Thursday, 3 March 2011
Arsenal 5 - 0 Leyton Orient
Arsene Wenger said the other day that every game from now until the end of the season is a "cup-tie." The thing about cup-ties is that it doesn't matter how you win them (ask Birmingham City) just so long as you do. Last night a shadow Arsenal team did what they should have done at Brisbane Road ten days earlier and swatted aside Leyton Orient. They didn't even need to play particularly well, or anywhere near to full speed. A 5-0 win was decent enough, and confidence boosting goals for both fit centre-forwards may have been just what the doctor ordered.
I thought Abou Diaby got a really good hour under his belt last night. Diaby looked sharp in possession and could have had a goal after a lovely one-two with Chamakh and some nimble footwork put him in on goal. Of course you would expect nothing less of an international footballer against lower division opponents, but the job still needs doing and credit should be given where it is due.
Talking of credit, Nicklas Bendtner got himself a hat-trick last night, with two really fine finishes and a penalty. Bendtner remains an enigma, capable of sublime play like his first two goals, and also of looking like a Sunday morning hoofer at times when trying to run with the ball. A microcosm of Nick was seen in his second goal when he lost control of the ball and got stick from the Orient (and the Arsenal) fans, only to get possession straight back, beat a defender and find the bottom corner from outside the area. I am always pleased for Bendtner when he scores and, with Van Persie injured, we are going to need plenty more goals from the big Dane. Whatever the issues with Bendtner, his confidence will never let him down. The same could not be said of Marouane Chamakh, a player who has looked a little lost on his rare appearances since Christmas. This made his goal last night all the more important. I thought Chamakh linked the play pretty well last night, but I just wish he would play with more intent going forward - he's a centre-forward but seems determined to link the play rather than be in the area providing the finish. There are times when Chamakh seems to be played through towards goal, but chooses to turn away from the target, and I find that incredibly infuriating.
Elsewhere last night I thought Manuel Almunia looked quite a bit more confident than on his two previous appearances. Almunia will need to be at his very best next Saturday when he plays at Old Trafford in the quarter-final. Kieran Gibbs, too, had a better game and created two of the goals. However, Emmanuel Eboue was awful. Orient carried little threat, but when they did get forward it was down Eboue's side of the pitch. The Ivorian was woefully out of position throughout the match and could be seen jogging slowly back towards the play as Squillaci and Denilson were constantly called upon to try and cover for him. Eboue has regressed to the player who was booed off a couple of years ago. He needs to sort it out, because his "cult" status will not carry him much further.
All in all a 5-0 win was perfectly adequate in the circumstances. I was annoyed at seeing Wilshere and Nasri being brought in to the fray last night - there really was no need for either of them to have to play any part - Arshavin, Clichy and Sagna could have been the players used instead. I hope we don't hear Arsene Wenger talking about players being fatigued any time soon when he had the opportunity to give complete rest to his best players but chose to put them on the pitch when there was no need.
I'll preview the Sunderland match tomorrow, where there is mixed early team news - Song out, Ramsey back. More tomorrow.