After his outstanding performance against Barca (for which I apparently didn’t give him enough credit in my last blog) and already making 31 appearances this season, Laurent Koscielny was allowed some rest and put on the bench for this FA Cup tie. With Johan Djourou also out having hurt his back in the Champions League game, we saw Sebastien Squillaci start at the back. As if this sight wasn’t enough to fill fellow Gooners with dread, his centre back partner was an untested youth player whose hair style led some fans on the Goonersworld forum to liken him to Justin Beeber.
Despite his boy band appearance, the 6’4 Ignasi Miquel looked assured on the ball (as you’d expect from someone who had spent five years training with Barca) he also wasn’t easily pushed off the ball and coped well with the physical side of the game. For the 88 minutes in which we didn’t concede the defensive partnership seemed to be doing its job. Unfortunately ‘Orient’s equaliser came as Jonathan Tehoue skipped between the two centre backs and spoilt what had otherwise been a solid defensive performance.
Until then it had looked like a very professional performance from Arsenal, who nearly won the game without ever breaking sweat. Arsenal had most of the play early on and both Marouane Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner had chances in the opening five minutes. Andrei Arshavin also seemed to have gained confidence from his match winner in midweek. Arsenal bossed the game in the first half but it was the same old story of plenty of possession and nothing to show for it. Even when half time came and went without a goal, the usual frustration that sets in amongst fans didn’t seem to materialise and just eight minutes into the second half we took the lead through a header from Tomas Rosicky. It is worth noting that the cross came from Nicklas Bendtner, who many (including myself) have stated does not play well in the wide role in which Wenger continues to play him. It was he who crossed for Robin Van Persie to score the third goal in the cup tie against Leeds and maybe Wenger is right to persist in playing Super Nik out wide?
Despite warnings that ‘Orient might still produce a miracle, when Jonathan Tehoue came on with half an hour to go it seemed that the points were already in the bag. Tomas Rosicky and Andrei Arshavin both then had chances to further our lead and it looked as if we were still in control of the game. Arsene Wenger did not make any substitutions, the array of talent on the bench which included Gael Clichy, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere didn’t appear to be needed. As the 88th minute approached I never really doubted that the game was won. I was about to go to the Goonersworld match day thread and post how impressed I was with Ignasi Miquel when Jonathan Tehoue scored. Whilst our two centre backs could have done better, many questioned whether Wojciech Szczęsny might saved the shot which went underneath Manuel Almunia.
The good news about the defeat is that the second leg might mean that Aaron Ramsey gets some playing time on his return from the loan at Cardiff City. It also means that our reserve players will get another run-out which I doubt that they will get at Old Trafford in the next round. Hopefully Wenger and the players have learnt from the Leyton Orient game that their place in the next round against Manchester United is by no means assured and that there is no room for the complacency that lead to the equaliser on Sunday. The good news is that we are still in the competition and that the quadruple is still on 😉 !!!