Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton came into this home Carling Cup tie against Arsenal in less than perfect fashion, with speculation over his long-term future at the club reverberating around the North East of England. Whether or not this played on the mind’s of any of his playing staff is doubtful, though they met an Arsenal side on a high from defeating Manchester City 3-0 in the Premier League last week.
Arsenal would go one better in Wednesday night’s Carling Cup match, however, as they eventually ran out 4-0 winners at St James’ Park, with goals from Walcott (2), Bendtner and an O.G. from Krul.
Both sides fielded a few fresh looking faces, as is customary in the Carling Cup, though Arsenal, as ever under Wenger, appeared to have still more reserves of highly talented players to draw upon: the youth appearing to blend well on the Arsenal team sheet, as names like Theo Walcott and a further six internationals mixed with players like young Szczesny in the Gunners’ goal and 19 year old Craig Eastmond.
Arshavin and Fabregas made up an Arsenal bench which must have brought some nervy glances from Magpies around the stadium.
Newcastle swapped nine of their team from that which won well against West Ham at the weekend. Their most threatening goalscorer this season, Andy Carroll, started on the bench for the home team.
One of the two Newcastle players who kept his place from the weekend, goalkeeper Tim Krul, was called into early action as the other, central defender Williamson, was caught in possession, allowing Vela a great chance just inside the area. Krul saved well with his feet. This should have been an early wake up call for the hosts.
Krul was called into immediate action from the resulting corner as Bendtner had two shots blocked before blasting another at the Newcastle stopper, which he dealt with easily.
Walcott’s pace caused problems and a speedy run down the right-hand side would have brought dividends soon after, but for Williamson’s canny tug on Bendtner who was, as a result, unable to get into the box to meet the cross. The ball was harmlessly cleared away, but Arsenal must have been happy with the speed Walcott had shown and their early pressure which looked for all the world like producing an early goal.
That impression was not dispelled by another great chance falling to Bendtner, who hit a poor effort just wide of the target from within the Newcastle penalty area: Newcastle must have been happy, following this opening period, to be at 0-0 after the opening exchanges.
Soon after, it was Newcastle’s turn to miss an opportunity, as the pacey Ranger was played in with a ball over the top. The Newcastle centre forward did the difficult part – in beating goalkeeper Szczesny as he entered the penalty area – before checking and looking to place a shot into the right hand corner of the goal. Unfortunately for him, centre half Koscielny, Arsenal captain on the night, had worked himself into position to make a vital block with the goalkeeper still outside the area.
Minutes later Alan Smith hit a thunderous strike from 30 yards that Szczesny tipped onto the crossbar. Smith, who has not scored for Newcastle since joining in 2007, looked suitably devastated that his fantastic effort had met with such a great save. Replays show just what an acrobatic save this was, for Smith had caught his shot with venom, and the ball looked to be dipping just under the crossbar.
Eboue committed two men and beat them en route to the byline before taking the wrong option to shoot when a pull back would have produced a guilt-edged chance for Arsenal, before the chances began to dry up in the ten minutes to half time, as Newcastle got more of a grip on this game.
It was to be Arsenal, perhaps deservedly, who took a lead into half time. The manner of their goal had shades of comedy surrounding it, and did not befit the 45 minutes of football that had preceded it, as an Arsenal corner two minutes into first half stoppage time was headed back into the box, before Bendtner flicked it weakly goalwards with his head. A misjudgement by Krul meant that it bounced under him, but his defender on the line had the wherewithal to head the bouncing ball away from goal. Unfortunately for him, Krul was still in front of him, and the ball hit the back of the goalkeeper’s head before rebounding into the goal. 1-0.
Half time was called soon after.
Newcastle did not have long to plan a revival, as Theo Walcott ran from a marginal offside position to chip sublimely over Krul on 53 minutes. It was a close call for the assitant, and Newcastle were incensed by a perceived block on Williamson by Bendtner who was retiring from an offside position, but Walcott’s pace meant the defender was never going to reach the England international, for he was fully five yards clear of his men after accellerating away from the back four. The classy finish was perhaps the special moment of the night.
Walcott’s run and goal, aided asthetically by his number 14 shirt, left echoes of Thierry Henry in his pomp, and Arsene Wenger must be hoping that his speedy winger continues to show such confidence in front of goal.
Half an hour later, after Bendtner had shown that he, too, can hit a ball – in scoring his first and Arsenal’s third goal with a curved shot into the top right corner from inside the angle of the area – Walcott added to the impression that he is developing into the centre forward Arsenal have been missing for a season or two with another well taken goal to take the scoreline to 4-0 on 88 minutes.
Walcott’s second was similar to the first: he timed his run well and finished confidently, this time slotting into the bottom left corner past the onrushing Krul.
Newcastle had produced a chance, at 2-0 down, which again fell to Ranger, though the United centre forward was unable to beat Szczesny, who made a good save on what was an impressive night for the ‘keeper, who also saved well from a free-kick between goals three and four.
Clinical finishing had been the difference in the second half, and Arsenal must be happy that they are getting a goals aplenty in their games at present. Newcastle might question that they could have got something from this match, but, in truth, they were under pressure from the first, with stength in depth appearing to be the major gulf between the two clubs. Newcastle’s first team could have hurt this youthful Arsenal lineup, but not their second string.
Arsenal progress to the Carling Cup Quarter Final while Newcastle United return to their more important mission: staying in the Barclays Premier League.
10 Routledge (Gutierrez 56)
17 Smithyellow card (Barton 71)
11 Lovenkrands (Carroll 57)
33 Soderberg, 02 Coloccini, 03 Jose Enrique, 07 Barton, 18 Gutierrez, 24 Tiote, 09 Carroll
28 Gibbs (Sagna 19)
11 Vela (Fabregas 70)
52 Bendtner (Emmanuel-Thomas 84)
21 Fabianski, 03 Sagna, 50 Nordtveit, 04 Fabregas, 23 Arshavin, 41 Emmanuel-Thomas, 46 Lansbury