Thursday, 3 March 2011

Arsenal Beat Leyton Orient 5-0 In Their FA Cup Replay.

After the disappointment of losing the Carling Cup final to Birmingham on Sunday Arsenal had the chance to regain a little pride against Orient last night. The drawn game a couple of weeks ago was a drab affair, but surely the League One team couldn't cause an upset on Arsenal's home patch. Despite the fact that Arsenal's injury problems were mounting they still had enough good players available to show Orient exactly why they are second in the Premier League, and in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Arsene Wenger did all he could to rest the majority of the players who had played on Sunday, and he managed to come up with an entirely different starting 11 with the exception of Tomas Rosicky much to my surprise. I thought he would make plenty of changes, but I certainly didn't see Conor Henderson getting his chance to impress the Arsenal fans. He played as part of a front three along with Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner who both really needed a goal to get them back on track. With Robin Van Persie out for a minimum of three weeks both of those players knew they had a chance to make the centre forward role their own for the duration of his injury.

With Henderson making his first team debut there was also the sight of Ignasi Miquel making only his second start after debuting in the drawn game. Despite the fact that those two players were relatively inexperienced Arsenal still had plenty of experience and ability available to them on the pitch. There were still seven full internationals in the Arsenal team, and Orient were going to have their work cut out on such a big pitch.

The scoring didn't take long to get underway with Marouane Chamakh getting Arsenal's first goal in only the seventh minute. Rosicky made a good run deep into the Orient box, and he cut the ball back for Chamakh to slide it into the corner from six yards out. Orient played quite well, and they did all they could to get back into the game, but once Arsenal added to their lead it looked to be an impossible task.

Bendtner got the second goal on the half hour mark when he rose above an Orient defender to head home a cross from Kieran Gibbs. It was a very good header, and it certainly didn't look like a typical Arsenal goal. Even when Arsenal score from crosses the player who scores tends to have found space, but Bendtner managed to out jump and out muscle his marker in true centre forward fashion. It's an option Arsenal might have to utilise a little more than usual over the next few weeks as they wait for RVP to recover from his latest injury.

With half-time approaching Arsenal added a third goal, and it was game over at that stage despite the best efforts of Orient. Orient lost possession to Rosicky just outside their own box, and his tackle sent the ball to Bendtner again. He was on the left hand side of the box, and he cut in past two defenders on his right foot. As the next defender closed he curled the ball just inside the far post, and it reminded me a little of a Thierry Henry goal. He's making a bit of a habit of scoring goals when he cuts in from the left hand side this season, as the great man did for so many years. I'm not saying Bendtner is anywhere near the player Henry was, but it seems he may well have learned something when Henry trained with the club not so long ago.

The teams emerged for the second half, and the biggest question was how many goals Arsenal would end up scoring. Orient looked good going forward at times, but their inability to keep possession in their own half was costing them dearly. As Arsenal worked their pretty little patterns the Orient players tired chasing the ball on the big pitch. 

The next goal came in the 62nd minute after some good footwork in the box by Gibbs led to him being taken down for a penalty. Bendtner was on penalty taking duties for the night, and he stepped up to dispatch it smartly into the corner on the keeper's right. He had managed a hat-trick for himself, and it was Arsenal's first FA Cup hat-trick in 18 years apparently.Surely he had also booked his place in the starting 11 for Saturday's game at home to Sunderland, and the trip to Barcelona next week too.

Rosicky went off at that stage, as he had taken a knock to the head and he was replaced by Sami Nasri. Bendtner went off soon after that, as did Abu Diaby, and they were replaced by Jack Wilshere and Gael Clichy. It meant Clichy was playing on the left hand side of Arsenal's attacking trio, and he took advantage of that after 75 minutes. Emmanuel Eboue cut the ball across the box from the right, and it was well dummied by Chamakh. Unfortunately Wilshere didn't read the dummy, but Clichy came in from the left, and struck the ball sweetly into the far corner with a fine shot. It was only his second goal ever for Arsenal, and the last one took two or three deflections before it went in.

The final score was 5-0, and it was exactly what the doctor ordered for Arsenal. Most of the important players were rested ahead of Saturday's chance to close the gap at the top of the league to one point, and a couple of players were taken off to make sure they kept some energy for that game too. I would imagine there will be eight or nine changes for that game, but both Diaby and Bendtner were taken off as they should be playing from the start. Sunderland don't have a great record away from home this season, but they caused Arsenal problems when they drew at Sunderland earlier in the season.

Orient had their day in the sun in the drawn game, and they made plenty of money from TV and gate receipts. Their owner has said he will bring the team to Las Vegas as a reward, and they played very well considering the league they're in. If they can play like that for the rest of the season I'm sure they will have a good chance of making the play offs for promotion to the Championship.

Arsenal got the good win that was needed to help them to overcome Sunday's disappointment, but of course it won't banish it from their memories. Hopefully they can use the hurt they felt to push them on to even greater things, and they at least showed last night that they have started the recovery. The hat-trick from Bendtner was a good boost for a team missing it's best striker, and Chamakh's goal was another bonus.

When Bendtner scored his first goal last night it was Arsenal's 100th goal in all competitions this season. Those goals came in 45 games, and Arsenal have a minimum of 13 games left this season. With a win against either Barcelona in the Champions League or "Manure" in the FA Cup the chances are Arsenal will end up playing 60 games or even more this season. That's an awful lot of games, but life isn't easy at the top, and that's what Arsenal are aiming for.

I was pleased with how both Henderson and Miquel played last night, and I have always said that the youngsters can fit in when they get a chance. I'm sure Henri Lansbury, Jay Emmanuel Thomas and Kyle Bartley would have relished the prospect of playing last night, but they are out on loan elsewhere.

When it comes to the next round I would be very surprised if any of the younger players get a chance to play. The trip to Old Trafford to play "Manure" will be a tough game, and it comes only four days after Arsenal's trip to Barcelona. I think Arsenal have to play the strongest team possible in that game, as a defeat to "Manure" could prove to be very costly to the players confidence. Only three days after that game "Manure" have a home game against Marsaille in the Champions League, and they could well rest a few players with that game in mind. It's an opportunity for Arsenal to get very close to another trip to Wembley, and a chance to make amends for the defeat to Birmingham. The chance of getting a win at Old Trafford is too good to miss in my opinion, and I really hope the boss agrees with me.

Hopefully there's plenty more to come from this team this season, as the roller coaster ride continues for Arsenal fans. Whatever happens there's no doubt that it's going to be very interesting to say the least.

That's it for today. 

Here's the highlights from last night's game with thanks as always to 101greatgoals.

See You Tomorrow.

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