a baffling substitution that we did make, a baffling one that we didn't revolves around our Big Fucking German, Per Mertesacker. If he was fit enough for the bench, isn't a 5-0 lead with 5 or 6 minutes left to play a perfect time to reintroduce him to the side? We never did make our third change, so it just seems weird to me. Minor gripe, but am I wrong here?

10. Mustafi Watch - we STILL haven't lost with Shkodran Mustafi in the team. It's February. That is absurd, in the good way.

Man of the Match:   (With thanks to Twitter's @8bitfootball)