I don’t always bother doing reports of matches I’ve been to. Indeed looking through the archives, I’ve only done one up until now but Arsenal and I had a bit of a lover’s tiff in the second half of last season and I think I only went to the Youth Cup Final post Christmas. Anyway a new season means new beginnings and after opening my account for the season with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Wigan on Saturday, I again ventured down to the Emirates last night to see the second string and youth players take on West Brom in the Carling Cup.
After a string of impressive performances against Premier League and Championship opposition in recent years, no one is surprised any more at how good some of the players coming through at Arsenal are. Indeed the tendency has been to hype them up like crazy when we should bear in mind they haven’t done anything, yet. However, much of the hype is justified and I think many of the players will actually make the grade at Arsenal unlike in the past where they’d end up being shipped off to a Championship team. All eyes were on Jack Wilshere last night but there were plenty of others to watch as well.
Arsenal started brightly with a couple of Senderos headers off target before West Brom gradually got into the game. Szczesny (I’m half Polish and I still have trouble writing that!) made a couple of smart low stops but on occasion looked suspect when trying to jump for a ball. Just like our other keepers then! Given that he’s only 19 I’ll let him off. Coquelin was quietly efficient in his passing whilst busy in his workrate but it was all pretty even really.
Then came the turning point late in the first half. Ex-Gunner Jerome Thomas tackled Wilshere but left a foot and elbow in as doing so. He offered an apology but Wilshere said something and then Thomas shoved his hand in Wilshere’s face. It was light but sensing the opportunity, the youngster made a bit of a meal of it and Thomas got sent off. It wasn’t violent but he can have no complaints. As I tweeted at the time, if you raise your arms you’re asking for trouble.
Anyway the numerical advantage only told in the second half once Carlos Vela came on for Giles Sunu. Receiving a rapturous reception on his return from injury, he immediately made an impact with his ability to draw the West Brom centre backs wide. The pace of the game increased with his sharp movement and passing and the space that playing against 10 men should have resulted in finally came about.
The first goal was a simple tap in by the brilliantly named Sanchez Watt (prefers it to Herschel which is his real first name!) and came after good work by Vela. He created space for himself on the edge of the box before shooting with enough power that Dean Kiely spilled it allowing Watt to slot home from three yards.
The second came soon after; Mark Randall attempting a chip from 25 yards that Vela himself would have been proud of. It hit the bar and then Leon Barnett attempted a mental chest back to the keeper (the ball was at knee height…). Obviously he screwed it up and Vela walked it into the net.
The rest of the game was played out without too much fuss and Arsenal find themselves in the fourth round. Overall I was impressed with Aaron Ramsey who has improved immensely and now looks too good for this level. Vela made the difference and again is pushing for first team action. Sanchez Watt was lively while the neat and tidy Coquelin could be one to watch giving the constant turnover of defensive midfielders at Arsenal.
The left flank of Gibbs and Traore were quiet in the first half but got into it in the second once the game was stretched. I’m still not quite sure what Traore’s long term role at the club is. I would suggest he focuses on becoming a true left winger. It was nice to see Senderos back and there was only one dodgy moment from him.
Szczesny made some good stops and look assured for 19. I read it was quite close between him and Mannone for the first team spot and have watched them both over the past few days I would be inclined to pick the Pole. Wilshere had some nice touches but was quiet overall. Sunu, Gilbert and Barazite did nothing of note.
I’d say on the whole it was a much more useful learning experience for the players then the 6-0 against Sheffield Utd at this stage last year even if it was less entertaining for myself. Credit to the West Brom fans who filled most of their allocation and had about five times as much support as Wigan did on Saturday (even sung a bit too).