Theo Walcott makes his point as Arsenal hit Coventry for six
Capital One Cup third round: Arsenal 6 Coventry City 1
Theo Walcott sent the perfect message to Arsenal fans with two goals as Arsenal’s impressive start to the season continued with a rampant dispatching of Coventry City in the Capital One Cup.
A first Gunners’ goal for Olivier Giroud set Arsenal on their way against the League One strugglers, and Walcott’s double and further goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrey Arshavin and the Spanish defender Ignasi Miquel gave rich entertainment to an almost capacity Emirates crowd.
It was a very useful night from Wenger’s point of view too, with Giroud getting off the mark after his nervy start to life at Arsenal the highlight, but the performance of several young players and the goalscoring returns for Walcott and Arshavin also surely pleasing the Frenchman.
Walcott, with his contract into its final year and the subject of much recent speculation, could not have chosen a better time to perhaps remind his manager and his club of his ability, even if much of the contract delay appears to be of the player’s making.
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Wenger’s selection was the usual mixture of young players and those on the fringes of the first team. Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain were both used in midfield, while Giroud was up front and Arshavin in the hole just behind him.
In defence the Brazilian Andre Santos was at left-back, and the captain for the night, Johan Djourou, was in the centre, but the rest of the team were young Guns as Miquel partnered Djourou at centre-back, with Swiss 18-year-old Martin Angha at right back, and the 20-year-old Argentinian Damian Martinez in goal.
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Nico Yennaris, a mascot against Coventry as a seven-year-old back in 2000 when the Sky Blues were in the top flight, was pushed forward to midfield alongside Francis Coquelin.
Unsurprisingly it took the unfamiliar line-up some time to gel, and only a fluffed shot from Walcott and an effort from Giroud comfortably gathered by keeper Joe Murphy were of note.
But on the half-hour mark the moment Giroud had been waiting for happened. Oxlade-Chamberlain and Arshavin seemed to have lost possession, but Coquelin slid in and prodded Giroud clear, and the French striker kept his nerve to chip over the advancing Murphy and in.
The relief for the summer signing from Montpellier was palpable. He had only started three games prior to this one, but the missed chances were stacking up and with every blank game the pressure increased. The goal brought instant release.
So too for the Emirates crowd. Coventry had arrived as a club in turmoil, at the foot of League One and with a new manager in Mark Robins, but were holding their own reasonably comfortably until then.
They did so again either side of half-time, but when Arshavin twisted his way clear in the box on 52 minutes, Reece Brown’s clumsy challenge saw referee Michael Jones point to the spot.
Giroud, buoyed by his goal, took the responsibility but there was something unconvincing in his run-up and although he struck the shot well, Murphy got down easily to his right to palm the ball around the post.
Momentarily, Coventry glimpsed a way back and sent a set-piece fizzing into the Gunners’ box which Martinez came out confidently to claim.
But concerns were banished before the hour mark as Oxlade-Chamberlain scored a memorable second goal, receiving a short ball from the industrious Coquelin and thumping a 25-yard drive that flew past Murphy.
That seemed to suck the life out of Coventry, but Arsenal were in the mood for a party, and the next goal was a real thing of beauty.
Yennaris, another who caught the eye, released Giroud and the Frenchman drifted wide before crossing for Arshavin to control and flick the ball home impudently.
The Russian is very much the forgotten man of the Emirates, but Wenger has made it clear he is still in his plans and here, operating in the hole, he looked genuinely lively again. The level of opposition, of course, has to be taken into account, but Wenger will certainly have taken note.
Walcott could perhaps rival Arshavin for having fallen out of favour, but he too got in on the goalscoring act and it was another excellent goal, raiding in from the right flank and rifling a low shot under Murphy.
Coventry, who had brought huge support with them to the Emirates, rewarded those fans who have suffered greatly in the last decade with a goal of their own, the substitute Callum Ball finishing well after Arsenal had been exposed on their left side.
But the four-goal cushion was restored soon afterwards, Arshavin turning creator with a precise left-foot cross on to the head of Miquel who made no mistake from close range.
Walcott ensured he had the last word with another fine run and strike for the second. If he could just be as quick to sign that contract that has been on the table for the last year, Arsenal fans might be singing his name more regularly.
Arsenal: Martinez, Angha, Djourou, Miquel, Andre Santos, Yennaris, Coquelin (Frimpong, 72), Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gnabry, 72), Arshavin, Giroud (Chamakh, 72).
Subs not used: Shea, Squillaci, Bellerin, Eisfeld.
Coventry: Murphy, Clarke, Wood, Brown, Reckord, Bailey, Barton, McSheffrey, Moussa (Fleck, 60), Baker, Elliott (Ball, 70).
Subs not used: Dunn, Hussey, McDonald, Edjenguele, Daniels.
Referee: Michael Jones