A guest post for Double Canister
“Until Edward Nketiah came on we lacked ideas and creativity” said Arsene Wenger in the post-match interview, and who am I to disagree? The match line-up was predictably predicted in advance by most pundits, including our own Pedantic George and this is now clearly seen as Arsenal’s cup team for the foreseeable future, injuries depending for a few defensive slots.
The starting line-up was:
Debuchy, El Neny, Holding;
Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Wilshere, Nelson;
Walcott, Iwobi, Giroud.
Subs: Akpom 70’, Nketiah 85’, Da Silva 105’, Willock 114’.
This team was expected to give Norwich a right old thumping, but the Canaries had other plans, plans that nearly paid-off as they provided 120 minutes of hard work, defensive organisation and not a little skill to make a very competitive 4th Round Carabao League Cup game go all the way to the final whistle. Giroud may have been feeling the effects of a late-night party after receiving the Puskas award for his wonder goal against Crystal Palace last season, he was not so effective last night. Certainly, many Norwich players were keen to give him several big hugs inside their penalty box, all of which Andy Madley chose not to see to clearly- a bit like Debuchy’s extra time incident – which for me was no penalty as there was not enough real contact with the player, but the less said about Madley the better. The miserabilists will all say that breaking down such a resolved defensive set up as Norwich created was all to do with Arsenal’s commonly perceived (you know: by the media and twitter and Troy Deeney) weaknesses, but please give to credit to Falke’s men who worked their yellow socks off and might feel they could and should have had more than Josh Murphy’s single well-taken chip shot from Maddison’s defence splitting pass. Oliveira, Murphy and Vrancic all missed chances to ensure Norwich were in tonight’s 5th Round draw. They are 6th in the Championship and showed they are an in-form team, and they were fresh from beating local rivals Ipswich Town in the Old Farm derby last weekend. As for some alleged controversial incidents – El Neny was rightly yellow carded for taking down a man, but in no-way was he last man back, so unless there is a new FA rule – he stays on the pitch, and thankfully he was – to provide the ball to the hero of the night.
Step forward Edward Nketiah, who took all of 15 seconds to make an impact. Another tactical masterclass move by the boss? “I brought him on because we needed to score goals and he can score goals. In the end we had eight strikers on the pitch,” said Wenger, in truth I had forgotten about the multiple substitution rules in this cup competition. The news is today full of ‘experts’ who always knew about this kid and that he is going to be the new Henry or Messi, well I didn’t. Eddie played for our U23’s for the last few years, amassing a substantial goal tally and was brought on for his debut away at Bate Borisov in the 89th minute. Last night he made his real introduction with not one, but two headers , both from set-pieces no less. Nketiah is just 18 years old and is an England U19, and somehow, he managed to escape the abyss of Chelsea’s all devouring youth system at 14 before he joined Arsenal. I hope he has a bright future.
As for less impressive performances from Arsenal players last night , all I can say as the BBC and the gutter press are livid with Arsenal’s eventual triumph over the plucky Canaries, so compare the narratives with the BBC’s headline about how Manchester City ‘heroically’ defeated Wolverhampton Wanderers in a penalty shootout, (because they only managed 0-0 in regulation time), and which needed the services of Sane, de Bruyne and Aguero to ensure passage to the 5th round. Playing your best, but highly fragile striker for 120 minutes against Wolves must be one of those ‘genius’ things Pep does that a mere layman like me can’t see. Every single Premier League team fielded weakened teams in this competition last night, and even most of the championship teams did as well. Nevertheless, the second sting selection from Wenger presented some conundrums, Coq and Wilshere were not working as an effective unit in midfield, the defensive line appeared to have no pace at all and the back 3 did not seem to know their positions, and the youngsters seemed to drift in and out of concentration on the pitch. Despite all these concerns, as the game went on and as Norwich did not go on to get a vital (for their hopes) second goal it did look as though Arsenal’s growing nous, guile, call it what you want and overall better football talent would eventually pay off. From what I could see on the telly -credit also to the Arsenal supporters who actually stayed and cheered on the team to the end, rather than join the mile-long queue for a tube home after 70 minutes. And for Theo – he meets lines men every single week who regard him being in-line with the last defender as an offence, have the rules changed again?
The draw for the quarter-finals will take place at 16:00 BST on Wednesday, 25 October.