It seemed like a prickly affair ‘up north’ in the first minutes of this cup encounter – Sheffield Utd pumping long throws and angled free kicks into the Arsenal box which, were it not for a solid Fabianski performance – might have seen this young side chasing the game early on.
Actually, it was something quite different. The pressure was quickly alleviated when the ball found Bendtner in midfield, who angled a pass to a motoring Eduardo, and from the left corner of the box, fired in a sumptuous left-foot drive the keeper could do nothing about. Eduardo’s goal had elegance, poise and a lethal finish – and even while noting that, I am very glad to see Bendtner’s linkup game develop in this game. He linked midfield and attack quite well throughout the game, which may surprise a few, myself included – often portrayed as an out and out striker and finisher of moves, his helping play stretch from Denilson and Diarra to the front line was very encouraging.
The rest of the first half was characterised by our passing dominance, but Sheffield Utd managed to slip through a few chances, with Fabianski batting away efforts from Tonge, and seeing a David Carney shot fly wide.
Five minutes into the second half, Sheffield Utd completely forgot how to mark against long balls, Kieran Gibbs finding Eduardo running goalwards, who controlled and slotted the ball past the keeper in a single movement. Two-nil, and you felt Eduardo may have just found the remnants of some form. It wasn’t the most special of games: Walcott had a shot from out wide hit the post, Diaby tried his luck from distance, and then another little midfield maestro had a pop himself.
Denilson scurried from 30 yards out, advanced forward, before hitting a shot that clipped a United defender to wrongfoot the keeper slightly, for 3-0. It’s hopefully a sign of things to come from the midfielder, who at times still looks slightly lightweight when used in the Premier League.
So a simple 3-0 away win to advance Arsenal into the Quarter Finals. Chelsea annoyingly managed to come back from 3-2 down at their own ground against Leicester to win 4-3, with Liverpool and Spurs winning as well. Out of those three teams, I’d choose between Chelsea and Spurs, preferably at home, but hey.
Aside from the match, there’s an interview with Arsene Wenger on Theo Walcott on the official site. With regards to Theo’s development during the 2006 World Cup, Arsene had this to say:
“For Theo, before he starts to play he is in the World Cup and the process to find your balance back is much more difficult. I feel it is lucky that he has a good alignment and his feet are on the ground. That has helped him a lot. I never felt that he has struggled mentally [because of the World Cup call-up] but he must have been a bit puzzled that it is difficult to play football.“
A match report was all there was time for, alas. Team news will be provided tomorrow – hopefully there’s a nice bucketload of it lying around. Only a few days ’til the Man Utd game, peeps!