There were, I think it’s fair to say, some small concerns with the team that Arsene Wenger had selected for the game last night.
Lukasz Fabianski in goal, Theo Walcott as a striker/’false nine’, and Serge Gnabry making his first start since September were all brave decisions by the boss for a North London derby, and ones he got spot on. While Fabianski had little to do other than watch the £26m Soldado shoot repeatedly wide, Walcott’s movement and running up front was excellent even if his shooting and general awareness was a little off, while Gnabry … well, oof.
Sometimes you look at a young player and see potential, but it’s hard to avoid thinking that the young German is already the real deal. Pace, power, strength, a cracking shot and no small measure of creativity too. There was a moment when he combined brilliantly with Walcott, shouldering a Sp*rs defender out of the way to keep the ball before giving it to Santi Cazorla who fed Theo for a decent chance.
And he set up Cazorla for the opening goal. Taking a pass from Sagna, he drove at the middle of their defence, poked it perfectly in behind and the Spaniard’s controlled, powerful left footed finish was top class. The youngster faded a bit in the second half which is understandable, but on a night when he was given a chance, he well and truly took and it must surely be a bigger part of the manager’s thinking from now on.
Sp*rs, let’s face it, were cack. The only thing I remember Adebayor doing is pushing Sagna over – his reaction, a shake of the head and a look which said ‘You really are a gimp’, was priceless – and falling over in the box when trying to take a shot. The rest of them, the Dembele, Nebetwat, Badli and Eriksen, buzzed around like irritating flies, taking it in turns to foul Jack Wilshere.
Then, on 61 minutes, Mertesacker headed a corner clear, Soldado tried a shot (probably) but ended up passing it to Danny Rose in the centre circle. Tomas Rosicky pressed him, nicked the ball and took off, scampering towards goal like a determined puppy. For me it had shades of Michael Thomas at Anfield, I thought he’d held onto it too long, but under pressure from Kyle Walker he carried on into the box and dinked it over Lloris to make it 2-0.
If you watch the replay the goal becomes even better. Every single touch he has of the ball is perfect. The first one to nick it, the second to push it towards goal without having to break his stride, three more to keep the run going and the ball is always under control, perfectly weighted ahead of him, and the sixth to put it over the keeper and into the net. He made it look easy, but it was brilliant, brilliant play from the effervescent Czech.
That bloke who used to play for Blackburn then took off his £26m striker and replaced him with some nobody I’d never heard of, and left Adebayor on the pitch despite the fact he was probably the worst player on it. And given the way Sp*rs played that was quite an achievement. It meant they continued to offer little or no threat and from our point of view we just kept them at arms length for the rest of the game.
Flamini came on for Wilshere, Ozil replaced Arteta, and we might have gone further ahead with efforts from Walcott (just wide when he had Flamini free outside him) and Ozil which saw Lloris make a save. Late on Theo went down injured, catching his studs on the turf, and as it happened in front of the Sp*rs fans they were less than forgiving.
As he was stretchered off he reminded them of the scoreline so they responded in typical fashion by pelting him with coins. Let’s face it, on the evidence of this summer, throwing away money seems to come naturally to them.
I can’t imagine there’s a need for any punishment for Theo, fans dish it out all the time, so if it’s not an offensive gesture they can’t really complain when they get a bit back. Perhaps, if the FA are really desperate to charge somebody with something they could look at whoever that Sp*rs player was that stamped on, or very close to, Monreal late on. I remember Bergkamp being banned for not stamping on Jamie Carragher some years back.
The more worrying thing is the state of his knee and how long he might be out for. With Bendtner confirmed missing for a month we could do without any more injuries at that end of the pitch, so fingers crossed it’s nothing too serious. The look on his face as he was being taken off didn’t suggest it was that bad, so let’s hope for some good news when he’s assessed today or tomorrow.
Afterwards, Arsene said:
The game was played at a good pace and I think we controlled quite well both sides of it; the defensive and the offensive. We always looked to have a good discipline and to be tight at the back. Every time, when our game is based on movement and quick, sharp passing, we looked dangerous.
So, all in all, you have to say it was a very successful day. The manager was able to rotate his squad a little bit and the changes he made were effective and too much for that bloke who used to play for Blackburn to cope with. It’s worth pointing out the pressure was always on us – win and it’s a routine victory at home against a small team, lose and all of a sudden the ‘balance of power in North London has shifted’ … again … zzzzzz.
We showed we can deal with that, we showed there’s a bit of depth to this squad, and that someone like Gnabry is now really knocking on the manager’s door after such a confident display. Into the 4th round we go, where it’d be nice to get someone a bit easier but it’ll probably be Chelsea.