The great thing about a Carrier Bag Cup game is that it throws all kinds of little Arsenal sub plots up and thankfully, in the end by the time the whistle had blown to see Arsenal through on to the quarter finals, this game against Norwich was no different.
Step forward Eddie Nketiah with a couple of goals on his debut. Good goals too.
The first felt very Bendtneresque as he drifted into the six yard box and tapped in with his first touch, having only just jogged on ten seconds earlier for Reiss Nelson and I’m sure Lord B won’t mind the comparison, what with his own contribution against the Totts all those years ago.
The second goal – as Arsène Wenger also remarked – was a more enjoyable one though. Not just because it ended up the winner, but because it was a heck of a leap for a small lad and quite a composed finish with his head. Perhaps there were some tired Norwich heads that didn’t track him as a runner, but I think we should focus more on his execution, because it looked like the finish of a seasoned pro.
Let’s also give thanks to Theo too, who having done literally nothing all game, had a hand in both of the goals by putting in decent balls in to the box from the corner. They always say strikers make the best crossers of the ball and so his example last night is perhaps testimony to that fact. Quite what else his value on the pitch was I’m not quite sure.
But there were a lot of questionable performances last night, it has to be said, because quite a few first team squad players hardly covered themselves in glory against what was a bit of a rotated Norwich team. Mohammed Elneny, for example, probably shouldn’t have finished the match and most certainly I’d have been screaming at the tv had I been a Norwich fan. Having watched a video of Rio Ferdinand taking our Freddie when through on goal in the game that stopped the Invincibles all those years ago (apparently it was this time in 2004 that Mile Riley cheated United to a victory), it would seem a little disingenuous to just dismiss the Norwich claims, so I’ll not be taking the ‘it all evens itself up’ approach this morning. Especially when you also note the penalty that Debuchy could have given away.
So ‘newsflash’ Elneny isn’t a centre half but with Calum Chambers soon to come back in to the squad we just have to hope that we don’t need to worry about him playing in that role for much longer.
Penalty appeal aside Debuchy did ok, even if he didn’t quite track the runner for their goal, but at least it’s a senior pro who is getting some game time. If Bellerin gets banjaxed at any time then our right back options are quite limited so at least let’s hope that these games will give him much needed match fitness and have him ready for if and when he’s needed.
Holding too did ok I thought. We’ve all been so worried about running him in to the ground but with him starting more games in these types of matches it’s exactly the type of first team matches he needs and so in just pleased he’s getting development time that isn’t ‘killing’ his Arsenal career.
Moving further up the pitch though, it wasn’t as great from some of the more experienced players, although for Jack I guess it’s just about match fitness so he can be pleased that he got through the full game and the extra time too. We all know Coquelins limitations and they were on full display yesterday. Iwobi was patchy at best and was probably fortunate to escape punishment with a clear WWE move in wrestling a player off the ball and throwing him down when play had stopped. Giroud was poor too although he did have a good header saved early on and a hilarious over reaction to a free kick that hit the wall. He’s probably have been better served with his back to goal and with Theo flicking the ball up to him from the free kick for him to overhead it in the top corner, I’d have thought, but he clearly fancied a more conventional attempt at goal and it clearly didn’t work out. Stick to worldies Ollie.
And that’s about all we can say about yesterday. This competition is about game time for the squad players because we aren’t going to beat the big teams when we we come up against them. So for me I’m just please that players are getting minutes.
Catch you all tomorrow.