Twelve Goal Thriller That Sends A More Senior Arsenal Side Through In The Capital One Cup
The League Cup has season after season been viewed by the major teams as very much a minor competition, the domestic Europa Cup if you will. It acts as a platform for clubs to explore their squads, give experience to younger players and employ man-management. Unless you are a team who will struggle to win any other silverware, unless you are a manager under pressure at a club which has underachieved for years – seven years to be exact.
So maybe there was a slightly different mindset when Arsene Wenger picked his team to face Reading in the Capital One League Cup. In the past Wenger has played his kids, often seeming to mock his opponents on his way to victory. The likes of Fabregas, Ramsey and Wilshere have all matured playing in the competition in recent years. But the situation at Arsenal is very different to when Fabregas was a teenager. They will again face a battle to make Champions League qualification this season with their only realistic challenges for silverware coming from the domestic cup competitions.
With growing pressure on Wenger to produce trophies, made no easier by his claims in the clubs recent AGM that qualification for Europe is as good as winning a trophy, the Frenchman selected more of a senior side compared to previous years. Experienced players like Laurent Koscielny, Theo Walcott and Karl Jenkinson all started for the away side in Wenger’s slightly muted attempt to take the competition more serious, but without making his intentions too obvious. If the first half of the game taught any lesson, and it had to of taught a few, it was that playing senior players doesn’t always mean a professional performance. Steve Bould sat bemused at Arsenal’s lack of defensive qualities, having received recent accolades for their improvement in this area.
Reading started well, rocked the Majeski Stadium and were three nil up within the first twenty minutes. The first came from the boot of veteran striker Jason Roberts. Roberts latched on to a cross placed behind Arsenal’s less-than-convincing defence and slotted home. The second was more worrying for Wenger. Sloppy defending on Arsenal’s left side of defence allowed another Reading cross from a wide area which senior defender Laurent Koscielny could only deflect into his own net. The scoreboard got worse for Arsenal when Leighterwood’s shot, seemingly easy to deal with for young goalkeeper Martinez, was flapped at by the South American and subsequently rolled into the away net. Reading’s fourth goal was maybe without a mistake, albeit by the referee for not picking up an earlier foul on Chamakh. An accurate cross and fantastic header from Noel Hunt.
A glimmer of hope for the travelling team came on the half time whistle when Theo Walcott was played through the middle, a position he has suggested he should find himself more often, before audaciously lobbing goalkeeper Federici. If the first half acted as a lesson to Arsenal’s youngsters, the second half was perhaps their graduation. A three-goal response left the crowd, players and managers stunned in West London. Olivier Giroud contributed with a headed goal with his first touch after coming on before defender Koscielny made up for earlier errors to make it 4-3 in the last minute of normal time. The comeback was on and in the 95th minute, Fergie time for those who don’t know, when Karl Jenkinson scored his first goal for the club.
Extra time loomed with Arsenal looking certain to take the initiative from there on. Reading looked
beaten, their fans in despair and their owner left in a sulk. To make things worse, a goal for Marouane Chamakh ten minutes into extra time put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the match. From then on chances were presented to both, mainly from defensive mishaps instead of attacking genius, but nevertheless they were created and Reading responded once more with their fifth and the games tenth goal on the 113th minute. To highlight the defensive issues of the night, it was the game’s fourth headed goal, scored by Paul Pogrebynak. Seven minutes left, penalties beckoning but for one last piece of genius. And maybe it came from the most unlikely source, Andrei Arshavin terrorised Reading’s defence before the ball finally fell to Walcott who grabbed his second of the night. As if that wasn’t enough, Chamakh grabbed a seventh for Arsenal after a mistake from Chris Gunter, left isolated in a one-man back line.
An exhausting match for players and spectators, one you’d expect to see on a local park and not in a all-Premier-League encounter. Reading manager Brian McDermot watched his side lose a four goal lead while Arsene Wenger looked too embarrassed to show his delight at the win after witnessing what he had just seen. Nevertheless Arsenal progress with a seemingly strengthened determination in the competition this season. Perhaps Wenger has decided on a change of attitude towards the cup. Or perhaps pressure from the board has been implemented, and a message that the Capital One Cup is an opportunity for success and therefore must be taken seriously. Either way Arsenal fans will know they had a lucky escape tonight but can look forward to a competitive streak in domestic cup games this season.
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