Arsenal 2 – 1 Norwich City
It’s a very different morning than the one we expected for the first 85 minutes of last night’s game. Awful doesn’t do it justice; the match was beyond that as a team of strangers played football in a convincing team of strangers kind of way.
Enter stage left Eddie Nketiah, the 18-year-old whose decision to ditch Chelsea for the delights of north London was fully justified within seconds of entering the fray. Jogging onto the pitch, the next time he stopped moving was in celebration at the corner flag. A poacher’s goal and extra time beckoned.
Arsenal scoring from a set-piece once in a match was strange enough, Nketiah did it twice. The second, a powerful header, arrived courtesy of a perfectly timed jump between defenders to net the winner. Job done and a manager in the mood to enthuse afterwards:
I know that he has character and is not afraid. He smells the combination movements, he can give and go and once a player has that in his game, they have always a chance. The guys who can understand that if they give the ball somewhere and they can get it back and know where to get it back, the quality of reception is a very important quality. I would say the quality of the reception, he has that.
Wenger was upfront and honest about Nketiah’s chance arriving last night. “If I had experienced players on the bench, strikers for example,” he said, “I would certainly in the end have put them on and not Eddie.”
Which is fair enough; we’ll leave the revisionism of what a great example of squad management this was to others. It’s going to come, you know that it is.
Arsenal don’t care. Through to the next round, West Ham United came out of the hat (allegedly) and we’re now fourth favourites to lift the Cup at 6/1 with Betfair football bets.
Tip for the Top
And really that’s all you need to know about the game. Utterly non-descript in the annals of Arsenal FC, a fortunate win which saw the visiting goalkeeper – the son of Bryan Gunn, apparently – make some fine saves.
The Norwich goal was a finish to applaud once you’d taken your head out of your hands at the defending. The ghost of Adams and McLintock were spinning in their footballing graves. Even those of Blockley and Mancini snorted derisively.
The referee played his part in proceedings. Mo Elneny ought to have been sent off early in the second half but in keeping with proceedings, he maintained his cool and didn’t get sent to the stands. You were denied the headline, “Farke Off”, which finds itself consigned to the same bin as “On Me Eddie, Son”, “Rock Steady Eddie”, and of course, “Eddie Arrives in the Nketiah Time”.
Much is being made of the lack of experience on the bench but let’s be honest, the football authorities are the ones to answer that question. The timing of fixture stank the place out, with a Sunday kick-off the question is why we faced a game on a Tuesday. I note Tottenham play tonight in the same circumstances.
There’s a potential issue with the next round as well, with the date set two days before the Liverpool match at the Emirates. However, that can move to the Tuesday to give Wenger a few more options if he needs them. Bristol City at home, if you don’t mind footballing gods.
A Smash Double-Header
At this point, I could criticise Francis Coquelin’s performance overall, Theo Walcott’s propensity to dwell offside and a host of other faults. I don’t see the point, others are doing more than adequately. This is a ‘nice to have’ result in a ‘nice to have’ competition.
Arsène’s decision to re-iterate that the competition remains a low priority means in my mind, that whilst winning silverware is nice, it’s little more than a Champions League distraction: a competition we will never win. We move on from last night and look forward to the weekend’s meeting with Swansea.
Being the Carabao Cup, even the controversy was half-arsed. With the draws for each round at ungodly hour o’clock and hampered by incompetence, the use of a fourth substitute proved beyond the Evening Standard’s James Benge:
Eddie Nketiah’s heroics could be in vain. Arsenal made two subs in extra time when EFL Cup rules clearly state one extra allowed
— James Benge (@jamesbenge) October 24, 2017
I didn’t think the rule was that complicated – you’re allowed three substitutes to deploy during the match as usual plus an additional one in extra time. Which is exactly what Arsenal did.
That there was a rule change seemed to be news to some:
on whether there has been a rule change or whether he could always use a fourth substitute in extra-time…
Tough job being a journalist covering a match like last night’s when there’s no upset to report on.