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Wigan Gown

It was yet another night of Carling Cup entertainment to look upon with disturbingly avuncular affection. Following the defeat of Manchester United on Saturday, there was a feel good factor floating around the stadium, which the manager spoke of maintaining. Wenger stuck to his word and made 11 changes from Saturday`s side, even going so far as to preserve the fitness of utility striker Nicklas Bendtner for the visit of Aston Villa on Saturday, so Jay Simpson stepped into the breach. It was slightly surreal for me to see Jay`s muscular frame plugging away upfront in an Arsenal shirt having watched him five or six times at the Den last season. (I even saw him sent off for celebrating a goal against Oldham).

As ever in Carling Cup games, the kids took a little while to make an impression on the game. It is usually the case that they require a catalyst to imbue them with confidence, particularly when the opposing side tries to make a physical impression in the early stages. So it proved in the opening exchanges, the Latics revealed their hand very early, looking to target Kieran Gibbs at left back by getting the ball to Daniel de Ridder at the earliest available opportunity. A mixture of Gibbs` natural attacking instincts and Merida`s lack of awareness tracking back would probably have informed this. In these opening stages, the calmness and authority of Djourou and Song was worth its weight in gold. After 13 minutes, the catalyst arrived. Aaron Ramsey, who showed an insatiable desire for the ball all night, proving to be the pivot of the team, sent a defence splitting through ball to Carlos the motorbike, Vela jinked through on Kirkland and tried to round the grounded keeper, but Kirkland thrust out a palm to beat the ball away from Vela`s ravenous stride. The crowd was newly buoyed with enthusiasm and when Wilshere played the ball into Jay Simpson, the young hulk swiftly turned Boyce before crashing an early shot against the top of the crossbar. The young Gunners baby steps were turning into giant strides as the nimble Vela was bought down on the edge of the box. Ramsey sent the free kick carrier pigeon like towards the top corner, only for Kirkland to beat it out.

But Wigan were looking to use their wingers on the counter, de Ridder again teasing Gibbs before sending a ball to Koumas at the back post, but the Welshman blasted his shot over. The first goal was always going to be the crucial one. de Ridder forced a fine save from Fabianski, who looks an incredible prospect. But the goal came just before the break. 16 year old Jack Wilshere breezed in field from the right, collected the ball under pressure from Palacios and Cattermole, before clipping a delightful low through ball, perfectly weighted into the area for the marauding Jay Simpson who toe poked past the onrushing Chris Kirkland. Wilshere`s part in the goal succinctly sums up the sense of excitement that surrounds this player. Hype is not something I particularly care for but I cannot help but feel that only attitude or serious injury can prevent Wilshere from achieving greatness. He is so easy and fluid on the ball, the deceptive way he changes direction puts one in mind of an on form Alex Hleb, whilst his strength and vision belie his tiny frame and slender years. Everything looks so easy to him; he`s just a natural born footballer. The fact that he drifted infield so intuitively and delivered the pass under pressure so adroitly beggars belief for a boy (and it`s not incorrect to label him as such) of his age.

Wigan had to come out and attack in the second half, and they did for the first ten minutes or so. Arsenal`s youngsters were demonstrating such composure on the ball, from back to front, showing grace under fire, but Wigan were determined to press high up the pitch in the second half and were forcing errors. Ramsey in particular overplayed at times. But Ramsey was also at the heartbeat of our attacking play, a gorgeous defence splitting pass to Kieran Gibbs saw the young left back force a good save from Kirkland, who was on his mettle in spite of a back injury. However, the Gunners waited their moment and Ramsey demonstrated his keen eye once again. With the Latics pushed high up the pitch, Fabianski`s punch found Ramsey, who sent a low pass down the left flank and with Vela trailing his marker by some three yards, but the Mexican revved up the engine and motored past Boyce and into the area, he had the wherewithal to look up and spot Jay Simpson, leaving the Islington youngster to tap home into an empty net. Wigan more or less gave up the ghost at that point and Vela`s altruism was rewarded with a quite stunning goal from the young Latin striker. Djourou bought the ball out of defence with consummate authority, he played the ball in to Vela with his back to goal, a beautiful spin took his round the lumbering centre half before a gorgeous clip sailed over Kirkland`s head and nestled snugly in the onion bag. Even after several replays I was convinced the ball had ricocheted in off of Bramble, it soon became apparent that the spin on the ball was applied entirely by Vela. It was a goal to saviour.

With the attacking flair showed throughout the game, it was time for the rearguard to receive some well earned plaudits. de Ridder wriggled in and out and past Hoyte and Djourou before sending his shot goalwards. Fabianski palmed it away, only for Zaki to be on hand to convert the rebound. Or so we thought, Fabianski clambered to his feet and with the ball behind him, he elastically turned the flat of his hand towards the ball and turned it onto the underside of the bar. The save was part Jim Montgomery in the 1973 Cup Final, part Jens Lehmann against Real Madrid. High praise indeed and Fabianski clearly enjoyed it, pumping his fists after the ball was cleared with the kind of youthful exuberance unbecoming of the team`s senior figure! Stiff upper lip young man. 15 seconds or so later, a back pass arrived at his feet and he was given a standing ovation, well deserved too. A few minutes later and it was the whole team`s turn to receive the accolades, convincingly beating an established and physical Premiership side is no mean feat for a team of teenagers. The PA recognised the significance too, playing the Undertones` 'Teenage Kicks` as the players left the pitch. Half of the current top flight was fallen victim to Arsene`s team of young protégés over the last four years and the fact that they continue to produce performances such as this is really quite astonishing. I am not sure there is another team/ manager in the world who could regularly field sides of this infancy with such results. There were a number of performances to be inspired by, Fabianski looks a calm and assured pair of hands, Djourou and Song relished their roles of elder statesmen in the team and helped us ride out Wigan`s pressure. Ramsey was the pivot, wanting the ball at every available opportunity, Randall did the laundry behind him quietly and effectively. Gibbs and Hoyte looked sturdy, while Merida showed many nice touches. Vela and Simpson were, believe it or not, quiet for large spells of the game, but one look at the score sheet and accompanying assists card will tell the story of their contribution. But the star of the night had to be Wilshere who is eerily composed and natural with a football, like he came out of the womb with a size five football at his feet. His strength and vision also show great promise because you cannot artificially instil that in players as ridiculously young as he. At the beginning of the night, Lord Lowe received a text from a Chelsea fan saying our insistence on playing youngsters was "an embarrassment to the sponsors." I quipped that given the fact that most of our team are too young to purchase said sponsor`s product, he may have a point. On my way home I received a text to say that Wilshere had won man of the match but was too young to accept the magnum of champagne. You couldn`t make it up.LD.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Wednesday November 12 2008

Time: 1:36PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
Well written LD but it all sounds like a Boys'Own story except it is all true. I believe there were seven English lads in the squad tonight, could this be an omen from the 1930's?
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12/11/2008 13:58:00

I think the Chelski fan and Ray "Herman Munster" Wilkins can go **** themselves. They are perhaps showing jealousy towards a club that actually has a youth system and doesn't rely on overpaying for players instead! I know they have won it twice recently, one against us, but look at the two teams that lined up. We play for the future development of the team and club, Chelsea are all about instant results with money, money, money! Great match, Wigan deserve credit for not playing like that scummy bunch of cloggers Stoke. They put there foot in, but it was fair and not OTT! Impressed by Dourou wh olooked the bees knees last night.
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12/11/2008 13:59:00

Disrespecting the cup he says. So getting to the later rounds most seasons for 5 years is disrespecting the cup eh? What a knob head!
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12/11/2008 14:01:00

Yeah, Wilkins is a first class *****nut. He'd do well to keep his mouth shut. A) Unlikely as it is, if Burnley win tonight he'll look like more of an idiot than Fabregas. B) If Chelsea go through and draw Arsenal in the next round and our youngsters beat Chelsea, the potential for egg on disgusting bald, John Terry bumming head could be huge.
Little Dutch
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12/11/2008 14:08:00

I'm like you LD, I hate hype, but Jack seems destined for greatness. Of course, we shouldn't put too much pressure on him, he's very young and he will have many inconsistent games for a couple more years until he fully matures.
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12/11/2008 14:08:00

I know LG, we've made the finals and the semis the last two years, how are we disrespecting it?
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12/11/2008 14:11:00

the sad thing is Chelsea do have good young players. Sinclair, di santo, mancienne, but bald f*@k has basically come out and said they aren't good enough to be trusted in the later rounds of the competition. Hearing this isn't going to inspire any good young player to join them so its better for us in a way. Vela reminds me of a young raul, he is possibly a bit quicker but has already shown an array of finishes! Wilshere is fabregas like in his composure.......its all very promising :)
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12/11/2008 14:18:00

Seems to me it's Chelsea who are disrespecting their own youth players and their obligation to having a decent academy developing home-grown players. Yesterday the Independent had an article about how the Chelsea first team players told Felipao not to play youth players in the CC because the first teamers had such good experiences in the competition and wanted to go and win it again. To hell with developing young talent at Chelsea, then.
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12/11/2008 14:19:00

My only moan about Vela would be his refusal to use his right foot, it will make him a lot easier to defend against in tight situations if he won't trust it. But the boy does look a bit special.
Little Dutch
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12/11/2008 14:20:00

What also helped us was Wigan's poor attitude and lack of desire. Only DeRidder, Kirkland and the half-fit Zaki were up for anything last night, while the youngsters were seething with desire. The most important thing is to instill and install this type of attitude to every Arsenal player every time they put on the shirt regardless of the competition or opposition being played. Combined with the undoubtful quality and talent, as they say, the sky is the limit.
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12/11/2008 14:23:00

Also worth pointing out that United tried to play a team of younger players last night and only squeezed past QPR at home when they bought some big hitters on. Their youngsters were also turned over at home to Coventry last season, nobody does the youth development chebang like we do, or rather, like Arsene does.
Little Dutch
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12/11/2008 14:28:00

I thought Wigan gave it a decent go, the first goal was always going to be crucial. Wigan pressed very hard at the beginning of the second half, but we showed great maturity to soak it up and hit them on the counter. It was only at 2-0 that I thought Wigan gave up completely.
Little Dutch
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12/11/2008 14:30:00

To hell with developing young talent at Chelsea, then. jaelle I suppose when you can afford to buy any player you want without regard to the cost or the clubs balance sheet then why bother with youth?
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12/11/2008 14:45:00

Great write up Tim. My only complaint would be that Homer didn't have a tap in. A defender on the line, the keeper and another defender on the way back, I've seen much more experienced players panic and f*** it up. It was a really well taken finish in my eyes. Fabianski looks the mutts. Alot of keepers make a mistake and then look nervous for the rest of the game, not this guy, once the mistake has been made it's gone. He'll return for the very next cross with supreme confindence ..... and he'll get it too. I love how industrious he is too. As soon as the ball is in his hands it's like a hot potato, he wants rid. None of this prancing around waiting for the photos to be taken and show boating saves. The kid is awesome, and at 23 could keep goal for an awful long time at Arsenal.
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12/11/2008 15:23:00

He trained at the best place for polish goalkeepers alongside Dudek, I think Boruc trained there aswell? Fabianski, i think what would of helped him the most is if he had joined the club and we had someone like Lehmen, Seaman, Lukic keeping goal. A real class goalkeeper who he could learn from, as Alumnia, for all his fine saves this season, just isn't in the aforementioned's class. But it doesn't seem to be holding him back too much!
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12/11/2008 15:27:00

Ray Wilkins is an idiot. He's spent the last few years on tv "pimping" himself to Chelski with his ridiculously blinkered comments. He's a joke and I think it's funny that Paul Ince told him so at the weekend. Very thinly veiled JEALOUSY, imo. Arsene's policy is spot-on and his use of the CC is completely sensible. As has already been said, 2 Semis and a Final appearance speaks volumes. I say give them the FA Cup too. Who says they can't pull it off?
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12/11/2008 15:38:00

I want the kids to take the FA Cup duty as well. They may or may not make it into the quarterfinals and beyond, but they would give it a decent effort and I believe they deserve the opportunity. I also believe giving these kids the opportunity to face other senior sides can only benefit the club in the long run with very little risk. It would keep our senior squad a bit healthier I hope as they'd play fewer games during the busiest part of the season AND in all honesty it would probably do them some good to see just how good the kids right behind them are doing. After seeing the kids hit Wigan for 3, the seniors should be well motivated to prove they can hit Wigan for 4. The seniors aren't irreplaceable and they need to be reminded of that.
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12/11/2008 15:57:00

Was also great to see Charlie Nicholas brimming with happiness at what the boys had done last night.
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12/11/2008 15:57:00

Having 7 substitutes helps us a lot more than other teams as we are always braver than most when it comes to blooding youngsters in the first team squad and we can now squeeze 2 of them onto the subs bench for league games giving them a hint of what the Premiership is all about.
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12/11/2008 16:30:00

You can only imagine what the confidence is like at the Club and the training ground now, just in time for our next 3 games which are Villa at home, Man City away and Chelsea away. We're going to win all three, you heard it here first fellow Gooners!
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12/11/2008 17:31:00

Actually, I can't say that we are GOING to win all three, more that I feel confident that we have an excellent chance to do so (which is more than what I felt last week).
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12/11/2008 17:32:00

" If Chelsea go through and draw Arsenal in the next round and our youngsters beat Chelsea, the potential for egg on disgusting bald, John Terry bumming head could be huge" If we do beat Burnley, I'd love to see Chelsea play Arsenal.
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12/11/2008 18:15:00

So would we kev, so would we. Wenger's team talk will take no time coz its already been done by Ray 'mug' Wilkins. Good write up LD. Missed the penalty claim for the handball by Djourou though. We were quite lucky coz it was only 1-0 at the time and it could have changed the game. Superb performance by the kids.
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12/11/2008 19:20:00

Oh and I completely echo the sentiment on Fabianski. He has the potential to be better than Almunia IMO. I like his attitude, always looking to be aggressive, attacks the ball, comes off the line quickly whether its off a throw in or a corner or a clearance that needs to be made. He will improve his judgment on when to come off his line soon enough. And a fantastic double save, esp the 2nd from Zaki. Top notch !
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12/11/2008 19:26:00

Also LD, I thought the through ball for Vela's first strike on goal came from Merida, not Ramsey. I could be mistaken though (live stream and all).
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12/11/2008 22:08:00

What now you bald f*@k....that will teach u to stick ur nose in other peoples business wilkins.
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12/11/2008 22:32:00

Well prits, maybe in the FA Cup.
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12/11/2008 22:33:00

Oh Wilkins... what are your opinions on disrespecting the cup now? The scale of that humble pie must dwarf even Fabregas' girl time jibe.
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12/11/2008 22:34:00

Now boys, stop it. Chelsea take the Carling Cup very seriously so don't rub salt in their wounds.
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12/11/2008 22:39:00

Great Article as always Tim, thanks for bring to life what I was luckly to see take place before me. It was a great night, with a chance to see Arsenal's future.
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13/11/2008 14:31:00


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