Arsenal made the trip to Newcastle United last night for a fourth round Carling Cup game and it turned out to be a very good result for them. After disposing of The Spuds 4-1 away from home in the last round, Arsenal went one better and ended up winning 4-0 in this game.
The team selection saw nine changes from the weekend starting 11 that won 3-0 away to Man City, with Denilson and Johann Djourou being the only survivors from that game. As expected Wojciech Szczesny started in goals with other notable inclusions being Theo Walcott, Craig Eastmond and Nicklas Bendtner. Newcastle made quite a few changes of their own with their home game against local rivals Sunderland on Sunday in their minds.
Arsenal started as if their lives depended on the result and how they weren't ahead as the half progressed is anybody's guess. They missed chance after chance in those early stages, although none of them were absolute sitters at least. Newcastle got in on the act after 15 minutes when Nile Ranger went around Szczesny but Laurent Koscielny was on hand to block his effort on goal. Szczesny was probably a bit rash in charging out to try to block Ranger but otherwise he had an excellent game.
From the corner after that effort he made an excellent save from an Alan Smith shot and he never looked back. As the first neared it's end Newcastle suffered a cruel blow when their keeper Tim Krul scored an own goal that he knew very little about. With the 45 minutes just up a Bendtner header from a corner was cleared off the line but it hit Krul in the back of the head and rebounded into the goal to give Arsenal the lead they wanted.
The first half had gone pretty well for Arsenal except for an early injury to Kirean Gibbs who had to be replaced by Bakari Sagna. Usually Gibbs manages a whole comeback game before he gets injured but this time it was only 18 minutes. It meant that Emmanuel Eboue switched to left back and Sagna came on at right back. Hopefully the injury to Gibbs won't be too serious but he is fast developing Robin Van Persie's knack of not lasting very long before succumbing to another injury.
Newcastle had a fairly good chance from a corner early in the second half but they paid the price for missing it soon afterwards when Walcott doubled Arsenal's lead. A through ball found him and he raced on to clip it over the keeper into the net although there was a great deal of controversy about it. Bendtner was in an offside position when the ball was played but he didn't attempt to play it but he did obstruct a Newcastle defender who was looking to chase after Walcott.
There was no way that Mike Williamson would have caught Walcott but in my opinion it should have been a free kick for Newcastle. However, the officials didn't seem to realise what had happened and the goal stood which gave Newcastle a very large mountain to climb. Bendtner was on the receiving end of a similar challenge from Williamson in the first half that also went unpunished and although the consequences of his retribution were far worse for Newcastle, these things have a habit of balancing themselves out.
With Newcastle looking to get back into the game, Arsenal were threatening on the break but they needed a little bit of poise to finish the game off. With Andy Carroll and Jonas Guiterrez on Newcastle threatened on a few occasions but once Cesc Fabregas came on for Arsenal with 20 minutes left I felt that the killer goal would soon arrive. It took until the 82nd minute for that goal to arrive but when it did it was the pick of the bunch.
Arsenal broke quickly again and Cesc played the ball to Bendtner at the left corner of the penalty area. He cut inside, made a little space for himself and lashed the ball into the far corner of the net. It was his second goal in four days and he showed that he is ready to take his chance when it arrives. It's good to see that we now have two fit centre forwards and to be honest Bendtner has shown a little more poise than Marouane Chamakh with the ball at his feet in front of goal. He still has a lot to do to match Chamakh's overall contribution but he certainly gives the boss more options.
When Cesc came on with 20 minutes left I noticed that Newcastle brought Joey Barton on soon afterwards and I remarked at the time that given a chance he would take Cesc out. With only a few minutes left he saw his chance and went right through Cesc with a bad challenge after Cesc had played a quick first time pass. He received a yellow card for it and thankfully Cesc was OK but it's clear that he has become a marked man and a target for every so called hard man in the Premier League. Having said that I quickly checked when we play Wolves and I saw that Karl Henry will take his turn to kick Cesc in two weeks from last night.
The boss decided to give Jay Emmanuel Thomas a run with six minutes left and he was inadvertently involved in our fourth and last goal. A through ball from Cesc was completely missed by JET but that meant it ran through for Walcott and he raced through to finish with ease past the keeper. The game was over as a contest when the third goal went in but it was good to see Arsenal continuing to look for goals anyway.
Walcott looked very sharp on his return and considering the fact that he hadn't started a game for Arsenal since August he has done very well to be our joint second highest goalscorer with six goals, only one behind Samir Nasri. The boss now has a real problem when it comes to picking the team on Saturday against West Ham and I think that Andrei Arshavin might be the man to lose out unless Nasri moves infield to play alongside Cesc.
Bendtner did pretty well too and the team as a whole performed admirably. It was good to see Eastmond get a full game for the first team and he did his future chances no harm at all. Koscielny again looked the part to me and I will be very surprised if he doesn't form our central defensive partnership with Sebastien Squillaci on Saturday. Carlos Vela did fairly well although a goal would have helped his chances for future games. I still don't think he is quite suited to a wide left role but with Chamakh and Bendtner ahead of him and Robin Van Persie still to return, his chances as a central striker will be very limited.
Young Wojciech Szczesny may have made one mistake in rushing from his line in the first half but besides that he showed an enormous amount of potential. His save from Alan Smith was top drawer, as was his save from the Ryan Taylor free kick late on. He was very brave in diving into a sea of legs to grab the ball in his six yard box and he looked very confident in catching crosses. Late on he punched a cross so far that it almost reached the other half of the pitch and it was certainly far better than the efforts of Almunia in similar situations.
Finally for today there is the news that Mark Randall has gone out on loan to Rotherham United for three months. At 21 he is at a stage in his career where he needs to be playing but it looks like his chances at Arsenal will be severely limited and I wouldn't be surprised if he is sold in January or perhaps next summer. I hope the loan spell goes well for him and if he does move on that he has a good career at whatever club he chooses.
See You Tomorrow.