Arsenal cruised into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup with a straightforward 3-0 win against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
Croatian striker Eduardo da Silva was the hero with a well-taken double before Brazilian midfielder Denilson sealed the result with a deflected third goal. Arsenal broke the deadlock as early as the 8th minute when Eduardo fired in a great effort from the edge of the area following a neat pass from strike partner Nicklas Bendtner. They preceded to pepper the home side’s goal for the rest of the first half but were not rewarded again until five minutes into the second half when Eduardo finished neatly from Kieran Gibbs’ pass. The result was put behind doubt in the 69th minute when Denilson shot from distance and his strike was deflected home by Sheffield defender Chris Morgan. Three goals, three points, and another assured performance.
The same eleven players that I predicted to start yesterday did, but not in the positions that I expected. Justin Hoyte played alongside Alex Song in central defence with Lassana Diarra shuffled to the right and Kieran Gibbs moved to the left. Gilberto Silva surprisingly started next to Denilson in the centre of the park, whilst Theo Walcott and Abou Diaby took up the flanks. Predictably, Bendtner and Eduardo started up front.
I didn’t get to see the match but from all reports the scoreline did not flatter Arsenal. From what I could gather Wenger’s young side were in control of the game from start to finish and the defence was rarely troubled by the Championship side. Just from the result, highlights were the good performance of Hoyte and Song in the centre of defence, Lukasz Fabianski’s second clean sheet in as many matches, as well as Eduardo grabbing a couple of great goals. Eduardo has not made his mark yet this season and Wenger has pointed to the six-month adaption period as a major factor, but he produced two precise finishes that should have Arsenal fans excited about what he will deliver when his works his way into some form.
Why Arsenal are suited beat United
Although it was important for the young guns to pass another test at Sheffield I have to admit that my attention this week has mostly been focused on the upcoming clash with Manchester United. It has been years since Arsenal and United have met as the top two sides in England and I can’t say how excited I am about the game. Supporters of Arsenal will be well aware of how well the team have done so far this season, but it with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side arguably in even better form going into the match it should be a tight encounter. It may sound biased but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I really think Arsenal are going to beat Manchester United this weekend.
United have been in sensational attacking form of late, scoring four goals in each of their last four matches and that has been down to the efforts of strikers Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney as well as Cristiano Ronaldo on the right and Luis Nani and Ryan Giggs on the left. However, when you look at Arsenal’s defensive line Gael Clichy, William Gallas, Kolo Toure and Bacary Sagna, I really feel that this is a group of players who are perfectly suited to nullifying Manchester United’s threat.
Gallas and Toure often struggle against taller strikers who pose an aerial threat, as they did at times against Peter Crouch last weekend. Neither Rooney nor Tevez fall into this category; their strength lies in their pace and movement off the ball, attributes that I feel Gallas and Toure are perfectly capable of defending against. The Arsenal centre-backs are arguably the two quickest in the league and are most comfortable when the ball is played on the deck, as United do, so I really feel that this is a key battle that the home side will win.
The right blend
In a similar way I believe that Clichy and Sagna are perfectly matched against Ronaldo and Nani/Giggs. The key to defending United’s wide men is pace and stamina and Clichy and Sagna have it in spades. Manchester United will look to isolate the wide defenders – especially Clichy – but I feel that both defenders have the recovery speed required to minimise their impact, especially with Mathieu Flamini shuffling across in front of the defence to act as support.
The 4-5-1 formation that Wenger will surely employ should allow Flamini and Fabregas to crowd out Anderson and allow Alexander Hleb, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Eboue the freedom to push forward and support Emmanuel Adebayor. Adebayor’s job will be to occupy one or both of Vidic and Ferdinand as often as possible and allow the nippier players like Hleb and Rosicky the time and space to wreak havok up front.
So there you have it. It may sound overly simplistic but I really do think that Arsenal have the right team to beat United. I didn’t feel that they had the right team to beat Liverpool and I’m not sure the players are right to defeat Chelsea but I really think the match-up against Manchester United will work in Arsenal’s favour. The defence is suited to United’s attack and the attack is not suited to United’s defence and for that very reason I really think Arsenal will win this weekend.
There will be a full preview of the match tomorrow when the squads are announced and I’ll also be including the thoughts of one of the blog’s regular readers, Manchester United fan ‘Ronaldo7’, on the weekend clash. Until then, have a good one.
What do you think?
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