After what happened the last time we went to WHL in the Carling Cup I mentioned there was a measure of revenge to be had. It was had. It might have come later than we might have wanted but not so late that most of their fans decided they’d had enough and left Ol’ man Twitchy to reach Twitchon 5 on the Sp*rs bench.
Arsenal’s first half was quite something. Sure, the team was a bit stronger than normal in the Carling Cup but normally you don’t play Sp*rs in the third round. Djourou came in at centre-half, Eboue and Gibbs at full back, Henri Lansbury came in and Carlos Vela led the line up front. From the first whistle we took control playing some really lovely football.
Jack Wilshere was the pick of the bunch, always on the ball, always looking to create something and their only answer was to kick him again, and again, and again. Each time his reaction was to simply get up, get back on the ball and keep playing. He provided the final ball for the opening goal but the build-up was fantastic. Lots of passes, Eboue spreading it wide beautifully, Wilshere getting behind the full back and driving one across goal for the onrushing Lansbury to poke home.
After the game Wenger compared Lansbury to Ray Parlour but clearly he’s got a bit of Freddie Ljungberg in him too. The timing of the run was perfect and while Wilshere stood out I thought Lansbury did a solid job for the entire 120 minutes. He looks a prospect too. That it was only 1-0 at half-time was down to a bad decision from the linesman. Wilshere played a brilliant ball through the Sp*rs defence to Kieran Gibbs but the linesman flagged him, wrongly, offside.
It would have been a great goal and no less than we deserved so when just minutes into the second half the same linesman failed to flag a clearly offside Robbie Keane it was more than a bit frustrating. Nothing compared to the frustration of witnessing yet another Fabianski error but frustrating all the same. Keane’s shot was poor, Fabianski got both hands to it but his wrists were weak and we’d let them right back into it.
The last thing I’m going to do today is go to town on a player after we’ve won 4-1 but let’s be clear: we won in spite of him. He looked happy and relieved at the end, so he should have. His teammates got him, and Arsene Wenger, out of jail. It’s just not even remotely funny any more. Every game he plays in he costs us goals and on a day when Wojscez expressed his unhappiness at not being involved I really hope the manager realises that the Fabianski experiment has to come to an end. His pre-game comments about Fabianski being ‘world class’ are ludicrous and there is little patience left amongst many fans for the hapless Pole.
Sp*rs were more dangerous in the second half having brought on Mallet Head and Aaron Lennon but at left back Kieran Gibbs showed Gael Clichy how it’s done. His performance was steady as a rock defensively, and he was always there to support the attack. We brought on Chamakh and Arshavin for Rosicky and Vela and in the end the extra quality won the day.
Sp*rs keeper had a flap late on at a Wilshere cross but the game went to extra time and they just self-destructed. Arshavin played in Nasri, Bassong had a little tug, Nasri went down. Penalty. Having not taken the one on Saturday because of what the manager called a ‘bad superstition’ the Frenchman, who I suspect got a bit of a talking to from Arsene because of that, stepped up and made it 2-1. When Chamakh was taken down a few moments later he did it again to make it 3-1. You could ask why, when both fouls for the penalties were on the last man, the referee kept his red card in his pocket but in the end it didn’t really matter.
At that point the Sp*rs fans decided it was time to head for the hills so the ground was emptying out when Arshavin fired home the fourth. I was hoping for five but it wasn’t to be. We still had a few nervy moments at the back, Nasri cleared one off the line from Keane and UltraChav headed wide with just the keeper to beat (I think that was at 3-1 though). A miss made all the worse when the keeper is Fabianski. How I laughed.
Overall I think the result was a fair one. The football we played in the first half certainly merited more than just a one goal lead, the worry is that we didn’t manage to get it. Despite letting them back in it stupidly, and inevitably, we continued to play our stuff and got just reward in the end.
Result aside the biggest positive has to be Jack Wilshere’s performance. Not only does he have wonderful craft and vision, he’s got the energy, tenacity and desire to hold it all together. And while I think we’d have all understood an 18 year old reacting to the kicking he got, especially in the first half, he displayed a lot of maturity to ignore it, saying afterwards it was just part and parcel of the game. Afterwards, Arsene Wenger said of him:
All the big players play early, at the age of 18 they start to play at the top level. He can handle it. If he can handle it mentally what happens to him there is no problem, he will be a great player. I believe he has an outstanding future. He just needs to keep well, humble and enjoy his game.
A reminder to keep his feet on the ground. He need only look at Sp*rs number 5, a Brylcreem boy with an ego far beyond his talent, to see what can happen if you get too big for your boots. You can have as much talent as you want but unless you’re prepared to marry that with hard work and dedication it can all go wrong very quickly. Jack seems a well grounded lad though, I’m sure the need to be as professional as possible at all times is being drilled into him at the training ground and beyond, and if he takes that into consideration then he can do whatever he wants in football. He is unquestionably the most exciting young player to emerge since Cesc.
The only other disappointment of the night was the suspected broken metatarsal for Kieran Gibbs. I really hope it’s not as bad as they think because he had a great game at left back. He’ll have a scan today so let’s keep fingers crossed that for once we get a bit of good news when it comes to injury. Having spent so long out last season it’d be a real kick in the teeth to see him injured again.
Alongside him, Laurent Koscielny is fast becoming a favourite in central defence. He was solid as a rock last night, one sliding tackle on Lennon in the box showed what he’s all about, combining great pace and desire with perfect timing. I know it’s early to start gushing over new signings, there’s always a bit of a honeymoon period, but I like what I’m seeing thus far. The game will have also done Djourou a lot of good. He was rusty, at times, but he’s just spent a year out of the game. It’s going to take him a little while to find his feet again.
Overall then, what can you say? Other than, haha Sp*rs. We saw what football was all about last night, what it is that brings us all together, what it is that makes this game so great – seeing little children with cocks on their shirt crying.
Some nights are just perfect.
ps – A massive heh for the Arsenal fans and the ‘Shall we make a DVD?’ song. I, quite literally, laughed out loud.