On Sunday, we faced a side called City that played in sky-blue. And last night, it happened again. Except the City from Coventry is very different to the one from Manchester in one key respect: Sheikh Mansour did not decide to take his country’s cash to the Midlands.
Coventry City were once a proud and persistent member of the top division, ranking only behind Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton for their unbroken run at the top. They managed a couple of sixth place finishes and an FA Cup that every Arsenal fan loved seeing them lift, when they beat Spurs 3-2 in 1987. All of that seems a long time ago now. While the coaching staff includes some familiar faces from Coventry’s happier days, like Richard Shaw and Steve Ogrizovic, Coventry provided pretty weak opposition yesterday.
That being the case, it was a little underwhelming to see our team of youngsters and older guys with something to prove fail to get to grips with Coventry in the first half. Santos aside, no-one played badly, but there was little evidence of dominance against an honest but ordinary lower division opponent, which has a league record of W0, D3, L5 this season and lies joint bottom of League One.
The only moment of satisfaction in the first half was seeing Olivier Giroud break his duck. It was clear from his expression that it was a relief for him too. Once again, he had been given precious little service in terms of viable opportunities to score, before Arshavin and Coquelin combined with first-time passes to send the ball through for Giroud to go one-on-one with the Coventry keeper. Giroud took his chance with a deft chip.
Yennaris (surprisingly playing in central midfield), Oxlade-Chamberlain and Coquelin began to assert themselves before the end of the first half. Arshavin (who was finally being played in his proper position, as a number 10) and Walcott were both pretty low-key in the first half, but stepped things up in the second half. Whereas crosses and through balls were generally over-hit or inaccurate in the first half, the ball was knocked around with more confidence and more effect in the second half, with openings being created against a pedestrian defence.
Giroud was given a chance to get a second, when the referee harshly punished Coventry by awarding us a penalty when Arshavin appeared to have run into a defender more than been bundled over. But before Giroud could take the penalty, there was an amusing interlude, when two streakers got onto the pitch. For one horrendous moment, it seemed the first one was going to go traditional and manage to get all his clothes off, but he had to make do with running around the pitch in boxers and socks. Our stewards tried to look nonchalant about it all, you could almost see them say “Really? You want me to run after him? Bloody hell….” But in the end, the intruders were nabbed and Giroud was allowed to take his penalty. Which he promptly missed.
A second goal came not long after, when Oxlade-Chamberlain cut in from the left, exchanged passes with Arshavin and then sent a powerful shot towards the top right-hand corner and it flew past the keeper’s flailing hand. In truth, the keeper should have saved it, but it was powerfully hit, and the ball’s path may have deviated slightly.
The Chelsea match substitutions were made on the 72nd minute, when Giroud, Coquelin and Oxlade-Chamberlain came off for Gnabry, Chamakh and Frimpong, a folk hero who was welcomed back with gusto.
Arshavin had become increasingly influential through the game, and managed to get his first goal for Arsenal in almost a year to make it 3-0. The little Russian quickly controlled a clever chipped cross from Giroud, who had received the ball from Yennaris, and despatched a little half-volley into the goal. Ten minutes later, after Djourou had failed to convert a good chance from a corner, the very tidy Nico Yennaris played a beautifully weighted ball for Walcott to run onto – it was perfect for Theo; the ball in front of him, the centre-backs behind him. The Wannabe Striker had been gagging for a goal, and had been hogging the ball at times when he should have passed the ball. This time, however, in his optimum position, he sent the ball past the keeper and into the far corner. 4-0.
Then Coventry had their moment. Their captain, Carl Baker, had been the only Sky Blue suggesting he had had something to offer creatively, and on 79th minute he sent across an absolutely beautiful cross from the right-hand side. Carl Jenkinson would have been proud of it. It took out the defenders and gave Damian Martinez no chance, with Callum Ball doing the easy bit by converting to give the Coventry fans something to celebrate. If Giroud had been given more service like that since he joined us, I feel sure he would have more than one goal to his name.
A minute later, Serge Gnabry was played in by Arshavin. The young German went for a shot, which hit a defender and went for a corner. Arshavin and Yennaris exchanged passes form the short corner before Arsahvin sent over a pin-point cross, which the always impressive and smooth Ignassi Miquel headed back inside the near post for his first goal for the club. 5-1.
And the best goal of the night was the last one. Theo picked the ball up around the centre circle with a lovely first touch, went past a defender on the outside (yes, he really did), cut back in and across the defender, and once he reached the penalty box, he sent a curling shot inside the far post for 6-1. In truth, he had more time than he would usually get, with the Coventry defenders visibly tiring, but it was a lovely one-man goal nonetheless.
All in all, it was a fun evening. There were good performances from Yennaris, Coquelin, and Miquel; good first team debuts for Martinez, Angha (a centre-back playing at right-back) and Gnabry; a return from injury for Frimpong; good run-outs for Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arshavin, Djourou and Walcott; a goal for Giroud; and no injuries before the weekend. Chamakh was anonymous for most of his 20 minutes. The only really bad performance was from Santos, who looked way off the pace, and whose use of the ball was distinctly un-Brazilian. But hopefully, he was blowing away some cobwebs, he can play a lot better.
And next up is an away trip to Brian McDermott’s Reading.
More significantly, there is Saturday’s game against the suddenly creative Chelsea. Last night’s game does not tell us much about how well placed we will be for that game, but it can’t hurt to have just won 6-1.
Here are my ratings for the evening’s performances:
Arshavin: 8 MOTM
Written by 26may1989
And this match report from LB who was also at the game
Goal Fest at the Emirates
Arsenal cruised past Coventry on an entertaining night to secure our place in the forth round of the League Cup. Fifty eight thousand people turned up for this third round tie, incredible when you think of what a drab fixture this looks at first sight. Of that number, forty five thousand were Arsenal supporters; it was great to see so many fathers having a chance to take their young sons or daughters, more and more a rarity nowadays which is obviously a great shame.
When we whoop the opposition so convincingly I feel comfortable speaking well of the opposition fans and it has to be said that Coventry turned up in numbers, eighteen thousand to be exact. No doubt many a father took his son or daughter regaling stories as they made their way down of the day when they beat Arsenal 3-0 on the opening day of the season all that time ago. It was after all their cup final and they played a huge part in making the atmosphere as good as it was.
The team selection made sense; giving the captaincy to Djourou was inspired, I am sure it is not easy keeping someone as talented as he happy playing the role of forth choice CB. Wenger included three players who needed to prove something: Giroud, Arshavin and Thierry Walcott, these three drove the show forward. The Ox has nothing to prove so does not fit into that category; he just played for fun and was a joy to watch.
The back line was as expected apart from the inclusion of Anger who I am afraid was poor. Santos came to life in the second half leaving only Miguel who was my man of the match. I should explain how I make my choice of MOTM, on Sunday for example The BFG was described as “imperious” (Chas) I agree, but I expect that from him, what I didn’t expect was Ramsey to raise his game as much as he did and because of that I would have given the MOTM to him. Against Coventry Arshavin ran the show he shone above all else, but once again I expect that from him, it was only Coventry after all but Miquel played over and above what I expected, scoring a well placed header to boot.
If I had one little complaint I think Wenger was a bit too cautious playing Coquelin and Yannaris, both defensive minded players, in front of the back line. I would have preferred to see Eisfeld who is more attack minded rather than Yannaris who was average on the night, a description far less glowing than the reports he receives when he plays right back.
Arsenal were in charge from the outset, the only surprise was that it took so long to get off the mark, half chances fell here and there until Coquelin stabbed the ball past the Coventry back line for Giroud to run onto with his left foot; the conditions were so perfect that the rarest of rare orchids would have flowered and unsurprisingly Giroud chipped the goal keeper and a huge black monkey leapt off his back as he turned to celebrate his first goal for Arsenal not long before the break.
Wenger was obviously taking this game seriously by his team selection but I am sure he would have liked a cushion as quick as possible so that he could get key players off ready for Saturday. The opportunity to put some distance came when Arshavin was brought down in the box and the referee correctly awarded us a penalty. The Ox ran to pick up the ball and then protectively went to the spot in hope of taking it himself only to be met by Giroud who pulled rank or something like that and insisted on taking it.
Goal number two looked a certainty but the conditions were not right, orchids did not flower and Giroud missed, the monkey that had flown off was only circling and came flying down to resume his place on the Frenchman’s back. Giroud mopped for the rest of the game.
This minor irritation was quickly put behind us as the Ox showed everyone how to do it, launching an exocet of a shot that flew past the Coventry keeper to make it 2-0. Arshavin scored the third with a sublime take and tap in. This opened the flood gates and even Thierry Walcott scored a brace.
This all bodes well for the next round in which we play Reading on the last day of October
Written by LB