The team Wenger put out tonight meant winning against full-strength opposition would always be tough, and so it showed against a Tottenham side who at times outplayed the home side in this League Cup fixture.
That said, the hype in some of the newspaper reports on Tottenham’s side needs to be tempered with. Unlike what some will tell you, the first twenty minutes were rather good ones – if slightly unremarkable – for the young Gunners, with no early signs that Tottenham’s fortunes were looking like changing.
Sure enough, however, the tide started creeping their way, with an on-form Berbatov playing the fulcrum to their side. The momentum culminated in a goal for Spurs to open up affairs; Berbatov volleying a poor clearance from Johann Djourou to an offside Robbie Keane, who crossed along the floor to Jenas for a tap-in.
For the remainder of the half, and for most of the second Spurs were in command, as the unbalanced structure of last night’s second-string presented far too many opportunities to Spurs forwards, yet inexplicably, Spurs failed to add to their lead.
It proved to be their undoing. Gilberto advanced forward with the ball before unloading to Eduardo, who threaded a beautiful through-ball for the speedy Walcott. The young forward, who seemingly broke through, had Tottenham’s Lee catch up to him to cover, only to see the ball bobble off Walcott’s chest and past the despairing Cerny.
Predictably enough, Arsenal’s tempo upped somewhat after the goal, but Tottenham could still have had the chance to win it with a typical howler from Jermaine Defoe from six yards.
All in all, it was not the best performance from any Arsenal team this season, but the second leg is not a foregone Spurs-to-win-it conclusion. The younger players are all learning from the experience, and different knowledges can be gained from wins, losses and draws.
No ratings today, as I have a terrible fever and was unable to get up to watch the match this morning. However, player concerns surround the fitness of van Persie, Djourou, Senderos and Walcott, who all had injury wobbles at some point throughout the match.
Centreback now looks to be stretched, with Gallas the last soldier standing in that area. With Hoyte, Gilberto and Sagna able to deputise in that area, perhaps it may not be as bad as initially feared (depending on how long the injuries are for), but fingers will need extra crossing, I think.
Even fourteen hours or so after the match finished, writing this article is quite difficult with the illness. Hopefully the health will be up for tomorrow to give a better analysis of the fallout from yesterday’s match.
A quick roundup of other news: Jens Lehmann looks set to join his old club Borussia Dortmund sometime soon – more on that when it happens; Fran Merida is being loaned out to Real Sociedad; Lassana Diarra’s move to suitors is being stalled both by the transfer fee and Arsenal’s injury problems; and Thierry Henry wants to come back to Arsenal in some sort of capacity in the future.
More tomorrow, I hope. Damn illness. I’m never sick, I swear! Gol’darn Da shit all…