Arsenal scored six goals for the second game in succession at the Emirates as they eased their way past Coventry and into the fourth round of the Capital One Cup.
Olivier Giroud broke his scoring duck for the Gunners in the first half with a deft chipped effort, Ignasi Miquel bagged his first goal for the club, while a two goal salvo by Theo Walcott bolstered the England international’s claims to be an out-and-out striker. The best goals of the evening came from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – a rasping effort from 23-yards out – and Andrei Arshavin who finished a neat move on the break with a cool finish.
The night began slowly for Arsene Wenger’s second string with little of note happening in the first 35 minutes. The boss handed debuts to Argentine Damian Martinez in goal and 18-year-old Swiss Martin Angha at right-back, but the starting line-up was littered with well-known faces.
It was perhaps the lack of youthful energy which played its part in an initially lackadaisical start to the game. Too often play broke down in the final third with midfielders unwilling to penetrate the Coventry backline and certain individuals looking very rusty. Andre Santos’ positional sense at left-back left much to be desired, while Arshavin’s profligacy in possession frustrated even the most ardent of his supporters.
In the end it took determination from Francis Coquelin, a livewire throughout his 70 minutes on the pitch, to spark Arsenal into life. The Frenchman’s sliding tackle on the edge of the Coventry box allowing Giroud to spring the offside trap and calmly clip home for his first Arsenal goal. He’d had a half-chance five minutes before, but when push came to shove he finally delivered the goods.
At half-time few could argue with the scoreline, although many might have questioned the desire.
In the second half it was a different story. Presumably after a stern talking to from Wenger, the Gunners upped the pace and showed the necessary guile to skewer their inferior opponents. Arshavin won a penalty two minutes after the restart following some clumsy defending only for Giroud’s tepid effort to be pushed round the post. The Frenchman wasn’t aided by a lengthy delay caused by a couple of numpties streaking on the pitch.
The second goal arrived soon after. The ever-entertaining Oxlade-Chamberlain lashing into the top corner after an assist from Arshavin. The young midfielder’s ruthlessness was a sign of things to come. A fine break saw Coquelin (possibly Chamberlain) feed Giroud who instantaneously slipped a delightful pass to the onrushing Russian. The 31-year-old in one movement controlled the ball in the air before rolling home past a helpless keeper.
Buoyed by the killer-instinct shown by his teammates Theo Walcott scored a fine fourth. Peeling off the right wing he raced through the defence, took one touch and rifled home across keeper Murphy. It was very similar to his second against Spurs back in February.
Emmanuel Frimpong, Marouane Chamakh and Serge Gnabry replaced Coquelin, Giroud and Oxlade-Chamberlain with 19 minutes remaining and in the bedding in period substitute Callum Ball grabbed one back for Coventry from close range. Alas, as the visiting fans revelled in their consolation strike Ignasi Miquel nodded home from an Arshavin cross to restore the four goal cushion.
Gnabry showed flashes of his talent by darting in from the left wing and curling an effort which was deflected past the post before Walcott wrapped up proceedings by showing the young pretender how it’s done. With few passing options available he raced down the left flank, cut inside and slid a perfect finish with all the Gallic flair of Thierry Henry. He’s a long way from emulating his hero, but the manner in which he turned on the style was a timely reminder to Arsene Wenger of his ability.
All in all, a very tidy performance by all concerned and great to see such a big turnout at the Emirates. It’s Reading away in the next round towards the end of the month.