Arsenal 4 – 0 Coventry City
1 – 0 Podolski (14)
2 – 0 Podolski (28)
3 – 0 Giroud (83)
4 – 0 Cazorla (89)
Tempting as it was to add a torch song or “Have You Got A Light Boy?” by Splodgenessabounds to this week’s playlist but I resisted those lures, Searching All The City remains intact in all its maiden glory on the right sidebar or here.
It was very 21st century and reminded me why I avoid concerts prone to such activity. Is it Arsenal’s way of testing the wealth of the crowd, a litmus test passed with the number of torch apps lighting the north London sky when floodlights failed; no sign of a lighter anywhere. On a routine evening, it was the memorable event. Well, aside from Gedion Zelalem becoming the first player to appear in the Arsenal first team who was born after Arsène’s reign began. Actually, the real reason for avoiding those concerts is exposed; age.
Arsenal are through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup with a less comfortable margin of victory than reflected in the scoreline. It was the lower end of the scoreline expected after the opening half an hour. Coventry were run ragged as their hosts quickly imposed themselves on the game with wave after wave of attack. The passing and despatch of the ball was as fast and accurate as has been produced all season. Lukas Podolski provided the early breakthrough and one fine save from the under-employed Fabianski, the match was over before half-time as the German headed home for the second. Can anyone doubt Steve Bould’s influence on the team?
Post-match, Arsène noted that it was a professional job. It was; early superiority established, Arsenal sat back and did enough to maintain control as Coventry – very commendably and effectively – upped their game in the second half. The woodwork saved blushes and Leon Clarke had other chances as well but the Premier League title chasers were playing well within t hemselves, always capable of another two gears if needed. In the end, the ball retention and passing told with tiring legs pulled out of position once too often; late substitutes Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla ended the suspense with two goals in the final ten minutes.
The drama was not confined to the pitch with Jan-Aage Fjortoft’s credibility put to the test. Yes, I know, I didn’t realise he had some when it came to transfer news either but received wisdom is that the Norwegian called Mesut Özil’s arrival at Arsenal before anyone else. Apparently his broadcasting and business ties to the Bundesliga have given him connections and he announced to a delighted Twitter that a £37m fee had been agreed with Schalke for Julian Draxler’s services. No timescale mentioned, not confirmation for January or August arrival but nobody seemed to care about that. Maybe Arsène has still got to phone the number on the card left because he was out at the time.
Talking to the media, Wenger enjoyed himself with impish grins accompanying answers to questions. At times it is like watching a kitten with a ball of wool, paws jabbing as it trails across the carpet. The strand of wool is unfurling though, Arsène’s denial of a deal less convincing each time he talks of the story. That sideshow has time to run, maybe a free weekend will allow minds to focus on that more. The rediscovered ruthlessness, lost in paternalistic care for the youth, was evident when talking of Park. Gedion Zelalem was preferred pure and simple, the Korean not carrying a knock or transfer interest; is hearing the manager talk in those terms humiliating, demotivating or both? Thomas Vermaelen meanwhile has apparently not recovered from an injury suffered against Tottenham. Manuel Almunia had a very serious and incurable injury in his last season; I hope the Belgian’s is not as mysterious.
Prior to kick-off, the manager had been keen to note that he took the FA Cup seriously and his starting line-up reflected that. No opportunity for Hayden as Wenger kept his chosen pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny intact; full backs were rested as fitness regained for Gibbs and maintained for Jenkinson. Both youngsters enjoyed the freedom of the wings, both in fine attacking form. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also surged toward full readiness continuing his volume of games, almost fast-tracked to fitness. Bendtner showed rustiness with his shooting but a lot of energy in his running, some neat passes with one cleverly disguised as an airshot to set up a chance on the edge of the area.
The Dane would have wished for Lukas Podolski’s finishing in front of goal. Wenger’s observation that the German striker is more effective from the wings was as unerring in it’s accuracy as Podolski’s opener, the angle seemed to be going away from him but disparagingly dismissed as a barrier to the breakthrough. The second a finely-time run to the far post to meet Mertesacker’s flick on. Both strikers goals yet neither dispelling the belief that he is the most effective left-sided forward in the Premier League if he can convince the manager of his form and fitness.
Mission accomplished is the feeling this morning, the job done with a minimum of fuss having shown their opponents the necessary respect. Thoroughly professional in ensuring no repeat of last year’s calamity at home to Blackburn Rovers. Not just from the players, the manager as well. In fielding a strong XI, he ensured that confidence and belief continued as momentum builds toward two crucial months ahead.
Well-played all round.