Arsenal went through to the final four of the Carabao Cup last night, overcoming a defensively stubborn West Ham by a single goal. Here are five things we learned from the action.
At the weekend, Arsenal looked poor against Newcastle, which came days after a similarly poor showing against West Ham. Last night, despite enjoying 65 per cent possession, Arsenal registered just eight attempts on goal, with only one on target.
For the last few weeks, Arsenal have been largely incapable of breaking down opposition teams, a trend that will concern fans going into the new year. Granted, last night’s side featured a number of teenagers, including 19-year-old Ben Sheaf, making his domestic debut. Nevertheless, Arsenal are in sore need of a convincing win in the league to prove they have the ability to continue a fight for Champions League football across the season.
West Ham poor as well
Arsenal may have had a bad night; however, this is far from a complement to West Ham. The Hammers were turgid throughout the match, registering just one attempt on goal to a chorus of ironic cheers from the travelling faithful.
West Ham never threatened to take the game, and were sloppy with their limited possession. Indeed, Welbeck’s winner ultimately came from this inability to settle into the match. The introduction of Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll was an obvious Plan B, with balls lumped forward towards the target men. None found their target.
Still, a 1-0 defeat in the Cup will not look overly concerning at the end of the season, assuming West Ham survive. The focus will now turn toward a far more important game against Newcastle at the weekend, if indeed the focus was ever actually on this London derby.
It is a recognised fact that Arsenal’s title hopes have ended early this season. Arsene Wenger will, therefore, be looking at the Carabao Cup as a means of securing a piece of silverware as early as possible. This would add some necessary sheen to another disappointing season, and would also guarantee Europa League football next year, which a glance at the table shows is far from guaranteed. Arsenal, and especially Wenger, should be taking this opportunity very seriously indeed.
By contrast, David Moyes should view this as a missed opportunity. Though his priority is to keep West Ham in the Premier League, this was a real chance to push for his first trophy in a nineteen-year career. Instead, West Ham showed a lack of drive and ambition, appearing happy to settle for a respectable margin of defeat, rather than try for a win. Such an attitude will not improve Moyes’ chances at receiving a long-term contract from a still highly ambitious board.
Theo Walcott made only his third appearance after a two month lay off through injury and illness. A bad miss from ten yards out will do little to persuade Wenger that he should be starting. Last night was a real opportunity to make a case for his place in the starting eleven, and improve his chances of going to Russia. As it is, Walcott simply does not look good enough to play for Arsenal at the present time. He will be one to keep an eye on come January, with Everton and West Ham both being linked.