Vela and Wilshire Shine Again… As Usual

Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela

Jack Wilshere and Carlos Vela have done it again. And is anyone surprised? Wilshere controlled the match and was, by far, the best player on the pitch in last night’s 2-nil victory over joint-leaders of the Championship, West Bromwich Albion, in the third round of the Carling Cup. The youngsters’ Carling Cup campaign opened at the Emirates and though not sold out, there was a sizeable crowd there as always eagerly anticipating a look at the Arsenal starlets.

The first half ended scoreless despite a few great chances by West Brom which forced equally good saves from Wojciech Szczesny. The number of chances gotten in and around the box may be a bit worrying considering Senderos and Silvestre, two players who will no doubt get minutes in the first team this season, were the starting center-back pairing. Senderos missed two completely unmarked headers from successive corners by Wilshere in the first few minutes of the match.

West Brom looked ready to take the fight to the kids but Jerome Thomas’s temper got the better of him around the hour mark. A scrap for the ball that got a bit rough with Wilshere was followed by a kick-out by Thomas and then a slap to Wilshere’s face. Wilshere’s histrionics were a bit disappointing especially considering he had dove outside the penalty area without any contact a few minutes before, but those are just mere blemishes on what was an otherwise impressive performance by England’s new Great White Hope.

Jack WilshereWilshere looked strong on the run, in his dribbles, and his passing, as always, was visionary. We have gotten used to seeing this kind of stuff from Wilshere but what most impressed me last night was his spirit and his strength. Wilshere’s strength has increased dramatically and he was involved in some really rough fights for the ball, including the one with Thomas, and he was never just brushed aside. His determination both on and off the ball and in attacking and defending last night was exceptional and with each performance he looks more and more mature and on his way to being a really complete player.

Despite being a man up since the half-hour mark, Arsenal continued to struggle to break West Brom down well into the second half due to sloppy passing, mistimed runs, and an overall lack of cohesion. The giveaways in midfield left them constantly vulnerable to counterattacks, as well. This was not the Carling Cup side of 2008-09, that was for sure. Yet, on a night, when they didn’t have their game working, they continued on with their shoulders to the wheel.

The introduction of Carlos Vela, making his season debut, at the hour mark changed everything. Arsenal immediately looked more threatening. Coquelin, who showed industriousness but suffered from the malaise that ran through the side, also came off for Randall. The breakthrough came in the 68th minute as Vela, with his back to goal, took the pass and turned his man clearing enough space for quality left-footed drive that was pushed aside by Kiely only to bounce right to Sanchez Watt who finished easily.

West Brom’s defense and spirit was broken at this point and Arsenal began to look like the side that everyone had paid 10 quid to see. The second goal came less than ten minutes later when a deft, and unexpected, chip by Randall came down off the crossbar and Vela snuck in to take the backpass and nudged it over the line. An excellent effort by Randall but Vela deserved a goal for changing the match.

The most impressive thing about both Vela and Wilshire, and this is how they most differ from Ramsey at the moment, is their remarkable consistency. Wilshere and Vela have impressed almost everytime they have stepped onto the pitch. One cannot help but continually marvel at the possibilities that lie in a side that would contain these two a few years down the road in their prime. Both are cheeky, in a good way, supremely confident, and unflappable.

Carlos Vela

I see no reason why Vela should not be used as much as possible in the first team this season once he regains full match readiness. Though I suspect we will seem in Theo Walcott’s former role as impact sub for much of this season. But surely there can be no question of his readiness for regular Premier League football. I thought he was ready for a bigger role last season having proven himself as a regular starter in La Liga.

The same goes for Wilshere. Vela can play on the left of the front three and he could also play down the middle and I suspect he would be equally productive in either spot. Wilshere can play straight across the midfield as well. With these two, Wenger has positional options and you wonder just how long it will be before his hand is forced to get them on the pitch in the more meaningful fixtures.

A slight disappointment for me last night was seeing Nacer Barazite start on the bench. He did finally come on for Traore, whose speed was blinding down the left, in the 70th minute, but it wasn’t really enough time for him to find a rhythm in the match. Barazite is a superb player and the arrivals of Wilshere, Vela, and Ramsey in the past two years have obscured the young Dutch attacker a bit. Barazite is technically gifted and his work in the Reserves and on loan in the last two seasons has certainly merited him a large role in this year’s Carling Cup campaign.

I would hate to lose out on Barazite simply due to a lack of playing time. He is only 19 but he’s been at the club for over three years and I can’t help but wonder if he may be getting impatient seeing Mark Randall and Gilles Sunu consistently getting opportunities in the first team ahead of him.

Overall, not what we had maybe hoped for from the youngsters but a solid win against what is essentially a relegation-level Premier League considering that West Brom look like coming right back up from the Championship. Like every Arsenal supporter, and even though I watch the Reserve and Under-18 matches, I find myself anxiously awaiting the Carling Cup ties and I can’t wait for the fourth-round.

Preview Week Day 4: Carling Cup

Carlos Vela, Jay Simpson, Fran Merida

by BendyTheViking (Munich) – Last season Arsenal’s youngsters dazzled and amazed in the early stages of the Carling Cup as they quick became victims of their own success and when pressure mounted and the going got tough the young Gunners were unable to get past an experienced and organized Burnley team at Turf Moor.  This season Arsenal will undoubtedly field another squad of talented youngsters.  Who is in contention, though, only the boss can know for sure, but it is easy to imagine who might be in the running for a run out in the Cup.

Goalkeepers:

Lukasz FabianskiLukasz Fabianski is poised to continue his roll as cup keeper again this season and the Carling Cup is the ideal place for him to pick up more experience and match sharpness.  Arsenal’s number two put in some outstanding performances in he Carling Cup last season with the highlight undoubtedly that wonderful double save against Wigan.  If Fabianski can continue to improve and find some consistency between the sticks then perhaps his “older” head can help guide the youngsters to Cup glory.  Other keepers in line for a spot in the Carling Cup squad would be Arsenal’s current third choice keeper Vito Mannone as well as fellow Polish keeper Wojciech Szczęsny. Admittedly I know very little about either of these keepers other then what I have seen briefly in he Reserves and in preseason.  Out of the two I would say Szczęsny is the more impressive keeper.  He also has a few years on Vito but looks further along.  I would bet Vito gets the back up keeper role but it might prove beneficial for Arsenal in the long run to perhaps up Szczęsny on the bench for a couple of the games.  He certainly has to look of a good keeper in the making and exposure to the first team could be what is needed this season to bring him along.

Defenders:

Kieran GibbsThere are really a number of possibilities here. Normally I would have pegged Havard Nordveit to hold down the fort, but the young lad is currently away on loan gaining valuable experience. In his place I imagine one or two youngster from the FA Youth Cup winning side will step up.  Also depending on whether Arsene purchases another defender, players like Vermaelen or Djourou could see minutes in the Carling Cup this season. Djourou is still fairly young and Vermaelen could use the Carling Cup to help adapt to England, much as Eduardo did. As well, I would imagine Eboue could be given a run out at right back as well as Gavin Hoyte. Left back spot will surely see the return of Kieran Gibbs to first team action while Traore could challenge for a spot if he remains at the club this season.  Messrs Bartley and Ayling could be in contention for a place in the side after both, and especially Ayling, have impressed in the last six months.

Midfield:

Aaron Ramsey will without a doubt resume a starting role again in the Carling Cup.  With Fran Merida anticipated to be heading out on loan it seems likely that Henri Lansbury could be given a starting birth in the side in the more advanced midfield role once he recovers from the injury he picked up on international duty.  Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Francis Coquelin should both also see minutes and there is the chance that Emmanuel Frimmpong could step up into the first team set-up in the Carling Cup as well.  If Mark Randall remains at the club again this season I would suspect that Wenger, unfortunately, would set him up with a starting place.  Here’s to hoping he heads back out on loan.

Strikers:

Nacer BaraziteThis is another area which seems fairly straight forward.  We will likely see a continuation of last season with Carlos Vela being the predominate striker.  The likes of Jay Simpson could also be involved. However, I anticipate Jay heading back out on loan.  Jack Wilshere should reprise his preseason role on the right wing where he has proved to be particularly deadly.  It would not be out of the question as well to see Nicklas Bendtner back in the Carling Cup should he be short of minutes.  Given his preseason appearances, it seems likely that Sanchez Watt will be given a run out in some form in the Carling Cup.  Nacer Barazite is a player I am hoping will be given a chance in the Cup as well.  He has really impressed me and I believe Barazite could really grow into a strong player.  He has never been given a proper chance in the Arsenal first team as of yet and after a character-building loan spell with Derby last season as well as more impressive performances in the preseason game at Barnet as well as in the Reserves he could finally be in a prime position to make his mark on the first team.

Taking this all into consideration, I believe Arsenal’s best line up for the Carling Cup would be as follows:

—————–Fabianski—————-
–Eboue—Ayling—Djourou—Gibbs–
—-Lansbury—Coquelin—Ramsey—-
——Wilshere—Vela—Barazite——-
Subs: Mannone, Bartley, Hoyte, Emmanuel-Thomas, Frimmpong, Simpson, Watt

Overall:

Future Arsenal DM?

The Carling Cup is a great chance to give some of our youngsters a run out.  Some will gain just from being in the squad and the first team set-up while others such as Vela, Wilshere, Ramsey and Gibbs will use this as a platform to push further into the first team and challenge establish players more consistently for minutes.  In addition to its value for the youngsters, I strongly believe that the Carling Cup would be a wonderful trophy for the club to win.  Should we win it, the unique timing could both give us the boost of getting some silverware for the season as well as removing the silverware monkey off the club’s back should we find ourselves in a position to still be challenging for the Premier or Champions Leagues.  Winning the Carling Cup would also lift the supporters and the club in general.  It could take away some of the pressure of winning something and allow the first team to kick on from strength to strength instead of focusing on ending the drought.  Whatever happens in the League Cup this season, Arsenal fans can be sure they will see some top class entertainment.  Who knows, maybe this year Arsene’s young guns and make it all the way to the podium!

Enjoy these highlights from our two most memorable Carling Cup matches from last season.

VIDEO:

Carling Cup: Arsenal v Sheffield United (23 September 2009)

Carling Cup: Arsenal v Wigan (11 November 2009)

Seeing The Silvestre Deal For What It Is

From devil to angel in one fail swoop of his pen??

From devil to angel in one fell swoop of his pen?

So, Arsene has signed 31 year old French international and long-time United back, Mikael Silvestre.  Now, there has been a lot of venom spewed on Arsenal blogs and forums about this signing but I think there are two things we need to keep in mind.

The first is: Whether or not Silvestre came from Manchester United or Manchester City, it is a very smart signing by Wenger which fills a spot many Gooners believed needed filling but did not believe that Arsene would make.  Silvestre brings added depth and title-winning experience to our defense.  He provides cover for Clichy which enabled Arsene to send the young Armand Traore off to Portsmouth in a long-rumoured loan deal to gain more experience.  Though his main position with United was at left-back, his favoured position from his days at Rennes was as a centre back… another position you can never have enough cover for.

Second, some supporters seem to think that the Boss has made the Silvestre signing instead of signing a defensive midfielder.  Now, to be fair, alot of these kinds of statements were made before the Boss came out today and said he is still in the market for a midfield foil for Cesc Fabregas.  Obviously, the defensive midfield position is extremely important to Arsenal and most supporters don’t feel we can raise an honest title challenge without bringing someone in.  But, it should have been easy to see that a less than £1m defensive cover signing would surely not take the place of signing another midfielder.  However, the anti-Wenger contingent among Arsenal supporters keep beating the chests even as he shows them that he’s not REALLY “too busy to sign new players.”

It should also be kept in mind, regarding the anti-Silvestre lobby, that these are the same people who will be more than glad he’s on the bench should, god forbid, Clichy sustain an injury of any length.  It’s far too short-sighted to complain about signing a player just because he played for one of our rivals.  A classic case in hand is Pat Jennings after his move from Spurs to Arsenal just prior to the 1977/78 campaign.  Jennings went on to man the Arsenal nets for almost a decade and gave us the kind of keeper we hadn’t had since Bob Wilson retired 3 years earlier.

Just a few biographical notes, which I feel obliged to spit out despite every other blog and news site repeating the same info… Silvestre began his career with Rennes before being transferred to InterMilan.  His spell there lasted only one year, after which he was bought by Alex Ferguson for £3.5m.  In 9 years at Old Trafford, Silvestre made over 300 appearances in all competitions and his honors include 4 Premier League titles, 1 FA Cup winner’s medal, 1 Carling Cup medal, and a Champions League medal.  Following Patrice Evra’s move to United, Silvestre has found it hard to secure a place in the lineup but, much as he is expected to do at Arsenal, he showed leadership and gave depth to their bench.  He suffered a knee ligament injury last September which ruled him out for most of the season.  He has played only 3 competitive matches in the last 11 months including United’s 1-nil second leg home win against Roma in the Champions League Quarterfinals.