Tottenham 1-4 Arsenal
There’s nothing quite like thumping the old enemy in their own back yard, as Liam Brady will tell you.
The argument for playing rookies in this competition is a strong one, but the alternate view – that winning breeds winning – has been gathering strength and last night Wenger clearly took that line with the team he picked.
Last season, this team struggled to get back on track after defeats. This year’s start has been strong and Wenger clearly didn’t want to risk a damaging defeat by playing an XI largely plucked from the reserves.
There’s no doubt it was the strongest Milk Cup lineup in ages, with Rosicky, Nasri and Eboue starting, and Arshavin and Chamakh coming on later in the game.
But perhaps the most pleasing thing, if you think about it, is the amount of other players who played last night that had made their names in this competition and have since cemented their places in the first team squad. Home-grown, but no longer rookies – Wilshere, Djourou, Gibbs, Denilson, Vela. Only Lansbury – and on the bench, Eastmond and Emmanuel-Thomas – have not yet made that progression to first team regulars.
We were utterly dominant in the first half, but with just Lansbury’s goal to show for it, there was always the danger of parity and so it came to pass. What a terrible goal to concede though – Keane was offside (a poor decision by the lino compounded by a similar decision in the first half when Gibbs was clean through, but was wrongly called offside). Nevertheless, his shot should have been saved by Fabianski but the hapless Pole wasn’t able to push it away. Enough said about him the better I think. Almunia will not be losing much sleep.
So extra time it was, and a lethal 15-minute spell sent the travelling hordes into raptures. Nasri took both penalties with aplomb, and the icing on the cake came from Arshavin, put through by the quick-thinking Wilshere.
A word about our 18-year-old Englishman. He has been simply sensational this season and last night he absolutely ran the show, despite some rough-house treatment. As Wenger admitted, he’s far ahead of where people expected him to be and there’s no doubt that already, he’s a huge asset.
Koscielny too deserves what I believe young people refer to as a ‘shout out’ for his all-action performance. I love his energy and commitment.
The only dampener of course is Gibbs’ injury – a potential metatarsal that would be a huge blow if confirmed. He must rue the gods of ill-timing, poor bloke. Last season he had just broken into the first team – and may well have made the first-team squad – when he had his metatarsal broken. This season, he must have scented a chance with Clichy wobbling slightly. Fingers crossed it’s not broken.
Overall, much fun and a lovely performance.
And the sun is out. It’s all good.
Shall we make a DVD?