Preamble to the Execution
He’s an iconoclast and he’ll have to do it his way, but make no mistake, Wenger wants to win every competition that he enters his team in. Especially when you consider that the League Cup is a trophy that Arsene has never won.
The closest he’s gotten the team was the Millennium Stadium battle where Arsenal lost 2-1 to Chelsea, a game which saw the ascendancy of Chelsea, the introduction of Theo Walcott who scored his first Arsenal goal, and where Howard Webb royally fucked up the officiating, a trend he would continue into the World Cup final this year.
We aren’t there yet, but we are so close I can smell it. There are certainly some potentially delicious ties for the match on December 1st: West Brom in particular would be fascinating as both teams will have a real go at each other and Arsenal would be looking for revenge. Of course, instead of a decent tie we’ll probably get Man U, in Manchester.
Which raises one more interesting fact; there’s a pile of fixtures building around that day. Given the fact that there are two away matches immediately preceding December 1 (Braga and Villa) and two home games right after (Fulham and Partizan) then if we get a home draw, we get a three game home stand and if we get the away draw it will be our third consecutive away match. Certainly something for the conspiracy buffs, no matter how the ball bounces.
This is Arsenal’s eighth consecutive Carling Cup quarter final appearance and yet the mood among the fans is as high as I have seen it since we made it to the Final. I think there’s a real chance here to win something but we will have to battle all the way. If you think English referees allow kicking in League games, you haven’t seen anything yet. A semi-final League Cup match between Arsenal and Man U would be a veritable festival of kicking.
I can’t wait.
Man of the Match
I have to give it to Theo. He scored a brace, both of which were cool finishes, and his runs at Newcastle terrified them for 90 minutes. There were other notable players, certainly, but Theo stood above them all. He’s now got 6 goals in all competitions (two shy of his all time high of 8) and looks like he’s ready to really push for a permanent starting spot.
Once he sorts his runs across the defenders out, he will be impossible to stop.
One of the reasons that Arsenal are able to play so many “first team” players in the Carling Cup is because we have such a deep squad. For example, Denilson played 47 games for Arsenal in 2008/2009 and despite injury played 23 last season as well. In him, Arsene has a player who is a regular starter on most other teams but at Arsenal our depth in that position is so great that he becomes a squad player. So, while he is technically a first team player, he’s not really Arsenal’s first team first choice.
With Chamakh’s brilliant start to the season (6 goals so far) Bendtner is in a similar situation to Denilson now. He’s coming back from injury and he’ll need to work extra hard to get into the starting lineups over the next few weeks. When last season’s Champions League hat-trick striker is now a “squad” player and rotates in for the Carling Cup this really shows the depth in squad that Arsene has.
And the really good news is that Arsenal’s “second string” worked together well as a team. Koscielny in particular reminded me why he was such an important signing this Summer and the way he mopped up our makeshift back four’s mistakes was, well, commanding.
Meanwhile, in goal, the young Pole showed control…
Shechesney, as my announcer kept saying, made some great saves and despite the gaffe where he went on what will soon be called an “Arsenal Keeper Walkabout” I thought he showed real maturity and strength. The booming punch to end the game where he literally punched the ball to the half way line gave me a little smile and I thought “atta-boy Schez, show Almunia how it’s done!”
And I would be remiss if I left off Bendtner’s superb curling goal from outside the box. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve yelled “SHOOT” at the television over the last five years so any time an Arsenal player gets a goal like that I have to give kudos. Top quality curler from Bendtner to send Arsene into a selection headache soon.
When’s the last time you remember saying that Arsenal are going to have a selection headache?
Unfortunately, as well stocked as we are up front, we are looking a little thin in defense. Fingers crossed that Gibbs comes through this morning’s physical without any long term injury or else our only real left back is Clichy. Any injury to him and we are in real trouble there.
Similar story in the holding midfield role and it’s something that I know many of you have been harping for some time now: Eastmond looked out of his depth yesterday playing against a weakened Newcastle side which means that unless you consider Denilson a holding midfielder, Arsenal have no backup for Song. This was particularly clear yesterday when many of us asked for Eastmond’s night to end early and then we looked at the team sheet and struggled to figure out who to bring on. Cesc and put Rosicky in the holding role? Lansbury and put Rosicky in the holding role?
Too many players going forward, not enough holding back. Same old Arsenal, eh?
Before I get to the meat of this segment, I need to address Arsenal’s second goal. There are many ways to look at the goal; Bendtner was a mile offside, the ball is played through and Bendtner foolishly puts himself in the play, then there’s a collision, and Theo is off with a burst and a goal is given. Was it interference? Should they have flagged for offside when Bendtner put himself in the play? Did the Newcastle defender actually crash into Bendtner to make it look like Nicklas was more involved than he was?
All valid opinions I think, but the only one that counts is Andre Marriner’s and somehow he saw that goal as fair play. Of course, Andre Marriner also allowed Alan Fucking Smith to try and wreck Arsenal’s midfield on pretty much every play so what, exactly, his interpretation of “the rules” are is anyone’s guess.
Speaking of which, Joey Barton is still a coward, a bully, and all around despicable human being. I’m not going to dwell on Barton except to link to the Arsenalist‘s compilation video and say that in neither tackle on Eastmond or Cesc did he make any attempt to play the ball.
It’s the 90th minute, his club is down 4-0, he’s a serial offender on and off the pitch, he’s clearly targeting the Arsenal players, he puts his knee through the back of Eastmond, and frankly I think Arsenal should make a case of him in front of the FA. If we don’t, then he will be doing that kind of shit from the first minute of our match on November 7th.
Arsenal came out of the gates, all guns blazing, and truly deserved to get the win against a very one dimensional Newcastle side. Yes, there was a bit of luck in our first two goals but there was also plenty of “luck” on their side in keeping Joey Barton off a well deserved red card.
I’m just happy that Arsenal are still in this competition and that with the teams left there’s a real chance to get through to the next round. Which is all we can really ask: that our club and our players fight for every trophy.
See you tomorrow!