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Arsenal 3 Shrewsbury Town 1

Arsenal 3 Shrewsbury Town 1

Carling Cup nights are something of a different experience- particularly at home games. The atmosphere takes on a more relaxed air, as a mixture of those that don`t get to go often and the lack of intensity towards the result lead to a pleasant evening usually. But with the club in its biggest funk for some years and the pressure of League Two opposition to swat aside, it felt different tonight. An incredibly nervy first half compounded the uncertainty and turned it into all out tension. Arsene went with fringe players with a sprinkling of experience. The likes of Chamakh and Benayoun starting whilst Djourou wore the captain`s armband. Unfortunately, it didn`t imbue Johan with any mystical powers and he ended up looking as distinctly lower league as anyone else on offer.

The Gunners reverted to a 4-4-2 formation, with Ju-Young Park given license to wander behind Chamakh. Arsenal looked to have settled into the groove after just 100 seconds when Kieran Gibbs` hanging cross from left back found Chamakh inside the six yard area, but his close range header was turned away by Shrews keeper Ben Smith. The Moroccan ought really to have scored with a gilt edged opportunity some three minutes later. The impressive Coquelin- the only player on the pitch that looked close to Premiership standard across the 90 minutes- dropped a shoulder and ghosted his way past Grandison, then had the presence of mind to pull the ball back for Chamakh. But he was far too casual with a finish that was beaten out by the legs of Smith.

After that breathless start, Arsenal appeared, bafflingly, to revert to panic stations. The sight of Shrewsbury confidently knocking the ball around made them fill their big girl`s knickers with excrement and invited the League Two side onto them as a result. Mark Wright latched onto Luke Ainsworth`s pass from the left and scuffed a shot towards the corner. Fabianski showed quite appalling judgement, allowing it to drift onto the post. Marvin Morgan`s follow up was blocked by Gibbs. The away side visibly grew in correlation with the home side`s balls shrinking and they took a shock lead on 17 minutes.

Marvin Morgan tossed in a wicked ball from the right. For some reason I can`t quite fathom, Johan Djourou ducked and allowed James Collins to head the ball into Fabianski`s net. Djourou must be close to slipping behind Squillaci in the pecking order now. It seems it was more than just his shoulder that went at Old Trafford in March. Shrewsbury scented blood and were unfortunate not to grab a second. First when Wright`s dangerous shot was deflected wide by Djourou. But most glaringly when Ainsworth`s corner flashed in front of Fabianski, who, stricken by panic, stood and watched as Sean McAllister`s glancing header drifted half an inch wide.

But Arsenal rode the storm and finished the half back on top. On 34 minutes, relief poured through the stadium when Jenkinson`s right wing cross was touched on by Chamakh and Kieran Gibbs popped up undetected at the back post to bundle a header past Ben Smith and into the corner. The resulting, witless chant of "who are ya?" from the Arsenal fans has to rank amongst the most embarrassing moments of my Arsenal supporting life. Surely we`re above that after equalising at home to a side three divisions below us?

Ju-Young Park had a busy, if slightly ineffective night. But he came close at the death throes of the half when he collected Coquelin`s pass on the left, opened his body out and curled an effort just past the post with Smith floundering. Emmanuel Frimpong`s low free kick was also clawed nervously away by Smith in first half injury time. There was plenty to suggest that the Shrews keeper was worth shooting at from range. Something Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may have had in mind at half time. But as halves of football go, it was pretty close to the nadir of the manager`s reign, simply because Shrewsbury deserved parity at least. Not in the sense that they shut up shop, defended well and ground out a 0-0 at half time. But because they took us on at the passing game, created plenty and looked plenty better than us at our own game for prolonged spells.

Come the second half, you could sense Arsenal had settled down and that their fitness began to tell. Though the Shrews still offered threat on the counter. Oxlade-Chamberlain became a central figure of the game after a quiet first half. With Coquelin feeding him with plenty of beautifully sprayed passes. Frimpong again tested Smith from range, but a positive forward run from a central position, followed by a fulminating twenty five yard drive proved too much for Smith to handle as he let it squirm underneath him and into the net to allow Arsenal the lead. Invigorated with confidence, Chamberlain tried another strike from an acute angle which stung Smith`s palms.

The Shrews began to tire, though still found space to counter attack time and again with only Coquelin`s tireless industry offering any kind of barrier. But Arsenal sealed progression some eleven minutes from time, when substitute Oguzhan Ozyakup plundered to the by line and cut the ball back for Yossi Benayoun to prod home his first Gunners goal from close range. In the end, the result and progression to the next round is the bottom line. I think the game was rather more uncomfortable than most of us would have liked. The fear and panic that gripped the team for a large section of the first half was a real worry.

Shrewsbury can be very proud of their performance and if they maintain those standards, it won`t be long before they are in League One. On the evidence of the first half, you could probably say much the same about Arsenal! I`m sure Carl Jenkinson has a lot of potential, but having been thrown in so early into a traumatic spell of games, he looks a long, long way from being an Arsenal player just yet and could probably do with some honing in the reserves for now. Some of the £50m kicking around Arsenal`s TPA should probably also be used to pay the ransom to whoever kidnapped Johan Djourou and replaced him with Gus Caesar`s Granddad. Fabianski`s performance raised the grim spectre of Manuel Almunia being recalled from his feral lifestyle in the woods.

Marouane Chamakh did a passable impersonation of the invisible man. That said, there were positives. Coquelin was on the bench ahead of Frimpong on Saturday and on this display, one can see why. Equally as tigerish in the tackle but with cultured distribution to match. The Ox left his stamp on the second half with telling contributions too. He tried to do a little too much at times, but that will hopefully be corrected with games. I thought Kieran Gibbs had a really positive second half too. Overall, it`s probably churlish to be anything more than satisfied with the progression. That`s what the cup is all about. History doesn`t record that you looked wobbly for 20 minutes. But it does have a nasty habit of replaying you Mickey Thomas` free kick in 1992. I`ll settle for Aldershot away in the next round I think. LD.

21.FABIANSKI, 25.JENKINSON, 20.DJOUROU(c), 49.MIQUEL, 28.GIBBS, 15.CHAMBERLAIN (34.Aneke), 26.FRIMPONG (53.Ozyakup `77), 39.COQUELIN, 30.BENAYOUN, 9.J-Y.PARK (31.Ryo `72), 29,CHAMAKH. Unused: 37.Boateng, 55.Watt, 56.Yennaris, 58.Martinez.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

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

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Wednesday September 21 2011
Time: 12:13AM


Cheers LD, your article sums up to game Brilliantly! I was pleased that We are into the next round, I too would take Aldershot, but at Home!
21/09/2011 00:56:00
I thought it was a good game of football with little or hardly any fouling in the game. Must be hard to be an arseanal player these days apart from the money. Everyonbe and there dog calling us a load of rubbish but i thought the fans lifted us in the second half. Thought the Ox played very well and could not agree more about Coquelin. Gibbs seemed to grow and Benayoun tried his heart out. I know they all train together but its the first time this team has played as a team and you do have to get used to each other. Liked the short appearance of Ozy... think he has potential. Its a long way back for the whole outfit to regain confidence I hope this is just the first building block. The shrews played better than many teams i have seen in the EPL and if they continue in this mode will be soon up to Championsiip level.
21/09/2011 02:40:00
We want the real ?JD back... last seen on the team bus to stoke city..
21/09/2011 03:00:00
It was a good result, and the 2nd half had some positives, like Chamberlain. He has pace, is direct, and has a good shot on him, also doesn't look uncomfortable on the ball (unlike a certain Theo Walcott). But boy, that 1st half was poor. If we were down 2-1 at half time, there would have been no complaints, since Shrewsbury were good for the lead. Their inexperience in finishing showed, which was a bit of luck for us. This Arsenal side struggles against lower half opposition in the PL, as well as lower League opposition. I only want this team to ride out this storm and enter into a period of relative stability. Gone are those days when we, as fans, can approach a game expecting a win against weak opposition.
21/09/2011 09:55:00
prits have another look at the game I have. Sure we took the foot off the pedal and Shrews did come back and made us pay for some silly mistakes in defense. The goal they scored should have been handled easily by Fabi but I am not surprised reading all the media comments and so called experts on football its a wonder they can go on the park. Its early to say they were reborn as most were the second string but I thought they came back very strongly. I know I love this club with a passion and each Shrews are a lower down club but that is the magic of cup games lower down teams can always rise to the occasion. (the FA cup a few seasons ago was between two clubs not in the EPL). But as Jaelle has said my comments are useless so disregard them. But in my opinion I think this may at long last be the turning point. I hope it spurs the first team on and I do like young Ox and Coquelin. Top performance by both and I thought contributions by Gibbs and others were great. (Thought young Ox,s interview was tops looking forward to seeing him and Jack play together along with Theo).
21/09/2011 10:16:00
---The resulting, witless chant of "who are ya?" from the Arsenal fans has to rank amongst the most embarrassing moments of my Arsenal supporting life--- That was as graceless and charmless response form Arsenal fans as I've ever heard. Poor showing Gooners at the game.
21/09/2011 11:38:00
Good win; at this time, I will take it, even if 1-0 ;-). Hope the 1st team learns a thing or two about taking responsibility, which is what it would seem, the Ox and Coquelin did last night when no one else stepped up. This is an ingredient our players lack, presently, having been propped along all these years, by Cesc. Bring on Bolton, I say.
21/09/2011 12:46:00
...Just read Wenger state that Shrewsbury knocked out Swansea and Derby; and they are top of their league (2nd Div). That puts some perspective to this win. There are no easy opponents anymore, irrespective of division. The rest will depend on whether things go your way.
21/09/2011 13:00:00
surprisingly i thought the ref. had a great game too...
21/09/2011 13:46:00
LG, who were they chanting at/when? Was it not a joke, directed at our own players, because they're new/debutants?
21/09/2011 15:17:00
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