Lift off for Olivier Giroud
Arsenal's opening League Cup tie of the season has tended to be a highlight for a number of years now. Tonight was no exception. It would be fair to say that the first-half performance from Arsenal lacked the necessary pace to beat the inferior opposition. However, after half-time there was more movement, and the ball was fizzed around quicker to great effect. The scoreline was an accurate reflection of the play - frankly it could (should) have been even more emphatic. Coventry never gave up trying, but the superior quality of Arsenal's players was just too much for them to cope with.
As ever I don't propose to put together a report on the match. You don't need me to describe the goals and the missed chances etc as you can see them on TV any time you want. What I will do is pick out what was good, and what was not, about a few of the Arsenal players.
Theo Walcott will be grabbing the headlines for his two fine goals, especially after his comments in the press this week. His second goal was a magnificent solo effort. I don't like to mention Walcott in the same breath as Thierry Henry as there is simply no comparison. However, on this occasion I would say that, regardless of the opposition, the Great Man would have been pleased to score such a goal. I didn't realise just how much work he had to do on receipt of the ball until I've just watched it back on the BBC highlights show. Theo generally puts the ball on the target when given the opportunity and I see why he wants to be a centre-forward. The trouble is that he is too lightweight to play there in this Arsenal system. He also missed a couple of good chances tonight, incidentally.
There were two players who really stood out tonight for all the right reasons, and they are Nico Yennaris and Ignasi Miquel. Yennaris dominated midfield alongside Francis Coquelin, but Nico is a better ball player than his French team mate. Time and again he stepped in to break up the play before using the ball really well. On two of those occasions it led directly to an Arsenal goal. Having seen Yennaris be impressive at full-back last season it was even more interesting to see how good he can be in his own position. The only problem he has is that there are so many players in front of him. I hope he can make it as the boy is Arsenal through and through, just like Carl Jenkinson. Miquel, meanwhile, looks to have filled out physically. He was dominant in the air and on the ground. Rarely has a first Arsenal goal been as deserved as his this evening. Johan Djourou had a good game, but he was put in the shade by the young Spaniard. I would suggest we have five fairly capable centre-halves at this Club now, as well as Sebastien Squillaci who isn't really as bad as we all make out (or is he?)
Andrey Arshavin is another man who the press might well be full of tomorrow. Arsene Wenger has said tonight how he now believes Arshavin's best position is behind the striker. I suspect most of us could have told him that years ago. Perhaps if he had been played there this time last year then his Arsenal career might have gone somewhat differently. The stats show a goal and a couple of assists for the little Russian. What they don't show is the number of wayward first-time flicks he tried. Therein lies the frustration of watching Arshavin. For all his brilliance, and one run in the second-half where he beat three of four defenders before playing Giroud in behind the defence was magnificent, he remains lazy and inconsistent. It is so very frustrating as, ability wise, he is head and shoulders above Gervinho and Walcott.
Olivier Giroud finally got his first goal for Arsenal, and it was a wonderful finish. If he was feeling the pressure then he certainly didn't show it as he channelled the spirit of Carlos Vela and dinked it over the goalkeeper. He made a lot of good runs tonight and was not given the requisite service from out wide, though he was also done by a linesman when flagged offside incorrectly as he bore down on goal. The missed penalty was very disappointing, and it undid some of the good work done by his goal - unnecessary further questions will be asked about him as a result of his poor spot-kick. However, the contrast with the shot-shy Marouane Chamakh who now seems actively afraid of shooting for goal, was stark in the extreme.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was poor tonight, despite his stunning goal. The goal was the only thing he did all night that genuinely showed his talent. Aside of that I felt he was considering himself a bit too "big time" for the occasion. He seemed to me to be trying all the fancy stuff, and doing far too much show-boating. I am concerned that Chamberlain has had it all far too easy in his Arsenal career so far, especially when put along with his personal success in an England shirt too. I said a couple of weeks ago that I think he might have a tough season this year. Having watched him more closely tonight I think a kick up the backside might be in order - a spell on the bench might do him some good.
Of the other Arsenal players on show tonight Andre Santos was at fault for the Coventry goal as he was out of position again as the ball came down that side. As ever the Brazilian was good going forward, and rarely loses out when faced up by a winger, but he needs to learn when to make those runs forward, and when to show some caution. I suppose at 4-0 up it didn't much matter. In goal I was very impressed with Damian Martinez who showed his preference for actually catching the ball, rather than flapping at it. The big Argentinian could have an equally big future. Martyn Angha made a debut at right-back and, in fairness, was the only player on show who looked a little out of his depth. The young Swiss was often out of position defensively, while his rampaging forays forward too often ended with a cross in to the crowd. Emmanuel Frimpong came on to a rapturous reception from the Twitter Generation in attendance and put in a valuable twenty minute cameo on his return from injury.
There was one more debutant tonight, and that was Serge Gnabry who came on for Chamberlain. It is fair to say that Gnabry impressed everyone. He looks strong, like Chamberlain, as well as being quick, skillful and confident. His first involvement was to beat two defenders and fire in a shot that was deflected inches wide of the post. It is easy to see why Arsene Wenger talked about him possibly being part of things this season. It is also easy to see why there is not too much panic about Theo Walcott's contract. I'm going to stick my neck out and say that everyone in attendance might be able to look back and say "I was there" the night Serge Gnabry made his Arsenal debut.
The draw for the next round has us pitted against Reading, away from home. There is no reason why Arsenal can't go there with a similar side and expect to win. If the second-half tonight can be replicated then these lads can beat far better teams than Coventry City.
I don't know when the next post will be. I hope I can get to preview the Chelsea game, but my shifts this week might prevent that from happening. It may be that I don't get to post again until Sunday.