A comfortable performance by Arsenal’s second string puts us through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup. Although this team has failed to produce on many occasions this season, they finally managed to cap off great ball retention with the ability to score goals. Too many times, we have seen Bendtner, Denilson, Chamakh and Rosicky under-achieve. They weren’t brilliant today, but it was an improvement.
In my opinion, the main problem with the second string is that they aren’t like the younger ‘reserve’ sides that Arsenal used to field in the cups.They used to be first team players (Almunia, Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky, Eboue etc). They were dropped over the last few years (due to new players coming through or injury). The team that beat Sheffield Utd 6-0 were young, fearless and bristling with enthusiasm. The current crop are lacking form and confidence and feel unwanted.
Bendtner scored a hattrick today. It was probably the worst Arsenal performance to have come away with three goals, but if anyone can do it, it’s our great Dane. He became the first Arsenal player to score a hattrick in an FA Cup match, since Ian Wright against Yoevil in 1993. Bendtner made some shocking passes, and his control was worse than a rabid dog, but he did his job. In football, it’s all about results, and Nicklas scored the goals we needed. Wenger took him off to rapturous, but perhaps slightly sarcastic, applause. Maybe he was being rested for the Barcelona game. Ironically, we may actually need to start with Super Nick at the Nou Camp! Maybe he can replicate his heroics from last season…
Diaby returned from his latest spell on the sidelines, but was exactly the same as ever. He made powerful runs through the midfield, and his link-up play was good. As usual, he had no end product. After one particularly brilliant run, he found himself one-on-one with the keeper. His shot went wide – typical Abou! A bit more composure in the box, and he would be a superb attacking midfielder. Unfortunately, more than once, Diaby got to the opponent’s box, turned around, and passed it backwards. A long-range effort, or an attempt at a defence-shattering pass would be so much more useful!
Orient fought hard and tried to play passing football, but unfortunately they were not good enough, so it often ended in clearing the ball out of play. They had a few decent chances in the first half, one which had their fans believing it was in. This particular opportunity fell to the League 1 side as Arsenal’s defensive duo, Miquel and Squillaci, were caught way out of position. A low, whipped cross was met by an Orient striker, who had found himself in acres of space as our centre-backs went missing. His shot was off-target, but as it hit the net from behind, the ripples caused cheers from the away fans.
The first goal came thanks to a lung-busting run from Rosicky, and his pass was cut back to the penalty spot. Chamakh met the ball at pace, and slotted the ball into the far post. The home fans were still smarting from the cup final defeat, so cheers were hardly deafening. In fact, there were some areas of the crowd that felt the need to boo the Arsenal team when they came onto the pitch. Disgusting behaviour in my opinion, but fans do have the right to voice their views. To me, beating down the already-low morale of their own team seems rather foolish.
The second goal came courtesy of a floated cross from the ever-effective Kieran Gibbs. Bendtner out-jumped his marker and sent an impressive header into the top corner. The next goal was scored soon after, after the ball was nicked off Leyton Orient defenders as they tried to play themselves out of trouble. Bendtner grabbed the ball and ran at their back four. He dipped inside and fired a fantastic shot into the far side of the goal. 3-0 to the Arsenal at half-time, and we were almost certainly through to the quarters.
The final two goals arrived after much teasing and taunting of the opposition, but not many notable chances. A sensational run by Gibbs led to a penalty, after he was brought down in the box. Super Nick stepped up to seize his hattrick, and the match ball was his thanks to a decent spot kick. Clichy came on in the second half, and marked the occasion with his second goal… EVER. His first came in a 1-2 defeat a few seasons ago, and it got deflected. This strike was far more impressive. He took the shot first-time and smashed it into the far corner, after a cross had evaded two Arsenal players.
Overall, it was a necessary win, for many reasons. Arsenal needed to get the morale back up after the defeat in the final, because the next match against Sunderland is terribly important, especially as Utd dropped points last night. However, plenty of the players who played in the final were absent tonight, such as Song, RVP, Arshavin, Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny and Djourou. These players will probably still be pretty upset, but a 5-0 win should help to lift the gloom. In addition, Arsenal now have a quarter-final tie at Old Trafford to look forward to. It will take place only four days after the Barca game, so next week will (hopefully) be a great week to be a Gooner!