In recent years we've seen Almunia, Fabregas, Senderos, Denislon, Djourou, Fabianski, Clichy, Eboue, Gibbs, Traore, Merida, Bendtner, Barazite, Coquelin, Lansbury, Randall & Simpson all making their debuts in this competition and it has proved to be a really useful introduction for many others in the past. Some might complain about Wenger not treating this competition seriously, but not me. If the Club's intention is to bring youngsters through to the first team then they have to start somewhere and the Carling Cup is an excellent place to do so.
Usually our team in this competition comprises any of the first team squad in need of match practice, any who didn't start the previous game and a few deserving youngsters being blooded and let loose on the general public for the first time, This time it was two old hands plus a shed loads of youngsters. Not just on the pitch were the new boys making their first appearance at the stadium though because the crowd itself is always packed out with kids, many of whom are seeing the Arsenal for the very first time. Their enthusiasm knows no bounds, unlike many of the more cynical regulars not in attendance who are often prone to forget what the word supporter really means. Mind you this new lot fail to turn up on time and wander in looking for their seats for much of the first half.
West Brom are a very decent side, having only this past Saturday thrashed Boro at the Riverside by five unanswered goals. As a Club they like to play football with Roberto Di Matteo taking over Tony Mowbray's mantle, added to which they are unbeaten this season, top scorers in the Championship and top of the league. If they hadn't had a player sent off so early they would have run us much closer because they're a good looking footballing side.
There didn't seem to be as many in as usual but the crowd grew in due course and reached 56,592. 'Stand up if you hate Tottenham'. Two early corners were both taken by Jack and both headed close by Phillipe, one over and one wide. 'Stand up for the Arsenal'. Wilshere and Watts combined well early on.
Sanchez had a tough time of things however in the first half and found life a lot more physical at this level than he's used to. Good movement and passing for an Arsenal side that looks just like the first team but lacking their experience and physical strength. Szczesny out well to clear.
Koren just wide for the Baggies who've taken about five times as many seats as Wigan did. Jack to Sanchez who sees his half chance hit the post before being saved by Kiely. Great save by Wojciech diving low to his right. Followed by a similar save which was tipped around his post. Hacked off the line by a red shirt from their resulting corner.
'Shall we sing a song for you'. Cox falls over his own feet to much hilarity. Senderos wins good ball in midfield. Some terrific football being played and Jack shoots wide following a neat run. Senderos takes out a player for his first foul and picks up a booking. Jack axed on a run and just a free kick. Jack chopped again and lying on the floor. I've no idea what Jack said but it clearly wasn't complimentary and the response was a rather stupid fist in the face by a brain dead Jerome Thomas while Jack was still down. A certain red card even for a brain dead official such as Mason, and it was. A yellow card followed for Cox which can only have been because he was too lippy. It's end to end stuff. Great run from Wilshere playing central midfield, we're playing and pressing well, but credit Albion because their ten men are doing well.
It's helter skelter and a good open game. Jack is no longer being protected by Mason as he's axed again, quite why I have no idea. Ramsey balloons a free kick over almost as if he thought he was going for a rugby conversion, well he is Welsh I suppose. Brilliant pass from Ramsey to Traore. Half time and goalless but a fine half of football.
In the second half Mason, having sent off a prat, appears to be trying to even the game out by giving us as little as possible. Why? Watts is not yet strong enough to be the target man but he is very game. Good pressing by Arsenal as WBA go into parked bus mode for a while. Moore and Silvestre were at it during a set play. Shortly before some clown in black and white stripes falls over to earn Ramsey an undeserved yellow card. Great ball in to Cox who headed just over, a great chance missed.
Arsenal substitutions: Ramsey for Coquelin who showed great promise and Vela on for Sunu who'd worked hard and show one piece of sheer class on the ball. Senderos fails to play Cox offside and he gets a shot at goal. Wilshere had two players kick him at the same time, only to see the tosser that is Mason wave play on. Wilshere clearly chopped by Jara but Mason is in white stick mode. If I could get hold of his white stick I know exactly where I'd shove it. Szczezny out well to take, he's done very well and made a couple a very fine saves. The only thing I don't like about him is the spelling of his name.
Carlos Vela looked different class from the moment he stepped onto the pitch. He and Jack play a different game to everyone else on the field. To prove it Carlos makes a great turn, shoots early and sees his shot pushed aside by the keeper. But the ever keen and alert Watt homes in from the right and guides the ball home from short range for our opening goal. 1-0 and a deserved lead. An immediate substitution follows: Barazite on for Traore..
A Vela solo wins us a corner. 'One nil to the Arsenal'. This time Jack gets a clear shove in the back in the box, but the deaf, dumb and blind jerk dressed in black doesn't want to know. What does Mason have against Wilshere exactly?
Our keeper makes another save which is once again from a low shot. Some great skill from Ramsey was followed by an exquisite chip by Randall, it bounces off the bar and back into play. Vela is there first to walk the ball in. 2-0 to the Arsenal.
Watt kicked so Mason gives the Baggy-arsed Brummies a free kick. Wood, on as a sub, is in on goal but shoots wide to much derision. Towards the end of the match we went into piss-take passing mode to the tune of 'Is there a fire drill', which for those not in the know now accompanies a mass exodus. Great cut out by Silvestre. A clear cut trip on Barazite in the box totally ignored by Mason. Barazite shot over, almost as our closing act, with others better placed.
West Brom played very well with ten men but I think we would have edged it even if some fool had not been sent off. Arsenal played like Arsenal, same quality, same neat crisp passing. Same old Arsenal in fact, except this lot are far from old.