The Totts it seems screwed up even before kick off and you just had to laugh. Seemingly Lennon couldn't resist some more Marriott lasagne and someone blundered with the necessary substitute's paperwork. So just the four subs for the away team: poor dears. The lower green and yellow quadrants being almost full of standing Totts looked all wrong and I personally think that given the circumstances we should have made them buy the most expensive seats in the upper tier. Then again just how much of the stadium did we want wrecked?
Arsenals team was not exactly second string but still contained irregulars such as Denilson, Diaby, Almunia, Aliadiere, Traore and Hoyte but we did have Cesc, Gael, Mathieu and Tomas on the bench. The first half was a tad tedious with no real flow and neither side really getting up a head of steam. The first thing that happened of note was Philippe being sent off to get a headband which I presume was to stop red blood dripping on those lovely white shirts of the Totts. The atmosphere was generally better than the football as Almunia was called upon to come out and stop Keane who'd beaten our offside trap. Gilberto had a shot from a headed clearance. Denilson had a shot parried but Kolo steamed in only to somehow miss the rebound when a goal looked almost certain. ‘Two nil and you fecked it up' a gentle reminder from the home fans, although generally various parts of the ground were singing different things as the same time resulting in a fairly continuous background of sound. Denilson on Malbranque for a yellow card, many similar fouls followed later in the game but no more bookings came from Alan Wiley for the equivalent challenges.
Great skills from Gilberto before Hoyte found Aliadiere who fired one past the far post. Denilson found Adebayor from a free kick but he rather snatched his shot, which went wide. Almunia out well to another through ball. A bad foul on Walcott, not the first or the last such foul, but no card. Defoe caught offside in a fast Tott attack. Finally a yellow card for taking Walcott out yet again, the culprit being Jenas this time. Almunia let a shot go past him that looked a bit too close for comfort but he had a good enough game so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
Our forwards were not really gelling and our flexible 4-5-1 was stopping the Totts ok but not doing much for our passing game. Theo couldn't get going. Diaby however looked the part with Vieira style telescopic legs and had a shot deflected for a corner. A cross from Malbranque was headed just past our post. Adebayor then steamrollered a couple of tackles but his shot was wild. Gardener with a wild tackle on Traore got a well-earned yellow card. A dive by Keane was bought by Wiley and the game got altogether a bit spicier. Great play by Diaby in a good move that ended with Adebayor firing one over. Nil-nil at the break, we were marginally the better team but were by no means bossing things.
An early Arsenal corner from a Diaby run and then a Totteringham corner at the other end saw Adebayor head clear. Kolo cut out a good cross and the tackling from both teams seemed more intense. Theo started to fly and one run saw him chip over their short-arsed keeper but also over the bar. Ghaly was clattered by Senderos who then retaliated with a despicable late red card type tackle on Philippe which only the lino saw as play went up field. Diaby took exception as Philippe lay spread-eagled and after all the handbags were put away Ghaly and Diaby got yellow cards. It was altogether more like a derby match now. Adebayor was taken out. It was getting niggly as a Walcott corner saw Adebayor head over. Another fine cross from Theo before Diaby and Keane were at it. Keane is just a perpetual whinging moaner who runs around like a headless chicken on speed. Two more Arsenal corners before Traore was hurt with Keane niggling away at his ankles. He stayed down and required a stretcher. In the meantime Rosicky came on for Theo just at a time when Theo was beginning to really bomb down our right, but Arsene knows. Clichy came on for Traore who had shown some great touches going forward at pace. Gael was immediately storming forward with a great run and cross but Denilson's shot was poor. A word about Denilson. He has without a shadow of doubt got what it takes and then some, he's strong for his age, always in control, very intelligent, hardworking, clever both on and off the ball, confident, extremely skilful and packing quite a mean shot. I wouldn't have any qualms about throwing him in for a match against any team in the Premiership. In fact he's the most exciting prospect I've seen since Fabregas, Clichy, Diaby, Eboue, Djourou or Traore. Wenger really is just too good to be true isn't he?
Gardener pulled Adebayor over for a certain yellow card but Wiley bottled it because he'd already taken Gardener's name in the first half. Denilson's free kick, which he's fairly good at, won us yet another corner. Soon after Denilson had a run in from the left and fired into the side netting, he's certainly not shot shy either. Ghaly was booked for tripping Rosicky. Rocha the new boy replaced Gardner who was still attempting to reduce the Totts to ten men with wild tackles. Jeramie to Tomas who hit a rocket which the fat kid in goal managed to parry. Clichy put it back in to Tomas who laid a ball off to Adebayor who slotted home cooly to make it 1-0. Diaby, who'd had a stormer but was tiring, was now replaced by Cesc with eleven minutes to play.
Dawson headed over from a free kick wide on their right. Ghaly and Malbranque were replaced by Mido and Huddlestone who played like he was unfit. Kolo was fouled and we got nothing but Denilson turned his man and the Totts got a free kick on the left. Unfortunately it was well struck by and Mido got a flicked header to make it 1-1. Jeremie to Emmanuel but his shot was poor. There was just a three-minute spell when the Totts almost looked dangerous but we were soon back in control despite Mido having a shot that went wide. Denilson almost won the match with a dipping shot that was tipped over. Kolo then had a shot saved which fell to Gilberto who could have headed home but his effort was off target. Full time and we all faced extra time.
Wenger had the team surrounding him for an animated team talk. Aliadiere, Adebayor and Denilson all looked shot at this point. Chimbonda might have scored with a header that went wide but the Totts only managed three efforts on target in the 120 minutes, that's one every 40 minutes. Cesc with a shot at the keeper. A Denilson shot was parried. Defoe was once again caught offside. Clichy cut inside and hit a right-footed shot wide. Fabregas to Adebayor but a useful foot from Dawson stopped a chance. Denilson to Hoyte down the right, a return ball and a cross in that Rocha weirdly tried to head clear at shin height. Aliadiere pounced and hit a difficult chance first time past Robinson. 2-1 to Arsenal in the last knockings of the first period of extra time. Half time in extra time.
There were still anxious faces all around in the crowd but confidence was oozing from the red shirts. A great Clichy run opened the final period of play with the Totts needing to score to take it to penalties. A Gilberto shot that went wide. This was now one way traffic, our passing was cool and some neat trickery was bemusing the Totts who got more frenetic. Defoe with a late challenge on Senderos and a yellow card. I can't recall who played Rosicky in but he turned and turned again in their box, his shot hit the inside of the post went across the face of goal and then off Chimbonda who cleared only after the ball had crossed the line. 3-1 to Arsenal.
‘Jump up if you're 3-1 up' Mido shot and won a corner, Chimbonda headed wide but won another corner. Aliadiere went down with cramp, Denilson was in obvious pain. ‘Are you Tottenham in disguise'. The away end was draining away like water down a plug hole as the Totts hopes of a Final appearance were being flushed away by an exuberant Arsenal team. Adebayor to Cesc to Aliadiere but his shot was a very tired one. Two minutes added time and only a very few die-hards remained in the away end. Defoe with a deflected shot for a corner and Huddlestone with a foul on Cesc that should have seen a card. Final whistle and celebrations.
Statistically the foul count was won by the Totts 16-22, Arsenal won the goal attempts tally 27-11 and also the corners 13-7. More importantly and altogether more telling was the shots on target total which we won 11-3. These stats are fairly representative of the game and highlight our almost total superiority on the night. One sad Tott, clutching at straws, told me the following day that we'd failed to beat them in two games over 90 minutes. True, but who exactly is going to Cardiff and who blew a gifted two-goal lead. Ok so it is only the Mickey Mouse Cup and we certainly shouldn't go overboard about reaching the Final but I have to admit I've always found the old Walt Disney stuff to be entertaining, although nothing can be more entertaining than Wenger's Arsenal of course.
In 2007 so far we've had a 4-0, 3-1, 6-3, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 1-1 and 3-1 a.e.t. we've certainly had worse Januarys.