FA Cup: Arsenal 3 – Newcastle 0

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
January 26th, 2008 • 3:51 pm

After the midweek disaster at White Hart Lane, it was, on the whole, a reassuring performance. It still wasn’t a full-strength Arsenal team, due to three factors: the African Cup of Nations, injuries, and Arsène Wenger’s priorities. Perhaps surprisingly following their disappointing displays at Tottenham, Walcott and Diaby were included from the start. Hoyte slotted back to his normal position on the right, giving Sagna a breather.

It did not start too well for the Gunners, with Rosicky picking up yet another injury and forcing the introduction of Eduardo and Walcott’s return to the right side of midfield, where he hasn’t exactly excelled so far.

But in truth both Walcott and Diaby had pretty decent performances today, and Eduardo was in sparkling form, even though he didn’t score. (He did hit the post just before Adebayor scored the first goal.)

The first half was a bit disappointing, with Arsenal failing to dominate proceedings and create much. In fact, the clearest chances went the visitors’ way, and the Gunners were somewhat fortunate to still be at nil-nil at half-time.

But I guess that, after the shock of the midweek result, this hesitant start was to be expected from the home side. The second-half performance was much better, and Adebayor’s class made the difference before a late own goal by Nicky Butt sealed Newcastle’s fate.

It’s hard to know what to make of the midweek spat between Adebayor and Bendtner. Certainly Adebayor has shown excessive ebullience at times in the past, and it’s quite possible that he has to shoulder a good part of the blame for what happened. We’ll probably never know for sure, but the fact that he had to publicly apologize and Bendtner did not probably tells its own story. Hopefully it won’t have a detrimental effect on the team, as there is always a risk, when a player becomes successful, that he starts thinking that he’s bigger than the team. But they are both still young and should learn from this.

The bottom line, however, is that the Togolese is an absolutely vital part of the team right now and that we are indeed very fortunate that Togo did not qualify for the African Cup of Nations. On today’s evidence, other players seem to be regaining their form after a recent lapse, including Fábregas and Flamini in the middle of the pitch. But we definitely still need the finishing skills of both Adebayor and Eduardo, and we have to hope that they can deliver again on Tuesday against the same team in the same location, this time in the English Premier League.

The on-going problems with injuries of van Persie, Rosicky, and now possibly Kolo Touré, are a bit of a worry, and it will be disappointing if Arsène Wenger does not add at least one player to his squad before the transfer window closes.

Senderos has done OK in the past couple of games, but it remains doubtful whether he can be relied on in really big games, and there are quite a few of those coming in the near future. Wenger cannot really complain about the team being “very short” and then not do anything about it while the transfer window is open.

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