Well that was rather pleasing wasn’t it? I’m reading reports that some people thought we weren’t all that convincing but for me personally, a team which had a ton of changes, and unfit/just returning Van Persie and Theo, a useless Bendtner, and Eboue, who managed to keep a clean sheet, score two goals, be denied three clear cut penalties, and make it through the semi-finals of the Carling Cup as the only team out of the Top four to stay in the competition is a pretty decent night’s work.
We are also the only team in England who can complete a quad.
Not a bad evening at all.
Prior to the match I’d tweeted that I fancied us to win 5-0. I’d nothing to back that up apart from a gut feeling, and if Martin Atkinson hadn’t put in one of the worst refereeing displays in recent memory, we could quite easily have achieved that tally without needing our four strikers to get any of their shots on target. How he didn’t spot one of the three blatant and crystal clear handballs in the Wigan box is beyond me.
And that’s how we ended the first half – 1 nil up and not one single shot on target. Carlos Vela had been guilty of missing the best chances, but his movement and work rate made him far better than Nik who looked lazy and disinterested at times. It was suggested that he might have thought the Carling Cup was beneath him, but he should have looked at the Captain for the night -RVP- who gave everything and showed the class we have been mourning for far too long. More than anyone, Nik needs performances and effort to match his mouth. He used to have the latter if not always the former, and while I appreciate he is also returning to fitness, he has no-one to blame but himself for the added scrutiny he finds himself under.
How Wigan managed to keep all 11 players on the pitch I’m not quite sure, but after Atkinson booked Vela early on for what seemed no more than a tangle of legs, he then allowed Wigan, Figueroa in particular, to kick with impunity. There were some truly shocking tackles allowed to go without admonishment, and those were the ones he spotted, and while it wasn’t an overly dirty game, there was more than enough from the visitors to see at least one red.
Star of the night, for me, was Jack, who was splitting Wigan at will. He was closely followed by Gibbs and Van Persie, the latter showing some impossible back heel flicks only to see Vela fall over or fail to finish. At least he kept getting in the positions and didn’t let his head drop once. Nasri showed why he is an early contender for player of the season with his substitute appearance and simply sublime and unlucky not to get on the scoresheet.
A special mention must go to Eboue. He is really annoying me at the minute. After he had ‘that’ game, the one in which he was booed off, he went away, put his head down, worked hard, and earned himself a place in the heart of many a supporter. Now, we are starting to see less of the hard-working Eboue and more of the drama queen who flings himself to the ground at the hint of the slightest touch. He is, quite simply, an embarrassment.
What is his reward from the crowd for this behaviour? They sing his name longer and louder. I’m sorry, but nobody ever came just to see Eboue, and when he was effective on the pitch the chant was quite funny. Now, it is irritating and must be frustrating to some of the other team members, to hear his name sung so clearly when he offers nothing to the team except poor defending, frustrating antics, terrible, dangerous tackling and a constant insistence on running down blind alleys.
He needs to get his head back down, cut out the diving, and work on what it was that first had the crowd singing his name.
So, we have a two-legged semi-final against either West Ham, Birmingham, Villa, Ipswich, or West Brom and you would have to say that the trophy is ours to lose. The defeat of Man United last night should serve as a reminder though that if you are not at your best you could very well be dumped out on your arse.
It is interesting that as Arsenal creep closer to their first trophy in five years (yawn) that pundits are already starting to say ‘it’s only the Carling Cup’ but they should be reminded at every turn, that over the past five years they have slated Wenger for not taking it seriously, not getting that first trophy under his belt (as if he’s won nothing prior to 2005) and that he is a fool for dismissing it. You should also remind any Spuds who come out with that line that the Carling Cup is the only trophy they’ve been able to win in the last 19 years, a time which has seen Arsenal win five league titles and five FA Cups to their two (it’s only the) league cups. Would they swap their 2008 League Cup for one of our league titles or FA Cups? You better believe it.
It was nice to get a pretty uncomplicated win under our belt at home. Small steps, and one game at a time is how we build a fortress at the Emirates.
This is a great start, but it means nothing if we don’t follow it up on Saturday against Fulham.
Interesting from Twitter:
RT @Orbinho: HT Stats Arsenal v Wigan Shots 6-2, On target 0-1, Fouls 2-10, Duels Won % 47%-53%, Passing Accuracy 86%-85%, Possession 60%-40%
RT @Orbinho: FT Stats Arsenal v Wigan Shots 19-4, On target 6-1, Fouls 6-17, Duels Won % 57%-43%, Passing Accuracy 87%-85%, Possession 51%-49%
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