Blackburn 2 Arsenal 3 (AET) (Carling Cup Q.Final) - Young Guns march on...

First and foremost – what a fantastic result.  Many teams will go to Ewood Park and struggle.  Many will be lucky to go there and get a victory.  Even our first team only got a draw there this season.  Ok, the victory came after extra time but considering our second string have knocked out another full strength Premier League side is magnificent.  Last year it was Tottenham, this year it was Newcastle and now Blackburn.  We rode our luck, but you must expect this with such an inexperienced side, but we also played some sublime football.
Each goal was a moment of beauty in itself.  The first came after some neat build up play and Diaby put away Bendtner’s inviting cross.  Eduardo then finished off moves ending with two perfect through balls.  I know Samba missed the ball through from Denilson, but the weight and direction was still perfectly into the striker’s path.  We did look shaky at the back after the break but when a team has a striker of Santa Cruz’s quality, one has to expect a busy evening.  He had looked quiet all night to be honest but still took his goals like a true finisher.
One problem I have from tonight is Wenger’s persistence to try Eduardo out on the left wing. IT DOES NOT WORK.  It has failed many times before and did so again.  We started the game with two strikers and looked so dangerous.  As Blackburn piled on the pressure we went with just the one, Bendtner became isolated and the outlet of our two strikers was lost.  As soon as this became clear Wenger moved Eduardo back to his orignal position and we were a far larger threat once again.  Eduardo finally showed what he can do as he caused the opposition problems all night alongside the magnificent Bendtner.
The tall Dane was fantastic all night.  He held the ball up well, linked play as was required and showed some really neat touches.  He also displayed real confidence when he tried to chip Friedel from a wide angle; it so nearly worked but for the crossbar.  Bendtner has looked really good in recent matches and it does not seem too far away before he starts to bang in the goals.  If he and Eduardo can perform as they did tonight, Wenger may have a major selection problem on his hands.
The midfield was excellent and one thing I must say now is that if Diarra can play like that regularly, PLEASE KEEP HIM.  He was outstanding and rightfully given the Man of the Match award.  He broke up play, resisted challenges, put his foot in and also showed he can play the Arsenal way.  He played some brilliant diagonal balls which found their target with seeming ease.  Like Flamini he added bite to the midfield, and the whole team infact, which in previous years has been bullied by teams like Blackburn.  If someone like Gilberto has to be sacrificed to make room for Diarra, so be it.  That is my view, it might be controversial, but I stick by it.
Abou Diaby is such an interesting player to watch.  He is so tall and lanky and one might think he would be all about strength and drive.  However, although he is unbelievably strong, he is technically gifted aswell.  He keeps the ball so well in tight situations and combines this with his strength to go past players and hold off others.  He has been fantastic in the last two games and for me is the most natural back up to Cesc we have.  He has the vision and passing skills to take up this role.  All night he picked out players and one ball was absolutely brilliant.  It did not reach its target due to a fine interception but the pass was hit with reverse curl with the outside of his boot and was running perfectly into the path of Eduardo.  It would have been one of the passes of the season had it come off and showed he can pick a pass aswell as anyone.  He can get up and down the pitch like one Patrick Vieira did and seems to be scoring more aswell.
With a few youngsters coming up from the reserves, it was interesting to see which one would start.  We knew one would get the nod due to Theo’s “illness” (no wimpish accusations intented) and it was Mark Randall who was given his full competitive debut.  There have been many good words coming out of the club about this lad and in pre season he got a few games under his belt.  Tonight, he looked like he was a first team regular.  He always wanted to get on the ball and fitted perfectly into the passing game we play.  He showed neat touches and was heavily involved in the first goal with a great disguised pass to Bendtner.  Randall is an example of the group of young ENGLISH players coming through and if they have the potential Randall showed, then we are in for exciting times.
Denilson played well but did not impress me as much as the other 3 midfielders.  He linked play well but did not shine as the others did.  That is not to say he played badly, to be honest no one did, but he did not do as much as the others to tell Wenger they are ready for more first team action.  He made the second goal, granted, but other than that the only thing of note was to get sent off.  Denilson really must learn how to tackle properly.  On so many occasions he has tackled with similar technique he showed tonight.  He cannot lunge like that and really must change this in his game.  To be fair Savage probably made the ref show a straight red rather than a second yellow but there was no excuse for the challenge.
At the back Hoyte and Traore really impressed me.  Many have struggled against the wingers of Blackburn, they are top quality players, but Hoyte and Traore did well.  They were never going to stop every cross into the box but did very well to limit the supply.  Hoyte really is developing into a good player and able back up to Sagna.  Traore, as Wenger said, really has become a man recently.  He was brilliant going forward and seems to have improved defensively.  Derbyshire got in behind him for the goal but with the striker offside, it was harsh on Traore.  Like Hoyte, he showed he is a more than capable back up to the first choice left back, Clichy.
One pairing I was keen to watch tonight was Song and Senderos.  For a long time I have had my doubts over big Phil.  I have been worried about his ability against stronger and faster players.  Drogba wins the battle everytime against him and tonight Santa Cruz did the same.  Players like this always seem to come out on top; Kanoute did the same recently.  Senderos lost a lot of aerial battles and was caught off the pace at times tonight. He nearly cost us a goal when he did not step up with the rest of the defence and duly missed the interception to allow Santa Cruz in on goal, only for Fabianski and Song to bail him out.  So why was I interested to watch these two?
Well, Kolo Toure leaves for the African Cup of Nations soon and Wenger must decide who will come in for him.  If Song is not selected for Cameroon I would be tempted to bring him in.  He had a tough start to his Arsenal career but since he moved to centre-back he has shone.  He reads the game well, has decent pace and is very strong.  He made some crucial blocks, interceptions and headers today and showed he could fill in for Toure if needed. One advantage he has after his time in midfield, is his ability to join in with play and start attacks from the back.&nb sp; He did it many times today and it was his sublime through ball that set up the winner.  Song seems to have found his position now and could he push Senderos down the pecking order?  I guess it all depends on the Cameroonian coach.
Another player I was interested to watch was Fabianski.  With many fans worrying about Almunia as a long term option in goal, it was good to see Fabianski in goal and put under real pressure as he was tonight.  I have to say that I was impressed.  He looked a bit shaky at crosses but to be fair to him his own defence had dropped right onto his toes.  He got the ball away when he needed to and made some crucial catches and punches when it mattered towards the end of extra time.  He did not complain when the pressure put on him may have been a bit much and his shot stopping was excellent.  He looks a real talent.
All of this just shows how good this performance was.  The only disapointments were that Denilson got sent off and Barazite was stretchered off. I think he may have a dislocated shoulder, I hope it is no more serious than this.  Other than these two incidents, we were brilliant.  A dodgy offside call and suspect marking from one set piece made the game more interesting but we made the best chances and played by far the better football.  On to the semi’s, but who do we want?
Everton and Tottenham are already through and either Chelsea/Liverpool will make up the fourth team.  For me there are two dream events I would want.  The first is to play Tottenham in a replay of last year’s semi final where our kids humiliated their first team.  It would be brilliant to ruin their chances of getting to a rare domestic final.  Then maybe we would get a re-match against Chelsea where we can avenge last year’s travesty!
However, maybe a better one would be to play Tottenham in the final itself.  This would mean a very tricky semi-final against sides who are solid at home where I would not be so confident.  It would just be sweet if it was us trying to prevent their winning of a first piece of silverware in years.
Wenger’s kids seem to thrive in this competition with yet another scalp tonight.  The football played was reminiscent of the first team and the fight showed for 120 minutes was awesome – well done lads.

LOGIN to Comment
LOGIN to Comment