So, comfortable passage into the next round of the Capital One Cup, Olivier Giroud off the mark, Theo Walcott and Andrei Arshavin showing the boss they still have something to offer, a debut goal from a defender and a screamer from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. All in all a good night for the Arsenal.
It’s a shame most of us didn’t get to see it, having to rely on audio commentary but there are highlights now available on the official site and goals from the link above. Coventry will be disappointed but again it’s good to see a certain amount of ruthlessness from this Arsenal side. Some will cite the lack of pressure in this game but with Martin Angha making his debut in defence, a young midfield with Coquelin and Yennaris, Arshavin not having started a game for us for close to 9 months, uncertainty surrounding Walcott and Giroud desperate for a goal it could well have been more difficult.
It’s tough for me to give you any real feedback on the game from the brief highlights I saw but some thoughts on the various bits I did:
Giroud – He needed a goal and he got one. A lovely finish it was too and it should take some of the pressure off. The night would have been even better but for his missed penalty but he ought not to dwell on that, it looked a good save more than a bad miss, and take confidence from the fact he’s off the mark. The manager admitted the pressure was getting to him:
It was in everybody’s mind that the sooner he gets it the better. Certainly in his mind much more than in others’ minds. That is positive of course. It was a good finisher and he is a good finisher, Olivier. At the moment I believe he is looking for confidence again and that goal will help him. I expect him to take that confidence into the Premier League.
Walcott – some will say he sent a message to Arsene Wenger last night, and perhaps, to an extent, he did. The message wasn’t ‘Play me as a central striker’ though, it was ‘Look at what I can do from out wide’. Both goals came from wide positions, the first right, the second left, the finishes for both were clinical, and given the movement and fluidity of this Arsenal side it seems almost churlish to demand to play centrally when you can spend a lot of time there anyway.
That said, Arsene isn’t averse to giving him a run there, saying:
I am not against it, not at all. We will try. At the moment we have a big competition up front, we have a different formula and the team is doing well. His time will come for that and at the moment we have to be a bit patient. He is a great finisher now, Walcott, in front of goal he is absolutely amazing.
And of his contract situation:
We all want him to stay. I always said exactly the same. I always said let’s hope that we can sign up and extend. I speak to Theo of course. To his agents? We are always in touch with them and you have to give us some time to sort that out.
Again, you can’t ignore the reality of the situation, with less than 12 months to go before he can take full advantage of a Bosman and a real difference between the two parties in terms of how much a new deal is worth, it’s still not a situation we have control over. Perhaps, through performances, Walcott can prove he merits more money and that will be way to find some middle ground, but until then it’s still stalemate.
Andrei Arshavin – scored one, won a penalty, got an assist for Ignasi Miquel, and had a productive night. It still tells you a lot that the manager hasn’t even included him in the squad for the last couple of games, but the season is long, we’ll need all of our squad, and it won’t do him or us any harm when he gets to play and actually produces. Interestingly, Arsene more or less said he’s not got the legs to play wide so may be an option centrally when Cazorla is out:
Arshavin’s best position looks to be behind the striker now because that’s where his vision, the creative side of his game, can be very efficient. When he has to work on the flank it is sometimes working against him because he has to work too hard up and down.
With Jack Wilshere’s return not far away the Russian may find his place in that particular pecking order lower than he might like, but the bottom line is that over the course of the season the more options we have to choose from the better. Regardless of what happens between now and May it’d be hard to argue his Arsenal career has been as successful as it should have been, but if he can chip in here and there then all the better.
Debuts and comebacks – Emmanuel Frimpong made his long-awaited return from injury and was obviously touched by the response of the crowd, while young German Serge Gnabry got on for a good 20 minutes at the end. From what I heard on the commentary he sounded exciting but I’ll have to wait until I see more extensive highlights, or the players in the flesh, before making any comment.
All in all a good night’s work. The second six-goal salvo in a row at home and a place in the next round of the competition where we’ll play Reading away from home. A game which will provide a much stiffer test for the squad than last night.
In the meantime we enjoy this one, take the positives from it, and make sure we’re now fully switched on for Chelsea on Saturday. Till tomorrow.