Trepidation is one word that springs to mind when your reserves are employed to take on what used to be our local rivals in a semi final.
Personally I had mixed feelings about playing a weakened team. The last time we fielded a weakened team against the Scum was when they beat us, four days before an F A Cup Final against Sheffield Wednesday. Since then of course we've only lost three times in our last twenty-six meetings and are unbeaten, I think, in the last fifteen games against the mob from the wrong end of Seven Sisters Road. It would be nice to keep that run going but this was only the Mickey Mouse Cup after all, so a briefer than usual report follows.
Almunia, Diaby, Walcott, Traore, Denilson and Hoyte all made our line up so Wenger had stuck to his young guns although with Kolo, Cesc and Philippe in the side it was only mainly the reserves we put out at Tottenham. That said the early chant was ‘You've only come to see our youth team'. Graham Poll was in charge tonight so when Defoe handled the ball he obviously didn't give it. We started with our defence in front of the travelling Gooners and we saw altogether too much of the ball at our end in the first half. Hoyte was exposed on our right because Walcott failed to provide much by the way of cover in front of him. Traore started somewhat tentatively but worked his way into the game. Berbatov had been allowed to waltz through before firing off target. Denilson in the middle of the park didn't quite get the speed of the game early on and the Totts attacked from the off. '61 never again' '71, 2004'
It was fairly end to end with Diaby having a good first game back down our left flank; he looks the part, adds some steel and did very well considering the length of his absence. Overall however the early play saw the Totts pressing and sometimes shredding us. A deflected shot from Berbatov won a corner from which Dawson headed over.1-0 after just eleven minutes. They scored when a ball in from the right saw Kolo leave it for Almunia and Almunia leave it for Kolo. Either one of them could have claimed it and the lack of communication gifted Berbatov a free header. Pitiful defending and abject keeping – when in doubt take the initiative.
Fabregas was shoved over so a Tottenham free kick was awarded, thank you Poll. Another battering attack and Malbranque screwed his shot wide. Poll then gave Malbranque another chance with a free kick when he won a free kick for falling over, a seriously crap decision in a night full of them. A low ball in saw Dawson dummy and the ball went off Baptista's heel into our net, not quite what he did at Anfield. 2-0 Totts 22 minutes played, well actually we'd hardly played at all. Senderos headed over from a free kick by Cesc. The Totts were then called upon to head clear twice. Before Defoe started an ongoing session of being caught offside for the remainder of the match. Great move started by and ended by Hoyte. A Toure rocket went wide. Baptista was booked for winning the ball and Kolo soon followed into the book when Lennon played for and got a leg to fall throw himself over.
Defoe on Denilson about a half an hour late, as was the card that was finally flashed from Poll. Lennon then went down about four minutes before the ball arrived and still got the free kick. Cesc with a difficult volley from range fired one over. A Kolo solo. At the death it seemed that the Beast missed a good chance from a deep corner when the ball got trapped under his foot, just not his day it seemed. Half-time in an immensely forgettable half in which we'd been pretty moderate at best, not that anyone cared, this was after all just a Mickey Mouse Cup match.
‘You let your country down' was the opening salvo aimed at the fat kid in goal for the Totts. Malbranque very late on Cesc – nothing. The difference after the break was considerable, essentially we always looked the team most likely to, we were both quicker and slicker. Much quicker and much, much slicker. Malbranque missed what look to be a good chance, Arsenal won a corner that was given as a goal kick and before you could say Defoe's offside again the tiring Diaby, who'd done very well, was replaced by Hleb.
An elbow on Theo by Assou-Ekotto (you'd want his name on your shirt wouldn't you?) went unnoticed by England's fattest referee, the very lardy-de-da Graham Poll. Aliadiere pulled up with what looked like a hamstring or thigh problem and was replaced by Eboue who played right side while Theo went up front in a more central role. Lennon on Cesc for a free kick that Baptista hit at the wall. Handball claimed Arsenal, but Poll appeared to play advantage as Cesc got in a header. Do what Poll?
From here on in essentially we pissed all over them with Denilson as well as Cesc pulling the strings. Huddlestone had been great for the Totts up to this point and looked better than any of their midfield by the proverbial country mile. So expect him to move to the Chavs, Pool or Mancs any time from now onwards.
When our inevitable goal came it started at left back, moved forward via Hleb, went right and came back for the Beast to power through, stumble get a sort of return from Walcott and then Beast recovered sufficiently to slip home an equaliser. 2-1 Totts and they started to wobble big time. ‘Feed the Beast, feed the Beast, feed the Beast and he will score, feed the Beast and he will score'. From here on in it was all Arsenal, the longer the game went on the better we looked.
Hleb had a shot blocked, Denilson fired one not too far away with pace from a great range and an Eboue to Fabregas move saw another shot saved. Next move Cesc was deep, Eboue cut inside, Hoyte overlapped and took the peachy ball that Cesc hit down the line, he belted forward at pace. The fat Muppet in goal charged out and Hoyte slid a slide rule pass to the Beast who tapped home our second goal of the game. 2-2, so that was four goals in all and Baptista had scored three of them, got booked and missed a sitter. Flamini had been about to come on to replace Hoyte but sat down again. Until that is he replaced Hleb who appeared to do a hamstring. Two injured players on the night is not what we needed.
Near the death Walcott could have scored when he fired a volley wide from a deep cross from man-of-the match Cesc Fabregas. ‘Two-nil, and you fecked it up'. Traore took out his man for a yellow card and the Totts had another shot over. Three minutes of added time as a number of Totts sneaked out with shoulders hunched and heads bowed down.
I travelled home to Enfield on a train full of miserable looking Spurs fans, they drawn with our reserves so why be so miserable, its more than some teams can do. I thought they were just fecking lucky that Wenger hadn't taken the match too seriously.