It another win for Arsenal as we progressed through to the next round of the Carling Cup at the expense of plucky Shrewsbury Town. It was only our second win of the season and frankly, we’ll just have to take that. There was a mixture of first team back ups and youngsters on display in the game yesterday. It wasn’t a completely dominating performance over a League Two side but at the end of the day, it was the result that mattered.
Like so many who were unable to attend the match in person, we only relied on audio stream throughout the game. Luckily for me (and those who subscribed), we were able to watch the entire match just after the final whistle on Arsenal Player. Thus it was hard to accept the criticism online when all we get was an audio feed. Surely judgement can’t be made of who’s at fault or to be blamed until we see the actual picture.
The line-up was as expected from Arsene Wenger. The only surprise, albeit a minor one, was the exclusion of Ryo Miyaichi from the starting 11. His place was taken by Park Ju Young and that meant a reverse of the formation back to 4-4-2. The South Korean was paired up front with Marouane Chamakh while Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin was given the task to hold the midfield together. Yossi Benayoun and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the either side of the 2 defensive minded midfielders.
Park and Chamakh put themselves about and was involved in general attacking play but was not the outlet for us yesterday. The latter did have several early chances to put us ahead but Shrewsbury’s keeper was up to task with it. Nonetheless, it was still positive to see the Moroccan getting on the end of things.
Like I said, had those early chances went in, we would be cruising in the game. But it didn’t happened and the away side was given a lifeline and probably drew some confidence by still finding themselves on equal terms after 10 minutes of constant Arsenal pressure. Then, they took a surprise lead.
Ignasi Miquel was caught out of position, defending a throw in when he really should’ve pulled back and retreated to his own penalty box. As it is, his absence left Johan Djourou with the task of picking up 2 opposition players. As the cross came in, the Swiss international was unable to choose which player to mark and it was a free header for James Collins to put the visitor one up.
It has to be said that both our DM were inside the box at the time of the cross but neither noticed the numerical advantage over Djourou and was not even close to challenge or pick up the opposition. That said, both had a decent game afterwards but of the two, Coquelin was the one who stood out.
There was an incisive moment in the first half when Shrewsbury counter attacked and was on a 3 v 3 situation. It was the Frenchman’s fantastic lunging block which prevented the away side from making it 2-0. After how we’ve played in the first half, it would be a very hard task to come back if the margin was increased.
Coquelin read the game well and intercepted quite a few passes. He was quick, spread the play well and even had a shot which was comfortably saved by Ben Smith in Shrewsbury’s goal. His long range passing was also something worth praising. Not choosing to focus only on his right (stronger) leg, he was also pinging passes confidently and accurately with his left. When Frimpong was chosen to be substituted over Coquelin, it truly reflected which player stood out more.
We equalised just after the half hour mark when Carl Jenkinson supplied a sumptuous cross from the right which was missed by Chamakh. Quite why Kieran Gibbs was where he was, I won’t know. But thankfully he was. Reacting the quickest, our left back planted a header straight back at goal. The ball was in the net before Smith had even jump.
To be fair, with the amount of running and effort put in by the lower league side in the first half, they were always going to struggle physically in the second half. That was exactly what happened. As their legs got heavier, we wrested control of the game. After working the ball around and not finding any space, it took a long range shot from outside the box from AOC to put us ahead for the first time in this tie. It was a rocket of a shot and Smith was probably unsighted by his own player, reacting far too late for the save.
Together with Coquelin, AOC was the other star of the night. Here was a player who was compared with Theo Walcott due to their appearance and also footballing background. I wouldn’t say just yet that AOC is much better than Walcott but the signs are encouraging. Playing in the wide right berth that Walcott usually does, AOC thrives.
I think we can safely assume that pace and dribbling are AOC’s assets. Plenty of successful dribbles and chose to use his pace accordingly. He also knew when to just cut back and when to head for the byline. His crossing was also very good, constantly being put in with pace and accuracy. He certainly needed little backlift to do that (something which Pennant is also good at). It was nice to see Arsenal having options in AOC, Gibbs and Jenkinson.
Benayoun then added the icing to the win by grabbing the third goal. Substitute and debutant, Oguzhan Ozyakup claiming his first assist in the first team colours. Ryo and Chuks Aneke were the other substitute but neither had enough time to show what they were capable of. There’s always next time for these boys.
It was a game which I thoroughly enjoyed. As mentioned earlier, several new faces shone while some of the more experienced ones got the game time which they desperately needed. There’s no point in judging this game in context of our season mainly because it’s a different team and the quality of the opposition. Hence, I just hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did.