By Richard Clarke at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal cruised into the fourth round of the Capital One Cup with a storming 6-1 win over Coventry on Wednesday night.
After a somewhat disjointed first-half, the home side secured their passage in entirely expected fashion given the experience in their XI and the visitors’ relative poor form coming into the game.
So it will be the fringe benefits of this victory that will please Arsène Wenger the most. Olivier Giroud scored his first goal for Arsenal late in the first half and, despite missing a penalty, set up Andrey Arshavin for the third goal. The impish, inventive performance of the Russian also bodes well.
In between those goals Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain fired in a screamer and, after them, substitute Emmanuel Frimpong made his return after seven months out with a knee injury.
Goals from Theo Walcott and Ignasi Miguel sandwiched a solitary reply from Callum Ball. The ex-Southampton winger made it a half-dozen in the final minute.
Wenger gave full debuts to Damian Martinez and Martin Angha. He also brought on Serge Gnabry from the bench.
So tonight was a checklist full of ticks for the manager. The strength of the first-team was always going to have a positive knock-on effect with the Capital One Cup squad.
Wenger always puts this competition as fourth in his list of priorities. But it still has great value to him.
If this squad stays together throughout the competition then the Frenchman will have a serious chance of lifting the only domestic trophy he has not won.
As usual in this competition, Wenger’s side was a mix of first-teamers in need of a start and up-and-comers in need of exposure at a higher level.
Arsenal’s attacking trio - Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud – had all seen action at Euro 2012. Just behind them was Arshavin.
Nico Yennaris had been a mascot for Coventry’s last visit to Arsenal in September 2000. This time he was stationed on the right side of midfield. Andre Santos, Miquel, Francis Coquelin and captain Johan Djourou completed the line up.
Coventry were struggling in League One but they had history at a higher level. As a result they comfortably filled their away allocation.
And those fans had enough to cheer in the opening 20 minutes or so. In the eighth minute, Frank Moussa crossed from the left and an unmarked Stephen Elliot flicked his header just past the far post.
It was clearest chance of the game. Arsenal were certainly on the offensive but they were ragged aswell. Their final ball did not match their approach play.
A couple of times Arshavin’s pass raced away from the sliding Giroud. Then, in the 25th minute, the Frenchman just failed to convert Walcott’s corner.
Everything seemed to going through the summer signing and it was Giroud who fired in Arsenal's first shot of the game 10 minutes from half-time. Joe Murphy smothered the effort.
However the goal was close.
Five minutes later, Arshavin’s pass forward was shoveled into the path of Giroud by the sliding Coquelin and the striker clipped the ball over the advancing keeper. His celebration was 50 per cent excitement and 50 per cent relief. It had taken Giroud 354 minutes to hit his first Arsenal goal. But, just to add a little perspective, the same feat had taken Thierry Henry two hours more!
It was a conclusive end to half in which Arsenal had not really made their superior technique work for them. Coventry had stuck to their task manfully and been admirably ambitious themselves.
The home side could have put some daylight between themselves and their opponents within four minutes of the restart.
Under pressure from Arshavin, Reece Brown miscued his backheader and bundled over the Russian as he tried to recover the ball.
Giroud stepped up to take the penalty. His connection was strong and clean but Murphy threw himself to his right to save.
Six minutes later, the keeper would be left groping thin air as Oxlade-Chamberlain collected Arshavin’s pass four yards outside the area and sent a swerving shot into the Coventry net.
The goal seemed to have finally broken the visitors' spirit and a third followed quickly. Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the ball in midfield and fed Giroud on the left. He clipped it towards the onrushing Arshavin, whose control was class and his low finish classier still.
Murphy made a point-blank save from Djourou’s header but, at the other end, Elliot and James Bailey fired over.
However Arsenal were safe now so Wenger made changes. All the new arrivals had significance – Frimpong’s comeback, Gnabry’s debut and Marouane Chamakh’s first involvement of the campaign.
Almost immediately, it was 4-0. Yennaris released Walcott down the right-hand channel and the England international slid his shot into the far corner in trademark style.
Coventry were not quite spent. Ball fired wide and Gary McSheffrey curled a free-kick just beyond the far post.
They did get on the scoresheet with 12 minutes left when Ball slammed home Carl Baker’s low cross from close range. But Arsenal responded immediately when Miquel headed home, his first for the Club.
Walcott fired in the sixth in the final minute as Arsenal cantered home.
A decisive end to a victory that, in the end, was utterly comprehensive.
Referee: Michael Jones
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