Arsenal took on Manchester City at home last night in the quarter finals of the Carling Cup. Arsene Wenger made 10 changes from the team that draw 1-1 at home to Fulham in the Premier League last Saturday. The only player to keep his place was Johan Djourou, as plenty of fringe players got a chance to make an impression.
The Arsenal defence had a very strange look to it, as there were no recognised full backs available for selection. It meant the players in front of Lukasz Fabianski consisted of four central defenders. Ignasi Miquel filled in at left back with Djourou on the right, and Laurent Kiscielny and Sebastien Squillaci in the middle.
In midfield both Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin played central roles with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun in the wider positions. It meant Arsenal played a front two of Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju-Young who both had a chance to show they should be next in line to Robin van Persie. It was a little strange to see Arsenal playing in a 4-4-2 formation, but it's not a bad thing that they have that option available to them.
The fans got their chance to pay tribute to Gary Speed before the game, and his name rang out around the stadium.
City included Arsenal old boys Samir Nasri and Kolo Toure in their team, and the Arsenal fans let Nasri know exactly how they felt about him. Wile Toure got the respect an Arsenal legend deserves, Nasri was roundly booed every time he touched the ball. The Arsenal fans were not going to forget the manner of Nasri's exit, or how they felt about his comments about them afterwards.
City played some of their more expensive signings in a team which also showed 10changes from the one that started against Liverpool in their 1-1 draw on Sunday. Samir Nasri was the only exception for them, but he did very little to justify his large transfer fee.
Arsenal were the better team in the first half, and Park had the best chance to score in the 10th minute. Unfortunately his contact from a Coquelin cross was not quite good enough, and the giant Costel Pantilimon in goal for City managed to keep it out. Arsenal came close on one other occasion in the first half when an excellent drive from Chamberlain was pushed away from the top corner by Pantilimon.
City had shown very little in front of goal except for an Adam Johnson shot which clipped the top of the net. They had looked good in possession on occasions, but they showed very little creativity. I thought they would have shown more in attack and taken the game to Arsenal, but they were content to try to play on the break.
The second half didn't contain as much goalmouth action as the first half, but when Arsenal introduced Thomas Vermaelen and Gervinho into the side I hoped they would have enough to get the victory. They gradually seemed to be getting the upper hand, but the game looked to be heading into extra time with no goals scored.
Arsenal won a corner and when the ball was quickly cleared City managed to get their first chance on target in the game. The chance fell to the lethal Sergio Aguero and he made no mistake from just inside the Arsenal box after good work by Eden Dzeko and Johnson. Perhaps one of the Arsenal players should have taken one for the team and stopped the move by earning himself a yellow card before City punished them.
Arsenal brought Andrey Arshavin of for Chamberlain, but he looked well off the pace. They tried in vain to grab an equaliser that would bring the game into extra time, and when Chamakh and Squillaci failed to connect with a Gervinho cross their last chance went.
In the great scheme of things the result counts for very little, and I'm not overly concerned about Arsenal being knocked out of the Carling Cup. It's a competition that cost them dearly last season when their season collapsed after their final defeat to Birmingham City. They are through to the last 16 of the Champions League, fighting to finish in the top four in the Premier League, and the FA Cup starts in five weeks time.
There were quite a few positives on the night with Koscielny showing that he is the best defender at actually defending at the club. In midfield both Coquelin and Frimpong put in excellent displays to show the potential they have, and to show that they are capable of playing right now. Chamberlain was the man of the match in my opinion, and he showed that he too can play a role right now.
The performances of both Park and Chamakh were not what I had hoped for, and they probably won't get another chance until the third round FA Cup game in early January.
Park saw very little of the ball and he will probably be hoping that he scored the early chance that came his way. Besides that chance he didn't contribute an awful lot else, but at least he kept trying.
Chamakh again looked lost at times, and he also seemed to be caught unawares when the ball came to him occasionally. He was coughing a lot and he never stopped clearing his nose which made me think he may not have been well. It's hard to see how he could take over if Robin van Persie was injured, but he is the first choice replacement.
Plenty of Arsenal fans are of the opinion Wenger should buy a striker to act as cover for RVP in the January transfer window, and it's hard to argue with that. With the money Arsenal have available they should be able to get somebody who can come into the team and make an impact.
It's hard to understand how little impact both strikers made last night when they had a chance to stake a place in the team. Other younger and less experienced players took their chance, and showed the manager they are capable of being a part of the team. Maybe both players are resigned to warming the bench as long as RVP is fit, and they don't see the need to try too hard until that changes.
That's it for today.
Here's a look at City's winning goal.
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