Wednesday 12 November 2008

The Arsenal kids serve up a lesson

What a superb performance and result that was last night from the Arsenal kids. Simply outstanding.

But, I'm not going to talk too much about individual performances in the game. Arseblogger gives his usual excellent summary of events here. Jack Wilshere got the full back page in the Sun this morning Jay Simpson got the Metro's back page. Both good, local lads who fully deserve their day in the spotlight.

Instead, lets just take a little stock of what happened last night. Wigan were at full strength with their first available xi last night (Heskey injured), whereas Wenger made eleven changes to the starting xi that faced Manure - Alex Song and Fabianski were the only people who played any part in the game last saturday.

When the teams were announced, several so-called experts tipped Wigan for the upset (BBC's Jonathan Stevenson included, in his otherwise excellent news feed). The tipsters in the papers during the day, perhaps expecting the kids to turn up, were telling the punters to back Wigan. Zaki was the shortest odds for the first goal scorer.

So when anyone tries to tell you that there was no pressure on the kids to play, I really wonder what planet they come from. I have watched a number of reserve games (admittedly on Arsenal TV), but the average attendance is about 25 people. Occasionally more, sometime less. Ok, some of these kids would have played in front of 40,000 fans last year in the FA Youth Cup semi-final against Manure (which we lost over two legs), but this was a 60,000 strong crowd. This team would never have faced this sort of atmosphere before together. Wigan do every other week.

We have watched countless young Arsenal starlets get the jitters big time on this sort of occassion before. Armand Traore must have played a dozen games at this level before he began to settle down (did he ever settle down?), stopped trying to pull off a trick every time and played with some discipline. Same goes for players like Jermain Pennant, Quincy Owousu-Abeie, Lupoli etc.

Yet when the whistle blew, the kids played the full 90 minutes with composure, organisation, discipline, technique and patience. If they had any butterflies, they didn't show it. Instead, they fought hard for every ball - even Wilshere making a filthy tackle in the first ten minutes. The midfield worked extremely hard for each other, closing down Wigan relentlessly, denying Palacios and Koumas space, fighting to win headers, being strong in the challenge. Gibbs was targeted by Wigan early on as the weak link, but he stayed focused, fought hard and easily won the battle over 90 minutes. It was simply fantastic.

If we were slightly more composed in front of goal, or if it wasn't Kirkland having his usual good game against us, then a repeat of the 6-0 victory against Sheffield Utd was on the cards.

For the record, lets also remember that the team that Wenger put out against Wigan in the Carling Cup semi-final in January 2006, which lost to Wigan over two legs, was incredibly strong - Almunia, Gilbert, Senderos, Campbell, Lauren, Hleb (Pires 69), Silva, Diaby (Flamini 45), Reyes, Bergkamp, Henry (Van Persie 79).

That makes last night's performance all the more remarkable. Ok, this was not the semi-final, but Wigan are not some mickey mouse team. They are Premiership regulars who have some extremely good players, but they were thrashed last night by an Arsenal team with more focus, discipline and far more talent. Jason Koumas is the welsh captain, but he won't be making the team soon if Aaron Ramsey keeps it up.

If 7 days is a long time in politics, its an age in football. Last week the Arsenal first team gave a rather limp performance against Fenerbahce and boos (wrongly in my view) sounded at the final whistle from the crowd. What we can all cherish this morning is the attitude and fight the kids showed and the crowd loved it. Well done to them all.


Anonymous said...

Go kids Goooooo........i m sure it wont be long before these kids make it to senior team.....

Obsinho said...

Charlie Nicholas picked out Rambo, Carlos, Jack and Gibbs as the ones to watch out for.

However, I would add to that Djourou and Song. The former looks a better player than Gallas and Silvestre already, and it is well blogged-upon that no-one understands why he doesn't get his chance. The latter is much maligned.

But last night he was simply awesome. Strong off the ball, focused in the tackle and in the air, great positioning and reading of the game, and very conservative and sensible in possession. All you want from a defender.

Thing is. If the kids go and lose 5-0 to Spurs or Liverpool in the next round, will pundints and fans suddenly say there is a crisis and that Wenger's plicy is crazy. Do we want silverware, or do we want nights like last night? I am undecided at this point, such was the enjoyment in watching that 90 minutes.

1979gooner said...

brilliant stuff, wish I could have seen the game,

agree with obs, why is djourou not in the first team as yet, he's been our most consistently solid defender this season,

ramsey is starting to really impress, how did randall get on?

Si said...

Just wonderful, wonderful stuff. It was an absolute pleasure to watch the passing game of the AFC reserves (!!!). Djourou should be in the first 11 every week, he is ansolute quality street mate. Wilshire is so promising it is beyond promising, he's almost ready. Brilliant.
I didn't moan once. Would love to see our first team turn over sides like the kids did last night.
Vela - fucking magic.

Ted said...

Well said Si.
I won't swear at you like nasty Mr Anonymous did. Although I really think its about time you told Alonso to move out the spare room.

Si said...

Too late, the git's claimed squatter's rights. Look what an olive branch gets you these days. He's obviously spent too much time up in the city of debt/culture. Playing for Victimpool fc does this to once decent men.

Obsinho said...

I liked the Insulting Anonymous poster. I hoed he would have a pop at 1979 and then we could get a war going.

Also, could I just say a quick "Cunt" to Ray Wilkins. Karma is a beautiful thing.