Now that was a seriously cold night… But it was worth ever shiver, every wind in the face and every snowflake in the hair…
Arsene promised to play a mix of youth and experience and, as most of us expected, he deployed four strikers / wingers and also saw our “reserve” full backs in Eboue (returning miraculously from injury) and Gibbs (the ever impressive England international)… The full line up was:
Eboue – Djourou – Koscielny – Gibbs
Denilson – Wilshere
Walcott – Van Persie – Vela
With a bench of O’Shea, Sagna, Nordtveit, Eastmond, Arshavin, Nasri and Emmanuel Thomas
A chilly night meant a chilly start for the home team – the game given the go-ahead despite the snow showers throughout the day – with the players a little sluggish in the opening 15 minutes. Wigan with a touch more possession and a lot of misplaced passes. We defended well enough though and after the first 15 finally started to create chances. And Wilshere was a key component in creating chances for the 4 strikers, and they kept on missing them… a neat back heel from Van Persie putting Carlos Vela through on goal, only for the Mexican to chip the ball wide of the goal.
The goal finally came through an own goal – Wigan skipper Antolin Alcaraz headed into his own net from a corner.
There were some very anxious moments for us at the start of the second half when the returning Robin Van Persie needed treatment after being sandwiched between two Wigan defenders as he tried to connect with Carlos Vela’s cross into the six-yard box. We looked to have finally secured our passage to the semi-finals when Carlos Vela was put clear down the left, and he centred for the other returning striker Bendtner who bundled the ball in from two yards – with just over 20 minutes remaining. After that, Wigan become quite flat and we stepped it up a gear - Walcott got away again down the right, beating the advancing keeper and pushing the ball out to Vela, but the angle was too tight as Al Habsi recovered well to save on the line.
And to top off a good home victory, the final whistle was accompanied by the cheers around the stadium as our biggest rivals in the competition, Man United, were soundly beaten by West Ham in the other quarter final.
Arsene spoke after the game and was happy with the performance.
We did the job on a cold night. We didn’t give chances away and maybe they closed us down well at the start of the game and slowly when we gained a bit more time and space we created chances. Overall, it was a good win with making eight or nine changes. We wanted to qualify and give some chances to some players who needed it and we achieved both targets.
He continued to talk about the wait for a trophy:
We have to accept that. There are two things that you want – you want to win trophies and always be at the top. We [have] managed to be at the top over the years and if we can add the trophies it can be even better. But you can only do as well as you can and at the moment we are at the end of November and we are in all the competitions in quite a good position.
We have three days to rest and recuperate until Saturday, when we switch to the Premier League and take on Fulham, which is a normal 3pm kick off!
Let’s enjoy our passage into the semi-finals and let’s rest up until tomorrow…