Gunners' Get Teenage Kicks
Guten arben mine Gooneronie, it`s a wonderful time to be a Gooner just now isn`t it? With the Gunners` looking down contemptuously from the top of both of their respective leagues, it was with an even more composed air than usual that I made my way Groveward last night. Carling Cup matches have been a source of great enjoyment for some years now. I must confess that in Wenger`s early years in office, I found them to be a gruelling chore, a tick in a box, just another brick in the wall. But as Wenger has painstakingly crafted a youth system that is the envy of world football, it has become an absolute pleasure to watch our stars of the not too distant future strut their stuff. It has struck me in recent seasons, particularly on last season`s mesmerising run to the final, just how easily the players can slot into the system of play adopted by the first team, last night was certainly no exception, as Denilson performed a passable Fabregas impression, Diarra looked like Vieira having been shrunk in the washing machine and Alex Song bore a passing resemblance to Kolo Toure at the back.
Another great source of enjoyment for league cup matches is the difference in atmosphere, it provides a chance for those who are unable to get along and watch the Gunners` regularly a chance to sample the match day occasion, so the crowd mimics the team with its enthusiasm for the occasion. Taking my seat I was surprised to see that none of the other season ticket holders in my row had taken advantage of the cheap prices, because these kids are very worth watching. They might have taken the opportunity to sit in other areas of the ground, but I somehow suspect some apathy from season ticket holders on these occasions. (Not when we get to the final though you understand, suddenly it`s all very different)! I was most enraptured that we had been awarded a home tie, not just because of my own petulance for undergoing the arduous long journeys endured on last season`s run, but because these lads deserve 60,000 people coming to watch them.
The young Gunners` took some time to fully acclimatise to the occasion, and Lukasz Fabianski was forced into a fine save, beating out Obefami Martins header, as he beat Senderos to N`Zogbia`s pinpoint cross. But the Arsenal wheels began to lubricate, with Denilson assuming the role of playmaker, while Diarra was the catalyst for attack, twisting and turning Smith so many times it`s a wonder he didn`t rupture his spleen. Denilson played an intelligent ball down the left touchline, which the athletic Armand Traore (sans knuckleduster) whipped in a delightful cross, which Niklas Bendtner got underneath and headed over. It would foreshadow the game`s pivotal moment. This appeared to buoy the youngsters and imbue them with purpose. Emmanuel Eboue`s low strike was clawed away by Given. Theo Walcott picked up the ball centrally and ran at the Newcastle backline, only to get his feet in a muddle and drag his shot wide.
Arsenal appeared more at ease with their decision making in the second half as they went for the jugular. Wonderful interplay between Bendtner and Eboue in the box saw space open up for the Ivorian, but time appeared to stand still as Steven Taylor threw himself at Eboue`s goalbound strike with a terrific block. The momentum was very much with the home side, as Bendtner continued to link up Arsenal`s play, his boots and shirt apparently hand crafted from some form of Teflon, as the ball never seemed to escape his control at any point during the match. Eboue continued to cause havoc, marauding down the right, he barged his way into the box, Taylor`s challenge momentarily denied him, but the ball ricocheted into the path of Theo Walcott who could only fire his shot straight at Shay Given. From the resulting corner, Eduardo ghosted in from nowhere to head goalward, but Charles N`Zogbia headed it off the line. Arsenal continued to press with the Barcodes very much penned in, their parochial support looking on in silent stupor, as Theo Walcott`s deflected left wing cross pawed out from under the crossbar by Given. That odious **** Allardyce withdrew the utterly useless Ameobi, opting to slot Emre into midfield, relying on his precise passing to feed Martins pace upfront. Fortunately for Arsenal. Alex Song was constantly on the case, winning every header, reading every pass and winning every challenge. I`ve had a lot to say about Song on these pages since the demonstrative treatment he has received from others on the blogosphere, culminating in the disgraceful booing last season. The source of my frustration with this is not just because I think Song looks a handy player, but because he has started just one home match prior to last night in Arsenal`s colours, meaning that most Gooners had never actually seen him play in the flesh. Now I like arseblogger`s column and read it every day, but I had to admit to feeling a little smugness as he was forced to insist that he had heard Song had played well, but had not actually seen the game himself.
It looked as though the match was headed for extra time, until Armand tRaore received a Diaby pass on the left, floated in a beauty of a cross which Bendtner positively powered home with his head from six yards. It was a brilliantly placed, firm header and an emphatic way to open the scoring. Well deserved for Bendtner too There was a scare seconds later, as Emre split the Arsenal defence with a slide rule pass which found Martins, he skipped past Fabianski and prodded the ball agonisingly towards the net, only for Philippe Senderos to scramble back and clear it off the line. It was a big redemption for Phil, who had looked very unsure of himself throughout the game. The Gunners` wrapped up the result with a typical panache, Abou Diaby shifted away from two Newcastle challenges on the by-line and pushed the ball back to Denilson, who cracked a fantastic first time strike, cutting across the ball in textbook fashion, whipping into the top corner. It was a fitting end to an exceptional performance. These youngsters have swept aside yet more Premiership opposition and comfortably so. What was particularly pleasing to see was the chemistry in the side, Diarra was the perfect foil for Denilson, Bendtner and Eduardo linked up excellently on occasion, particularly at one point in the second half, playing a series of one twos before Eduardo volleyed wide. Hoyte and Eboue`s link up play was worthy of commendation and the Traore-Clichy axis looks to genuflect that of Clichy-Cole. I really hope that we get another home draw in the next round, as these kids really deserve to play in front of another 60,000 crowd. The tannoy knowingly blared out the Undertones` 'Teenage Kicks` at the final whistle, a poignant reminder that we had witnessed a team predominantly made up of teenagers. But given the huge trouble with the underground post match, only the Jam`s 'Going Underground` would have been more appropriate.LD.