Arsenal 3 – 0 Wigan (Simpson 43, 68, Vela 71) Highlights here
The feel-good factor from Saturday’s victory over Man U carried over last night. The personnel were different, but the game was just as open, just as thrilling, and had just as pleasing an outcome for Arsenal fans.
I must confess that at kick-off I was a little nervous for our lads – we were fielding a side with an average age of 19 against an athletic Wigan team containing players the calibre of Palacios, Valencia, and Zaki.
I needn’t have worried. In an end-to-end encounter, our Young Guns showed off their remarkable composure and class. We carved out three excellent goals, and but for the form of Chris Kirkland, it might have been many more. Now follows my attempt to summarise the performances of eleven outstanding prospects:
Made the decision to come and collect crosses, sometimes more successfully than others. Although he had my heart in my mouth on more than one occasion, he ought to be congratulated for a quite remarkable double save to deny Daniel De Ridder and then Amir Zaki. Jan Tomaszewski eat your heart out.
A tenacious performance from the younger Hoyte brother, who seems to have the pace we were constantly told his older possessed, despite the lack of any supporting evidence.
Hasn’t long been a left-back, and it showed as De Ridder and Valencia exploited his positional naievety. Was stronger going forward, and had two good chances saved by Kirkland when squaring to a waiting team-mate might’ve been more profitable.
One of the major criticisms of Song is that his concentration is poor. Last night, however, fuelled by the responsibility of being one of the side’s elder statesmen, he kept his head as well as a clean sheet. I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable with him at centre-back against a top side, but last night he put in a couple of crunching tackles that might prove handy in our midfield.
Kept an occasionally ragged back-line together, as well as storming up the field to provide the assist for Vela’s chip. What our first-team requires is a 6’3″ centre-back who likes a tackle and can pass. Djourou is looking increasingly like he might be the answer.
Fabio Capello was in the crowd last night, and I doubt it was to watch Titus Bramble. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Wilshere has a decent chance of following Theo Walcott in playing for England before the age of eighteen, and subsequently going to the World Cup in 2010. The guy is sixteen years old, and last night he was dancing past Wigan defenders as if they weren’t there. Wilshere is the most exciting English talent since Wayne Rooney. He reminds me of all kinds of players, but at the moment he looks like a cross-breed of Joe Cole and Lionel Messi (except much less ugly than such a child would be). Somehow, however, I suspect that he’ll go on to be very much his own man. A special, special talent.
Technically, Merida is outstanding. Whether or not he has the physical capacities to emulate his friend and mentor Cesc Fabregas is something we’ll discover in the next three years. Some delicious passes last night.
Fought well but occasionally tried too many fancy flicks in his own territory. Also caused Alan Parry to repeatedly use the phrase “backheeler”, which makes me want to tear my ears off and stuff them down his commentating throat. Moreso than many members of this team, I suspect this Carling Cup campaign is providing Randall with an opportunity to earn a move elsewhere, rather than break into our own team.
So far, the Welsh wizard looks like £5m well spent. More vision than Denilson, quicker than Song, and more consistent than Diaby, it may not be long until Ramsey (who, lest we forget, is just 17) is banging down the door of the first-team rather than merely knocking on it. However, the more I watch him the more I can’t shake the suspicion he’s being groomed as Cesc’s replacement rather than his partner…
Eduardo was at the ground last night (alongside, intriguingly, one Martin Keown), and whilst we all hope he’s the same player he was before his injury, we needn’t worry too much: in Carlos Vela, we have another left-footed finisher of the highest quality. Last night’s chip over the 6’4″ Chris Kirkland was the latest entry in his personal Goal of the Season contest. His assist for the second demonstrated his speed, and his touch was as good as ever. Vela will score many, many goals for Arsenal.
Last year’s League One Player of the Year is an old-fashioned centre-forward. He makes intelligent, pacey runs, has broad shoulders, and finishes well. Whilst not a world-beater, he’s a very honest striker, and will make a good career for himself somewhere. Last night he got his reward with two goals, and struck the bar with another impressive effort. Maybe he’ll bloom into an Arsenal-class forward, but his even younger strike partner demonstrates the kind of competition he’ll face…
Lansbury, Bischoff (yes, BISCHOFF), and Rui Fonte made brief appearances from the bench, and all-in-all it was another entirely satisfactory night for Le Boss and his Carling Cup policy. When you see these boys play like this it’s suddenly easier to understand why Arsene believes so strongly in the depth and quality of his squad.
However, it is worth remembering that in these games, the youngsters are playing in a pressure-less environment (like space). Their youth means that they are consistently the underdogs, and this seems to liberate their undoubted talents. But when the heat rises, and the pressure is on – that is when experience is required, and when the imbalance of our squad is exposed.
For today, let’s just celebrate another extraordinary performance. The mood around the club is suddenly buoyant, and we need to take that in to Saturday’s tie with Aston Villa.