Is that a change in the way Arsene Wenger and Arsenal approach the Carling Cup? We will know more when the next fixture in the competition comes along. For now, it is about a victory over our fierce rivals. A rival who thought they are on the up and have been lauding that they have closed in on Arsenal and perhaps even have a better squad than us. As Rafael Van der Vaart found out, none of that are true.
This was by far the strongest side that I’ve seen Wenger put out in the 3rd competition in England and perhaps that is an indication of intent on his part to take any trophy this season. In spite of the strong looking squad, we still made 8 changes to the side that started at Sunderland with only Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere and Samir Nasri retained. Sp*rs also chose to rest their first teamers and the outcome was inevitable.
As if normally with the case of weaker opponents coming up against a stronger one, they resort to tactics that they only can. Wilshere was the recipient of such tactics as Sp*rs took every opportunity to knock him to the ground. The 18-year-old have grown with each game and was monstrous in this game. Battered and bruised, Wilshere did not let any of it dampen his spirit and desire. He just got back up after every foul and took the game by the scruff of the neck and even had 2 assists to boot. Abou Diaby and Denilson will be fearing for their place in the first team now.
Wilshere was the instigator of the opening goal for us in the 15th minute of the first half. Exchanging passes with Tomas Rosicky, he found space on the right hand side of Sp*rs’ defence and smashed a low cross into the box. Who was there to receive the pass if not another Englishman in Arsenal’s side. Henri Lansbury’s first ever senior North London Derby and he got a goal to boot. It would be a night to remember for the lifelong Gooner.
Lansbury was tidy and involved throughout the whole 120 minutes of football. Wenger liken him to another English legend from Arsenal’s past, Ray Parlour and that comparison may not be too far off. Lansbury would be very proud be the work that he put in. Sure, there were a couple of misplaced passes and that is to be expected from a young player but he never let that shake his confidence. One to watch.
Lukasz Fabianski got another chance to show that he is capable of becoming the world class keeper that Wenger thinks he could be. Overall, he did not do much wrong but was certainly at fault for Sp*rs equaliser. Although the linesman incorrectly kept his flag down when Robbie Keane was surely offside, Fabianski could’ve done better with the shot. He got the angles correct and even got down well. However, the fact that he got 2 hands on the ball and still allow the shot to sneak into the net was very poor from our Polish keeper. That is another chance given and another not taken by him. How many more Mr Wenger?
Apart from that, Arsenal were well and truly in charge of the game. How that did not translate in us getting the win in normal time is beyond me. But before extra time, Pat Rice was already instructed to bring on Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin for Carlos Vela and Rosicky respectively. Those fresh legs proved to be the turning point as Arsenal started the extra time with extra burst of energy.
Within 5 minutes of the restart, we were 3-1 up. Nasri and Chamakh, in that particular order were fouled inside of Sp*rs’ box and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Both times Nasri send the keeper the wrong way to put us through to the next round of the competition. It was composed finishing from the Frenchman and it begs the question of why he did not want to take the one at Sunderland. Arshavin put the icing on the cake when he took a quick freekick by Wilshere and fired the ball home with his left leg.
I’m sure many will point to the fact that this is not Sp*rs’ first team and that the victory is nothing to shout about. I’m sorry to tell you otherwise. This is also not Arsenal’s first team and not only did we put 4 past them in their own ground, we totally outplayed them. All these with a precocious 18-year-old Englishman who looks more and more like our 21st century version of Liam Brady.
This will teach you not to speak your mind too often Rafael.