Arsenal 1-0 Doncaster Rovers: Walcott grabs winner but Wilshere’s a wonder
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Arsenal beat Doncaster Rovers 1-0 at the Emirates on Wednesday evening through a Theo Walcott goal – but it was the performance of fit-again Jack Wilshere that had fans in raptures.
The 25-year-old from Hitchin has endured an awful run of injuries and bad luck during his career in North London.
But when he is fit he makes the heart sing.
The thing about the Hitchin midfielder is that he isn’t afraid to play the simple but effective ball. Not every delivery has to be world class. And it’s in that simplicity that Pep Guardiola saw something of Andres Iniesta.
If he can stay fit and get a run of 20 or 30 consecutive games under his belt then there is no limit to what he can achieve. But that notion is for another day.
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Against a battling Doncaster Arsenal went ahead through Theo Walcott on 24 minutes after a delightful ball from Alexis Sanchez. The 28-year-old took the ball in his stride showing good technique before advancing to lob the ball over Rovers’ keeper Ian Lawlor to make it 1-0.
In truth it was a goal that was coming as Olivier Giroud could have netted twice before. The big Frenchman headed narrowly over after Mohamed Elneny whipped in a low cross.
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The 30-year-old – who earned the devotion of Arsenal fans for publicly committing his future to the club when others were wavering during a fractious summer – showed his unheralded athleticism on eight minutes.
Reacting to a Wilshere through ball he performed a supple and well-executed bicycle kick that saw the ball fly off the top of the bar and behind.
It was a shame as his movement and quick-thinking deserved a goal – which would have been his 100th for the club.
Arsenal deserve praise for their sensible pricing structure which encourages youngsters to attend on nights such as this for as little as a fiver.
Unfortunately the scheme did not prevent large swathes of empty seats – despite more than 4,500 making the long trip down from south Yorkshire.
The figure of 44,064 was also the lowest for a first team fixture at the Emirates since the club moved from beloved Highbury 11 years ago – beating the previous low of 46,539 against Shrewsbury Town on this very day six years ago.
However, everyone in attendance, not least the exuberant ‘Donny’ fans helped to make the atmosphere louder than for an average league game.
Doncaster’s boss Darren Ferguson was quoted as saying as he wanted to see ‘Arsenal’s best players’ in action to provide a strong test for his team.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s son has pedigree and is a course and distance winner at Peterborough but Rovers are struggling at the wrong end of League One having won just one of their opening eight games.
“No doubt, whichever team we play against, we will be playing against a quality side,” said Ferguson.
He was right about that. As Wilshere in particular excelled with his constant probing and accurate passing.
His movement, vision and creativity allied with power and attacking instincts saw him dovetail nicely with Sanchez and Giroud.
It was also refreshing to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles look as solid as he has ever done in an Arsenal shirt. It was also good to see him talk the promising but raw Reiss Nelson through the game, always encouraging and cajoling his younger team-mate.
But the night was all about Jack Wilshere – who Wenger hailed after the game as a ‘natural’.
The Gunners haven’t lost to lower-league opposition at home in the League Cup since that infamous game in November 1983 against Walsall that cost Terry Neil his job. And they weren’t going to start on Wednesday evening either, making it 26 wins from their last 28 matches against lower-tier teams – including the last seven in a row.
Not with super Jackie Wishere in the side.
Arsenal: Ospina, Chambers (Da Silvaat 45), Mertesacker, Holding, Nelson (Willock 84), Elneny, Wilshere, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, (Iwobi 76), Sanchez, Giroud
Doncaster Rovers: Lawlor, Blair, Wright, Butler, Mason (booked 68), Rowe, Coppinger (Mandeville 62), Houghton (Alcock 62), Whiteman, Kongolo (Marquisat 76)
Referee: Scott Duncan