As expected the manager made plenty of changes from the weekend, only Djourou and Denilson (who appears to have stolen Steven Peinaar’s hair) remained from the Sunday’s starting XI.
As expected Carlos Vela got the nod up front ahead of JET while Craig Eastmond was a surprise inclusion in central midfield leaving Henri Lansbury on the bench. We started really brightly, Tomas Rosicky’s harrying put the Newcastle defence under real pressure, the ball broke to Vela who really should have made more of the opportunity than winning a corner. From that Nicklas Bendtner had two efforts blocked before forcing Krul into a save.
In the opening five minutes we seemed to cut them open at will, our finishing leaving something to be required. The game settled down then and Newcastle came back into it. There were many eyes on Wojscez©® and he had a dodgy moment when racing from his goal to intercept a ball through to Ranger, Newcastle’s lone striker. He missed it entirely but Koscielny saved his bacon with an excellent block. When the ball fell to Alan Smith outside just moments later he got the slightest of touches to a powerful shot, tipping it onto the bar.
At that point the game lost of a bit of fizz with neither side doing enough. I thought we were a bit careless in possession, too many heavy touches, and Newcastle really didn’t have a great deal to offer. Just before half-time we went 1-0 up with a rather odd goal. A looping Bendtner header seemed to confuse the Newcastle keeper who ended up flat on his arse and could do nothing when his own player headed the ball off the line, off the back of his head and in. Comical really. Well, certainly if you’re an Arsenal fan.
We made it 2-0 early in the second half and there was a touch of controversy to it. Theo Walcott chased a ball which had come back from our half and a clearly offside Nicklas Bendtner collided with one of their defenders. I don’t think he was going to catch Theo anyway but what was interesting is that even after the smart finish to put us 2-0 up Bendtner was sitting on the ground, arms out, complaining that he had been taken out. It was either an accidental collision or Nick is a fine and convincing actor.
Newcastle brought on Andy Carroll and Gutierrez to chase the game a bit and they were certainly a bit more threatening after that. With about 20 minutes to go we made a change, bringing on Cesc for Carlos Vela, and the game was well and truly over when Bendtner’s fine finish made it 3-0. The big Dane had a good game and he was replaced by JET for the final few minutes. The even bigger Londoner might even have scored but Cesc’s pass was uncharacteristically heavy.
Theo Walcott made it 4-0, a ball came straight through the middle of the Newcastle defence, he raced through and the finish was as cool and composed as you would like. Up the other end Wojscez©® was determined to keep his clean sheet and made excellent saves from Carroll, from a Taylor free kick and was brave at the feet of another Newcastle player during a bit of a post-corner scramble. His final act was a monstrous punch, sadly not to the throat of Joey Barton whose sly knee into Eastmond’s thigh should have been the first part of his red card after he was booked minutes later for a late challenge on Cesc, and the young Pole can be very happy with his night’s work.
Also impressive on the night were Laurent Koscielny whose positioning and reading of the game was first class and he has an uncanny knack for the one on one tackle. I don’t know if it’s the way he sets himself up or the way he watches the ball but he seems to win them every time.
And what more can you ask of two players returning from injury like Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendnter? Bendtner we’ve already touched on but this is clearly a different Theo Walcott. How many times have we spoken about how he needs time to find his feet after an injury? Last night his finishing was absolutely top class, like he hadn’t had a 6 week interruption in his season, and it’s hugely encouraging to see him pick it up again so quickly.
The downside – the injury to Kieran Gibbs. It looks as if he wrenched his knee going in for a tackle and he seems to have the luck of your average van Persie. The consistency of his injuries is a real worry. If he’s going to develop as player he needs to play but he’s in and out of the treatment room far too often. I’m not suggesting it’s his fault but that’s the reality of it. Fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious.
I am pleased with the performance. We were lucky with the first goal just before half time – that was certainly a blow for Newcastle. It put us in a position where we could break much more because Newcastle had to come out and that’s basically what happened in the second half.
So into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup we go for the eighth consecutive season. This is definitely one we can win if we want it enough and we’ve made good use of the competition when you see the benefit to players like Walcott and Bendtner. It’s allowed us to get a decent look at Wojscez©® and we’ve discovered he’s not all mouth. His display will keep Fabianski on his toes at the very least.
The draw for the quarters takes place on Saturday – our potential opponents are Man United, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Ipswich, West Brom, Wigan or West Ham. The Hammers went through after extra-time last night against Stoke but while they may well have some tired legs on Saturday we can’t rely on that to affect their performance.
In other news this morning’s Mirror has a big story about Fernando Torres and Pepe Reina being ready to leave Liverpool in January. As long as we have the effervescent Carlos Vela we’ve got no need for a clogger like Torres but the paper claims we could resurrect interest in Reina having made a £20m bid in the summer. From what I heard back then there was never any such offer from Arsenal but there may well have been tentative contact between us and the player.
At this point though it’s hard to see it happening. Wenger’s faith in Fabianski is paying off, although it’s still very much early days for him, while you would have to think we’d have no chance whatsoever of keeping Wojscez©® if we signed Reina. Remember, the younger of the Poles has yet to sign a new contract and his deal runs out this summer. Last night’s display was a reminder to Arsenal of his potential but also very much one for the shop window. He wouldn’t be short of options.
And that’s about that only to say thank you very much to the bloke who emailed me this morning asking me for my email address. Comedy genius.
Back tomorrow with an Arsecast. Until then take it easy.