Experience bails out youth as Arsenal edge Bolton 2-1

Experience bails out youth as Arsenal edge Bolton 2-1

After admitting he’s still haunted by the result of Arsenal’s last Carling Cup run, Arsène Wenger watched his side continue their passage through this years competition, after edging Bolton 2-1 at the Emirates.


In a tournament that Wenger still regards as some what of a play ground for young talent, it required his experienced heads to help guide the Gunners into the last eight, for the ninth consecutive time. As I wrote last night, Łukasz Fabiański, Thomas Vermaelen, Sébastien Squillaci, Yossi Benayoun, Andrey Arshavin and Park Chu-Young all started, and all proved their worth, against a Bolton side who were difficult to kill off.

Nico Yennaris slotted in at right back, and despite some early nerves, looked assured, composed and his usual aggressive self, turning in an almost faultless performance. The same couldn’t have been said for third round stars Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong, who were only good in patches, and were at the heart of a mix up which saw Fabrice Muamba thump home the opener.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Man of the Match against Shrewsbury, turned in a notably poor performance, so it was left to Arshavin and the always dangerous Chu-Young, to grab the goals to win the tie. At the other end, Vermaelen was the pick of a solid defensive display, while Miquel seemed comfortable at left back, but was rarely directly troubled.

After the experience had turned around the scoreline, Wenger handed another début out, this time to defender Danny Boateng, while Ryo Miyaichi and Oğuzhan Özyakup also joined the party. The latter two showed drive, energy and some glorious touches going forward, but tempered that with good tracking back and defending.

So, a place in the quarter finals. Arsenal will now almost certainly look to get all of tonight’s bench out on loan, with a more experienced focus set to come back for the latter stages.

Still, it’s been fun, and an introduction for many prospects. Now, they must prove they deserve more chances.

Arsène Wenger poised to hand Nico Yennaris a dream début

Arsène Wenger poised to hand Nico Yennaris a dream début

Arsène Wenger may have altered a number of his long standing philosophies in recent years, but the Frenchman will once again return to his youth orientated Carling Cup roots, by handing Nico Yennaris an Arsenal début against Bolton Wanderers this evening.

The fourth round clash comes at a time when Wenger’s new-look side have found some form, with six wins from the last seven games, including a 3-1 win over Shrewsbury Town, which set up tonight’s fourth round clash. A similar result would see the Gunners into the last eight for the ninth consecutive year.

As such, Wenger has included a few experience faces. Łukasz Fabiański, Sébastien Squillaci, Yossi Benayoun and Park Chu-Young are all in need of minutes, and are all set to start. As is vice-captain Thomas Vermaelen, who only re-joined full training on Friday.

That experience helps, but youngsters fill the key gaps. The versatile Yennaris, a rugged, aggressive and tenacious holding midfielder, will act as a make-shift right back, having been used there on a handful of occasions for the Reserves, while Ignasi Miquel is poised to occupy the other full back berth.

Third round stars Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Emmanuel Frimpong and Francis Coquelin should return to boss the midfield, against a Bolton side who maybe be down on confidence, but not threat.

The bench is again made up of Reserves. The fit again Vito Mannone and the newly re-signed Sanchez Watt will be joined by Daniel Boateng and Shrewsbury débutants Oğuzhan Özyakup and Chuks Aneke. Jernade Meade and Ryo Miyaichi are also poised to be involved.

All in all, its a solid Arsenal squad, for a game that always boasts a party atmosphere.

Cup Stars Give Wenger Food For Thought

Arsenal traded pessimism for optimism this evening, as Arsène Wenger’s latest batch of youngsters battled back from the brink to defeat Shrewsbury Town in the third round of the Carling Cup.

Wenger made eleven changes from the side that lost 4-3 to Blackburn Rovers over the weekend, bringing in a mixture of fringe first-teamers and promising hopefuls. It was a combination that looked fluid, creative and dangerous in the opening stages, but as the Shrews found their feet, the Gunners’ Achilles heel came back to haunt them.

James Collins took advantage of poor positional play from Johan Djourou, Łukasz Fabiański’s failure to read or command the situation, and naivity from Carl Jenkinson and Ignasi Miquel to head home from close range. The fans showed their instant displeasure, with a section booing. It would be enough to unsettle any player, but two of the youngest players on the pitch began the revival.

He’d teased and tormented throughout the half, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stepped his game up following Collins’ goal, and after being involved in the move that led to Kieran Gibbs’ header for 1-1, the £7 million summer acquisition showed almost zero back lift when smashing Frimpong’s pass into the net from all of 25-yards. It was a goal his performance deserved.

Yet while Oxlade-Chamberlain had put the Gunners into a then deserved the lead, the contribution of the mobile and efficient Francis Coquelin helped them stay there. The Frenchman is currently behind Emmanuel Frimpong in the pecking order, but based on this performance, he won’t be long.

Coquelin embodies the type of qualities Arsenal fans miss. Passion, hunger, energy, urgency, and a desire to throw himself on the line for the team. He misplaced a few passes, and was lucky to escape without a card, but his box-to-box bursts and brilliant timing of tackles helped inspire.

Other notable mentions go to Ignasi Miquel, who was rather untroubled and, while his positional sense and physique needs lots of work, he showed good composure on and off the ball, and sprayed several very good balls out from the back. Oğuzhan Özyakup came off the bench and played in Yossi Benayoun for him to score a much deserved third, and the Dutchman is increasingly becoming a player that excites Wenger and his staff.

It’s easy to get carried away by the victory, but what these latest batch of Carling Cup youngsters have that others haven’t over the years, is maturity, attitude and talent that can be of use right now, not just for the future.

They might just be first-team hopefuls at present, but this performance will no doubt give Wenger food for thought.