Advertisements

Clinical Arsenal bring Newcastle’s Carling Cup run to a Krul end

Newcastle 0 Arsenal 4

Krul (og) 45, Walcott 53, 88, Bendtner 83

Set on their way by a bizarre own goal from Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, Arsenal progressed to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup for the eighth year in a row, keeping alive their hopes of winning the one domestic trophy which still eludes Arsène Wenger.

Both clubs made nine changes from last weekend’s Premier League line-ups, with only Denilson and Johan Djourou retained from Arsenal’s win over Manchester City. Nonetheless, as at Tottenham in the previous round, it was a strong side that Arsène Wenger sent out, giving the lie to those critics who question the depth of his squad. It was certainly an eleven packed with more experience than we have become accustomed to seeing in this competition, emphasising its increased importance in his plans this season.

20-year old Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny made his senior Arsenal debut, with Tomáš Rosický captaining the side, as the visitors lined up as follows:

Szczęsny

Eboué – Koscielny – Djourou – Gibbs

Denilson – Eastmond – Rosický

Walcott – Bendtner – Vela

Arsenal flew out of the blocks straight from the kickoff. In the first minute alone, Krul had to save smartly from both Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner, with the latter seeing two further close-range efforts blocked. For ten minutes, Newcastle were left chasing shadows as the Londoners dominated play with their quick passing and movement.

Wojciech Szczęsny kept a clean sheet on his full Arsenal debut (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

However, the hosts gradually worked their way into the game. First Nile Ranger missed a golden chance after evading Szczęsny, who had initially hesitated before charging out of his area, only for Laurent Koscielny to get in a crucial block. Seconds later, the Polish keeper redeemed himself, tipping Alan Smith‘s fierce effort from 25 yards onto the bar.

The ever unlucky Kieran Gibbs, just back from injury, limped off after 19 minutes, to be replaced by Bacary Sagna, as the game drifted into a period of stalemate following the frenetic start.

Towards the end of the half, however, came a flurry of Arsenal chances. Emmanuel Eboué, having switched to the left following the substitution, danced past Ryan Taylor but shot wide from a narrow angle when teammates were better placed. A shot from Bendtner from the edge of the box was too close to Krul. A decent shout for handball in the box against James Perch went unheeded by referee Andre Marriner. And then, in the second of two minutes of stoppage time, a Theo Walcott corner was headed back into the area by Rosický and nodded goalwards by Bendtner. In the ensuing goalline scramble, Taylor headed his attempted clearance onto the back of Krul’s head, and the ball rolled almost apologetically into the unguarded goal, providing a gift-wrapped pun on a plate for the morning newspaper headlines.

Walcott now has six goals in six appearances this season (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Newcastle started the second half with renewed purpose, with Perch heading over from a corner. However, within eight minutes they found their deficit doubled in controversial fashion. Djourou headed a ball over the top which Bendtner, in an offside position, left for Walcott. However, as the England forward raced on and coolly lifted the ball over the advancing Krul, his strike partner slyly obstructed Mike Williamson as he attempted to chase back. It was a needless move by Bendtner which could easily have seen the goal disallowed.

Chris Hughton immediately sent on Andy Carroll and Jonás Gutiérrez in place of Peter Lovernkrands and Wayne Routledge, but with the comfort of a two-goal cushion Arsenal began to exert a stranglehold on the game, keeping Newcastle at arm’s length without undue difficulty.

With the job nearly complete Vela, who had been largely invisible all night, was replaced by Cesc Fàbregas. Sagna, after a loose piece of control, was booked for a foul on Gutiérrez. Newcastle’s best effort was a toe-poke from close range by Taylor which Szczęsny bravely pounced on.

Bendtner scored for the second game in a row (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Then, as the game threatened to peter out in the final ten minutes, Arsenal applied the coup de grâce not once but twice. First Bendtner picked up the ball on the edge of the box, cut inside Williamson and fired an unstoppable shot across Krul into the top corner – a finish reminiscent of the goal he scored against Blackburn last season. Then Walcott, set free by Koscielny’s defence-splitting ball, applied the icing to the cake with a calm one-on-one finish.

Without ever quite hitting full stride, this was a solid performance by Arsenal to ease their way into the next round. Walcott and Bendtner both looked sharp; Vela did not. Craig Eastmond did reasonably well, but still looks to be that vital couple of percent short of becoming a regular first team member and will have benefitted from the experience. And, notwithstanding his one moment’s hesitation, Szczęsny underlined his potential with some fine saves. The only real downside was the injury to Gibbs, with Wenger uncertain as to his status in the immediate aftermath of the match:

We don’t know – we have to wait until tomorrow morning to assess it much better. We do not know now if it is a knock of if it is a twist. If it is only a knock it is only a matter of days but if it is a knee ligament then that looks to be a bit longer. But we don’t know yet.

He pronounced himself pleased with his team’s performance, although he acknowledged the importance of the lucky opening goal:

The first goal was certainly the turning point in the game because we had a lot of domination but didn’t take our chances early on in the game. Then Newcastle defended with numbers behind the ball and it became difficult to score. 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.

And he was also full of praise for Walcott as he continues to work his way back from injury:

He was very sharp at the start of the season but then he got injured with England against Switzerland and it was his first game back today. You see that he has improved his composure in front of goal, he has tremendous pace and his first touch is much better. The timing of his runs have always been good but his first touch when running at full pace is better. That makes a big difference.

Theo Walcott is 21-years-old. That’s the age when other players start to play. He is a very young boy and he is a very intelligent player and that’s why I believe he will continue to develop. He has tremendous pace and power and in front of goal he is very good. The timing of his runs are good and for a striker that is the most important thing.

The draw for the quarter-finals take place this Saturday, with Manchester United and Aston Villa the only other survivors among the major clubs. It is too early to look so far forward, but Wenger will know more than anyone that two more wins will see his side at Wembley with the opportunity to secure a first trophy in nearly six years.

It is back to the Premier League on Saturday, as Arsenal host bottom-of-the-table West Ham. A repeat of last season’s 2-0 home win would be more than welcome as the Gunners look to build on the momentum of last weekend’s big win against City.

Advertisements

About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

3 Responses to Clinical Arsenal bring Newcastle’s Carling Cup run to a Krul end

  1. Le Winger says:

    At the first glance, Szczesny seems to be a little bit shorter than Almunia and Fabianski.
    Checking with the EPL’s official data, I find he is actually 196 cm and 75 kg, very perfect figures indeed!

    • Tim says:

      He’s certainly an imposing physical presence. Lots of potential – he just needs more experience, and last night’s match is all part of the learning process for him. Hopefully he will have a bright future with us.

  2. Pingback: Shakhtar make Arsenal pay for defensive errors « The armchair sports fan

%d bloggers like this: