Good morning to you all aboard the Positive Arsenal bus,
We stride serenely on to the quarter finals of the League Cup having disposed of Reading last night and tonight’s games take on that much more interest to spot out next opponents.
I admit that looking at the team sheet I was a little nervous. As well all knew from his announcement the day before there would be young players brought in, Jeff, AMN and that Carl would almost certain be back. Six Arsenal players under 20 I am told by those who know. Even those older players, Gabby, Perez, Elneny, Emmy, Alex Iwobi and Rob Holding had played no more than a handful of games between them. ( I guess 50 starts (?) between the six of them) The Ox was the only really experienced man in a red shirt. What I did not expect was that on the bench we would go with what another selection of youth players, barring Olivier. This was Cup football with no safety net, one slip from the high wire and the chances were the plunge would be fatal.
I recognise my foolishness now. Arsene knows these players and works with them every day. He trusted his players and on the night and they performed well, not brilliantly, not perfectly, but professionally and took their chance to show him, and us, what they can do.
Stand out for us I thought was the Ox who was the most influential player on the pitch. I use influential because if you score the two goals that win your team the game clearly your contribution has to be recognised. I mean it also in the sense that most of our attacking impetus came through him and was directed by him. He put the occasional foot wrong, misplaced a pass and/or blazed shot high and wide, but where in previous games that setback would have distracted him for the next ten minutes last night he just got on with his job. He seemed to me a lot more confident and understood how important he was, as senior man.
Of the returners I was pleased to see Carl Jenkinson look so fit and that he managed 90 minutes with no obvious drop of energy is much to his credit. I have no idea where Matt Debuchy might be but I presume that the Corporal will be back up for Hector, and pressing the Spaniard, over the next few weeks. Giroud’s 25 minutes showed he is fit and firing. I suspect Sunlun may find the Frenchman breathing down their necks on Saturday lunchtime.
Of the youngsters AMN I thought did well and looked as though he is next to step up to the PL/CL. We are not short in central midfield but we have a lot of football to play in the next few weeks. Jeff I thought looked less assured and he looks to me like the next candidate for a loan to allow him to get some football experience against experienced opposition under his elegant belt.
The only weakness last night was the final pass around the box and the finishing. The final pass will improve when Perez has more experience of playing with Iwobi and the Ox ( and the rest of the AFC midfield) , and vice versa. Finishing needs working on and Alex Iwobi will no doubt be reflecting on this today.
Of our opponents ? The fans enjoyed their evening, their players tried to keep the ball on the ground and play football. They were better than Chelsea.
Onwards and upwards to the Stadium of Light mes amis.
( in case you are wondering our friend at the top is a Berkshire Old Spot)