Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Thursday March 3 2011
After the misery of Sunday, a replay against Leyton Orient really did not seem like such a bad idea after all. With injuries beginning to take their toll, another game for the second string was no bad thing- particularly in a very winnable game like this one. But more importantly I feel, Arsenal needed to move on and get a win under their belts. There are still plenty of fish simmering in the pan for this season and there is still silverware to be had, the possible ramifications of Sunday can well and truly jog on until May. The streets around the stadium had an incredibly barren feel to them pre match; the Arsenal Tavern was virtually empty by the time of my arrival at around 6.30pm. It was obvious that there would be a lot of stay aways. Probably the same people that criticised the club`s Cup Final Ticket Policy because they couldn`t get Wembley tickets. The starting line up was pretty much what we all expected, save perhaps for the inclusion of Conor Henderson. As I arrived in the stadium just as the teams were emerging from the tunnel, I had the entire row to myself. (This situation did not persist for the whole game, but even so).
In these sorts of games, an early goal is paramount to settle any nerves and that`s exactly what Arsenal got. Tomas Rosicky plotted his way to the by line on the right hand side, cut the ball back and Marouane Chamakh connected cleanly to give the home side a 7th minute lead. It was Chamakh`s first goal in over three months and will hopefully serve as a boon for him. With van Persie out for the next few weeks, we will need our back up strikers firing. The O`s did briefly threaten to equalise when Jason Crowe plundered his way to the touchline and hit a low cross for Alex Revell who opened out his body but side footed a good chance wide. The Orient fans gathered at the other end had already begun celebrating. It was as near as they would come to celebrating too as a mixture of Arsenal`s superior quality and an injury depleted Orient side meant Arsenal took cruise control of the game.
On the half hour mark, Arsenal stretched their lead. Conor Henderson found Kieran Gibbs on the left, his flighted cross was met by a firm, looping Nicklas Bendtner header, which evaded the outstretched fingertips of Lee Butcher in the Orient goal. Any chance the game had of becoming something approaching a spectacle was ruthlessly killed off by the Gunners just two minutes before half time. Carelessness had begun to dog Orient`s play with several players carrying knocks (captain Stephen Dawson was stretchered off with suspected knee ligament damage just four days previous. He played the full 90). Tom Carroll miscontrolled Andrew Whing`s throw in inside his own half, Rosicky was quick to burgle him of possession, nudging the ball wide to Bendtner. Bendtner really ought to have passed it back to Rosicky, but took the single minded option of cutting in and bending a precise low shot into the bottom corner. Having just been on the end of some stick from the travelling supporters, he raised a finger to his lips towards his taunters. You have to say, a little unnecessary against a team of this level.
The second half proved to be little more than a training ground exercise- which is exactly what we needed in the circumstances. Abou Diaby played a neat one two on the edge of the area with Chamakh before wriggling past two Orient defenders, going clear in the area, but blasting the ball just past the far post. It was a microcosm of Diaby`s Arsenal career to date. He did the difficult parts superbly and just when your hopes were raised, he fluffed the easy part. Maybe I`m being slightly disingenuous, it would probably more likely have summed up his Arsenal career had he scored, but then stubbed his big toe celebrating and missed the next 6 games. The O`s were on damage limitation, but the Gunners produced another chink to their armour just after the hour mark. Kieran Gibbs weaved in and out of a couple of tired Orient challenges in the penalty area, before Alex Revell tripped him in the area. With the promise of a hat trick, there was only ever going to be one penalty taker and Nicklas Bendtner stepped up and converted for the third time in his three Arsenal penalties to date. His substitution was greeted with histrionic booing from the away support. He scored a hat trick and was still rather unpopular. Sounds like Nicklas Bendtner.
The training procession did have a novel touch to it when Arsenal added their fifth goal. Eboue sauntered down the right and delivered a low cross, which Chamakh cleverly dummied and Gael Clichy provided an emphatic finishing touch with a left foot drive into the bottom corner. His second goal in 255 appearances and his first at home for Arsenal. Fellow substitute Samir Nasri nearly added some gloss when his twinkling toes took him past two before firing over the bar. Orient almost got a souvenir goal when Dean Cox shimmied between Eboue and Squillaci to take him through on goal, but Almunia was something of a spoil sport when he swotted Cox`s effort away. It wasn`t the most unexpected or exciting result in the world, but it was exactly what we needed to squeeze the puss from the wound and give a couple of our strikers some goals to feed their confidence. (Though in truth, Bendtner`s confidence hardly starves to death at even the leanest of times). It`s a building block and we now go into a crucial league game with this game at our back rather than the cup final defeat. Going to Old Trafford in the next round might not be the most attractive of ties for some Arsenal fans, but if we can get through we`d be strong favourites to go on and lift the cup and we have to look at that as motivation. United won`t be any happier to be meet us than we will be to meet them. It`s another big chance for silverware and one that I am relishing.LD.
1.ALMUNIA(c), 27.EBOUE, 18.SQUILLACI, 48.MIQUEL, 28.GIBBS, 15.DENILSON, 2.DIABY (19.Wilshere `66), 7.ROSICKY (8.Nasri `62), 52.BENDTNER (22.Clichy `66), 44.HENDERSON, 29.CHAMAKH. Unused: 3.Sagna, 20.Djourou, 23.Arshavin, 53.Szczesny.
Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA
Date:Thursday March 3 2011
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