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B-52 bombs Orient as Bendtner hat-trick sends Arsenal to Old Trafford

Arsenal 5 Leyton Orient 0

Chamakh 7, Bendtner 30, 43, 62 pen, Clichy 75

An early goal by Marouane Chamakh (his first since November) and a well-taken hat-trick from Arsenal‘s number 52 Nicklas Bendtner ensured an easy and uplifting win in their team’s FA Cup fifth round replay against Leyton Orient at the Emirates. Their reward is a mouth-watering quarter-final against Manchester United a week on Saturday.

Arsène Wenger made ten changes to the side which lost Sunday’s Carling Cup final, with only Tomáš Rosický retaining his place. Ignasi Miquel, who made his first senior appearance in the 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road, was joined in the team by 19-year old debutant Conor Henderson.

Almunia

Eboué – Squillaci – Miquel – Gibbs

Diaby – Denilson

Rosický

Bendtner – Chamakh – Henderson

Just what the doctor ordered

Chamakh's first goal in three months will have raised his confidence (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Given the manner of Sunday’s dispiriting defeat, a fast start by the home side to settle both players and fans was exactly what was called for. The nerves barely had time to start jangling when, inside seven minutes, Arsenal took the lead.

Rosický, who had been so dismal at Wembley but looked much sharper here, pounced on a loose ball deep in the Orient half and thrust forward purposefully into the box. He pulled the ball back across goal, where a grateful Chamakh scuffed his shot inside the far post from seven yards out. It was the Moroccan’s first goal since scoring at Villa Park more than three months ago.

Orient responded with a couple of openings of their own, but Ben Chorley couldn’t keep his effort down and Alex Revell poked a Charlie Daniels cross wide. Having squandered those opportunities, it was always likely Arsenal would eventually make them pay. However, although they dominated territory and possession the home side struggled to get out of second gear.

Rosický provided two first-half assists (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

It was not until the half-hour mark that Arsenal fashioned another clear chance, but it resulted in their second goal. Diaby picked up the ball in the box and passed it back out to Kieran Gibbs. The left back floated a cross towards the penalty spot, where Bendtner timed his leap perfectly to send a looping header beyond the reach of Orient keeper Jamie Jones.

Arsenal weren’t finished yet. Two minute before half-time, Rosický stole possession, prodding the ball towards Bendtner wide on the left. The striker drifted inside across the edge of the area as he is wont to do, before curling a low shot just inside the post.

Without ever really looking fluent, Arsenal had effectively killed the game off by half-time – not something we have been accustomed to seeing in Cup ties this season.

A hat-trick and a collector’s item

Unsurprisingly, Arsenal’s intensity and focus dropped after half-time, affording a more urgent Orient a greater share of possession and chances. That is understandable to a degree, although the extent of the drop-off remains a worry, as exemplified by a complete failure to pick up a quickly taken short corner.

Bendtner completed his hat-trick from the spot (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Nonetheless, Diaby should have capped an excellent individual performance by scoring Arsenal’s fourth. The Frenchman exchanged passes with Chamakh, holding off challenges as he burst into the box. Unfortunately, his finish failed to match the quality of the build-up as he dragged his shot wide.

The reprieve was only temporary. Just after the hour, Gibbs dribbled into the box and was felled by Revell. Bendtner confidently swept the spot kick beyond Jones’s right hand to complete his hat-trick.

Arsenal’s satisfying evening was completed by a genuine collector’s item. Emmanuel Eboué fired in a low cross from the right which travelled beyond the far post for Gaël Clichy to drive home first time from 15 yards. It was only the full back’s second ever goal for the club.

Post-match reaction & analysis

Wenger was pleased with his side’s response to the disappointment of missing out on the season’s first trophy on Sunday:

It was important that we had a response tonight after what happened over the weekend. We did it in a professional way, we were always focused. We gave ourselves a good chance to focus on the coming weeks because we have now Sunderland on Saturday and Barcelona on Tuesday, then the quarter-final of the FA Cup.

He also recognised the importance of Bendtner and Chamakh getting among the goals, with Robin van Persie likely to miss at least three weeks:

For Bendtner and Chamakh to score is very important. They now have a level of confidence that we need to be successful in the big games.

He [van Persie] overstretched his knee at the back of his knee when he made the volley [to score on Sunday]. It is a ligament at the back of the knee, a tear in the ligament. It is three to four weeks.

Finally, he commented on the status of both captain Cesc Fàbregas and Rosický, who had to be taken off after a blow to the head:

I hope [Cesc will play] next Tuesday. He has a chance to play in Barcelona. I don’t think he will be involved on Saturday, but we will try with him on Sunday and Monday and he will have a final test on Monday morning.

[Rosický] is good. He had an elbow on his head. He was a bit dizzy so we took him off.

This was Arsenal’s most convincing and dominant performance since the back-to-back 3-0 wins over Wigan and Ipswich in January. Chamakh, although not yet back at the level he displayed in the first four months of the season, looked much livelier than he has done in recent appearances, and he and Bendtner were too much for the Orient defence to handle. Indeed, his somewhat mishit opener may prove to be a more significant confidence boost than Bendtner’s timely hat-trick.

Rosický and Diaby, albeit against inferior opposition, bossed the midfield and both played with a pleasing directness and purpose. The French midfielder had arguably his best performance of the season before tiring after half-time, completing all 47 of his passes in the first half. And Conor Henderson had a quiet but solid debut, impressing on a couple of occasions with his ability on crosses. It wasn’t the most fluid display we will ever see, but it was more than good enough, and Arsenal’s finishing was, for once, of the highest quality.

Although the back four – and indeed the entire team’s defending – was fairly shoddy at times in the second half as concentration started to wander, we probably shouldn’t read too much into it. Orient were never going to have the quality to seriously threaten from three goals down, and in truth Manuel Almunia was rarely required to spring into action. Which was probably just as well, as one of the few occasions when he did, in first-half injury time, resulted in a serious case of walk-about which fortunately resulted in nothing.

All in all, any complaints were minor. This was exactly the result required to begin the rehabilitation after the disastrous ending to Sunday’s game. It may only have been the first small step on a long road to redemption after that disappointment, but with United’s defeat at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night Arsenal remain in firm contention for three trophies. We will have a better idea about how far they are able to travel along that road over the next two weeks, starting with Saturday’s home game against Sunderland.

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

One Response to B-52 bombs Orient as Bendtner hat-trick sends Arsenal to Old Trafford

  1. Nice title – love it!

    Now fingers crossed United drop some more points at Liverpool.

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