Newcastle United 0 – 4 Arsenal
0 – 1 Krull (45 o.g.)
0 – 2 Walcott (49)
0 – 3 Bendtner (82)
0 – 4 Walcott (88)
I am struggling to remember when Arsenal were last installed as favourites to win this competition but apparently playing two Premier League rivals away from home – one of them a Champions League competitor – and scoring four goals on each occasion means that you only rank the same as a win at home over a relegation contender from each of the top two divisions. And joint favourites Arsenal find themselves this morning, alongside Manchester United in what is now an emminently winnable competition.
Wenger named a strong side whilst Newcastle replicated their squad for the trip to Stamford Bridge in the last round. As a crisp autumnal day gave way to the chill of evening, Arsenal’s attack took to the task immediately from kick-off. Rosicky won possession and fed Vela on the left. The Mexican sprinted into the area, the opportunity to shoot early spurned, dragged his shot and Krull turned the ball to safety. It was a brief respite; from the resultant corner, Nicklas Bendtner saw two goal bound efforts blocked, the second of which brought quarter-hearted penalty appeals before his final effort went straight at Krull. Barely a minute played and four efforts on goal already.
Arsenal peppered the Newcastle goal with efforts, Eboue, Bendtner and Gibbs all went close to varying degrees. All told Arsenal were averaging a chance a minute before the clock had shown ten had passed. Newcastle gradually got into the game as an attacking force; Vuckic has rasped a shot into the side netting before 1970s funk star, Nile Ranger, raced clear of the Arsenal defence, judging the trajectory of a long ball better than Djourou or Koscielny. Szczesny came out of his area, fortunate that he missed the onrushing forward but forced Ranger wide enough for Koscielny to block his shot with Djourou covering on the goal-line.
Polish goalkeepers charging out their area is nothing new at Arsenal and Szczesny found his redemption, even if it went unrecognised by the officials. From the corner, Smith hammered his shot from thirty yards, the Pole’s fingertips pushing the ball onto the bar and over which apparently now constitutes a goalkick rather than a corner.
As the half came to its’ conclusion, possession was dominated by Arsenal. One enforced change had been rung, Kieran Gibbs the latest to fall foul of foul play, replaced by Bacary Sagna, Eboue shifting to the left. The breakthrough came with the interval beckoning. A corner from the left was helped clear but the Rosicky returning it finding Nicklas Bendtner’s head. Koscielny and Eastmond obscured Krull’s view and the ball dribbled past him; Taylor’s clearance found the back of the Dutchman’s head and the breakthrough was achieved. Much has been made of the number of red cards and penalties in Arsenal’s fixtures; goalkeeping errors which have been beneficial now stand at three for the season and counting.
With a lead established, Newcastle left themselves open to the counter-attack in the second half. Two of the goals occurred from this avenue, both despatched with some aplomb by Theo Walcott in the central channel. It might be his long-term aim to become a centre-forward and with six goals in six games, perhaps the clinical edge that has been sometimes missing from his play is materialising.
The first, five minutes into the second half, was contentious. Nicklas Bendtner chased down Krull as he cleared and was clearly in an offside position as the ball was returned with interest by Laurent Koscielny. That, though, was not the cause of Tyneside consternation, more his baulking of the defender as he arced his run to provide support to the onrushing Walcott. A blatant bodycheck, calculated to deny Williamson the opportunity of a tackle. The referee is being castigated for his decision but he was consistent on the night, Taylor having been equally blatant in his pull on the Dane in the first half, denying him the chance to be in a goalscoring position.
No matter, 2-0 to Arsenal with less than fifty minutes gone: a comfortable position to be in. The introduction of Andy Carroll gave the host’s attack more vibrancy but Djourou had woken from his first half slumber and once more put in a sterling effort in the second half.
Szczesny was not allowed to rest on his laurels, evoking memories of Bob Wilson with his willingness to put his head where boots were flying, concentrating until the end, the final action of the match a forty-yard punch from the youngster. A sure sign his confidence had grown during the match. He got away with some errors last night. His excellent one-handed save from Taylor’s free-kick found fortune when the rebound fell to Eboue in front of goal, the Ivorian’s tiger feet somehow putting the ball over the bar. His rush of blood was covered by Koscielny’s positional recovery. It is not hard to see that he is a potential number one nor would there be any surprise if a win in Donetsk sees the Pole play two Champions League fixtures as well as the remainder of this Carling Cup run. The FA Cup? Possibly but that rather depends on whom Wenger has as his first choice for the Premier League.
The final brace of Arsenal goals came following the surprise introduction of Cesc. The Spaniard capitalised on Guthrie’s slovenliness to feed Bendtner on the left. The Dane ambled into the box before cutting in and unleashing a fearsone drive which curled majestically into the top corner. The coup de grace came in the dying embers of the match as Walcott latched onto another through ball to complete an emphatic scoreline.
It was a match with many positives. Szczesny and Eastmond did their respective causes no harm, it is too soon to say either is a definite for the first team now but their inclusion would not be a cause for concern. It was good to see Koscielny back, seemingly unaffected by the short lay-off. Elsewhere, the returns of Walcott and Bendtner seem to have been unaffected by niggles and strains which is promising for the upcoming schedule.
A great result, the draw on saturday leaves possible opponents as Manchester United, Aston Villa, West Ham, Ipswich, WBA, Birmingham and Wigan. Should we be overly worried about any of them or are they looking at Arsenal and thinking, “Now there’s a team we want to avoid?“.