Arsenal 1 – 0 West Ham United
At the end of the day, Arsenal won and that is never a bad thing. Never. No matter what the performance, the object of the exercise was to qualify for the next round.
God, it was boring. When my stream dropped at half-time, I couldn’t be bothered to look for a fresh one. It wasn’t entirely Arsenal’s fault; it takes two to tango and West Ham were unbelievably awful. I understand they managed a shot on target but in the 46 minutes of my life I will never get back, David Ospina’s name was mentioned three times. Once when his name was called in the starting line-up, once when the stream unfroze and looped through that part again and then when he caught the ball.
It was that bad.
But then you knew that already, didn’t you? The luckiest shins in the business, owned by one Daniel Nii Tackie Mensah Welbeck, took us through to the last four and for once we genuinely did walk the ball into the net.
There’s not much more to be said about the ninety minutes. Or the forty-five minutes I saw.
Post-match, Arsène counted the cost of progress. Olivier Giroud tweaked a hamstring, receiving little sympathy for his squeals of pain from the manager. “When you listen to him, the pain is quite big,” before he scoffed, “but the grade is not always linked with the intensity of the pain.”
The code of the warrior doesn’t permit the outward manifestation of pain; Obi-Wan Wenger turned his attention to Francis Coquelin. He may make the bench on Friday night; the Force is strong with that one.
Not that I expected either to be included in the starting line-up. Giroud as a late substitute, on about 72 minutes.
Here Comes The Weekend…
So we’re into the last four. Manchester City as well, with United and Chelsea likely to follow. Those who think we’re on a mission from God to reach Wembley, need to pull out their prayer mats and point them at Ashton Gate.
The prospect of facing a top four team in the next round raises a problem in Arsène’s mind. Field a strong side or face an inevitable exit from the competition. The games either side of the semi-finals aren’t taxing, well not under normal circumstances.
A strong line-up goes against everything Arsène holds dear regarding the League Cup.
After the game, Wenger had to big up the performance somehow. It’s not Arsenal’s fault, West Ham were unadventurous, dull and boring. That was because of our strength and in no way due to Moyes lack of wit on how to win the game. Arsène knew what he had planned already,
“Yes, definitely [happy at the performance]. We kept a clean sheet and that’s the main thing for us as defenders and I didn’t really remember them having a shot and testing Ospina, so it’s a positive to take out.”
It is indeed.
A back four, another clean sheet. Holding and Chambers are coming in for praise, well-earned with a clean sheet. West Ham’s lack of ambition shouldn’t be used to denigrate their performance; plenty will do that in more important games.
Youngsters, bigged up too quickly, are criticised too quickly as well. Patience is a virtue and I only say this because Ainsley Maitland-Niles is heading into that dangerous corridor where expectations grow at an extraordinary pace. The reality is that he will probably play on Friday night.
Long Live The Weekend, The Weekend Is Dead…
Sead Kolasinac’s inclusion could be a run-out ahead of Liverpool; certainly, his experience suggests inclusion ahead of the youngster when facing the Premier League’s current most prolific attack. Maitland-Niles pace is a strong reason to put him into the side as well; a decision to make for the manager.
Giroud’s injury makes up his mind up front, with the 72nd-minute substitution probably seeing Welbeck on, Alexis into the middle. Still, at least Alexandre Lacazette knows he’s starting. I don’t think Theo did enough to see himself pushed to the head of that queue.
In the forty-five minutes I saw, I didn’t learn anything new about the XI or at least, nothing I didn’t know already. There is a lot of work to be done in this squad’s evolution, with the second string half-decent but lacking the depth needed to take it to a point where they challenge for a starting line-up place. That comfort zone isn’t likely to end in the near future for a number of players.
That’s work for another day, some time in a transfer window of the future.