Arsenal maintained their unbeaten start to the season with another fine victory over Newcastle United in the third round of the Carling Cup.
As expected, Arsene Wenger played a virtual second-string lineup but that did not stop his side posting a surprisingly impressive 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal had the bulk of the possession and chances but had to wait until the 83rd minute for their first goal, when Armand Traore crossed from left for Nicklas Bendtner to head home. They survived a late scare when Philippe Senderos had to clear an Obafemi Martins shot off the line before Denilson smashed home a second from the edge of the area in the 89th minute to seal the win.
Despite the fact that I did not get to see the match, I couldn’t help but be impressed with result and apparent performance. It may have been shaky at times but a 2-0 victory over one of the better sides in the Premiership despite the fact that not one first-choice player was chosen is nothing short of remarkable. Seriously, despite the claims from opposition and the media that Arsenal lack depth I don’t think their is any other club in the Premiership who could play a second-choice team and get that kind of result.
Special mentions should go to Nicklas Bendtner, who scored his first competitive goal for the club; Lukasz Fabianski, who appeared to have an excellent debut in goals; and Alexandre Song and Senderos, who formed a central-defensive partnership that limited the Newcastle attack to just five efforts on goal. Despite some suggestions that Senderos and Song are two of the weaker links in the Arsenal squad, a clean sheet and a sensational clearance of the line by the Swiss defender at the death really says it all about their performance.
It was also great to see Lassana Diarra (who, Wenger later revealed, only cost the club £2 million) grab his first start and Denilson get the second with another thunderbolt of a goal. You could count the number of long-range goals that Arsenal scored last season on one hand but with Denilson’s goal added to the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Abou Diaby and Cesc Fabregas’ little collection it seems that the boys have really learnt how to shoot this time around. Indeed, I’ve seen Denilson try his luck from range many times in his short career with the club and have never been overly impressed. All I can say is that I’m glad he hasn’t given up. Unsurprisingly, manager Arsene Wenger was absolutely delighted with the performance of his side, going as far to say that any of the players who started the game could slot into the first team with ease.
“All of them, for me all of them can play on a regular basis in the first team. We have a small group but [one] of very good quality, and very young.”
The result suggests you can’t really argue with that. I have to admit, I had my doubts about this one but all the evidence points to the strong possibility that the club is set for another excellent run in the Carling Cup, despite Wenger’s insistance on using the competition to give the younger players their chance to play.
A matter of status?
In other news, ex-club captain Thierry Henry has praised the current Arsenal team for their impressive performances of late. Henry made comments about his old team’s flying start to the season and suggested that he was not surprised with the quality of their results so far.
“It is their generation. It is their Arsenal now and it is up to them to win stuff and with the team they have, I do not know why they wouldn’t.”
I think these are noble words from Henry. A lot of people gave him stick over the way that he left the club but when he mentions “their generation” I think I can finally understand why he felt he had to leave Arsenal. When Cesc Fabregas spoke about Henry’s influence on the team recently, he painted the picture of a player who intimidated his teammates due to his reputation and status, rather than his behaviour.
“Henry intimidated us. He is a great player but it was not easy to play alongside him. We were a bit inhibited – dependent on everything that he wanted to do.”
There is no doubting that Henry was a great player and a good man. As such, I find it hard to believe that he behaved poorly in the dressing room. What I can believe is that Henry got to a stage where, even as the captain of the club, he found it difficult to fit in with the other Arsenal players. In a club of up-and-coming youngsters he was the one established superstar, a social dilemma that may have been more difficult to deal with than it probably sounds. The younger players will have grouped together in ways that a man ten years older may have struggled to and I think it’s understandable that he seeked out an environment at Barcelona where the bulk of his teammates were not only closer to his age, but closer to his status as well.
So on a day when Arsenal’s youngsters pulled off a great result against a decent Newcastle United side I think it’s worth remembering the contribution of Henry and admiring the positive comments he has made about his old club.
What do you think?
Have your say the win over Newcastle or Thierry Henry by leaving a comment.