Jan 4, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
LONDON – With Arsenal’s two recognized strikers missing for Saturday’s FA Cup tie against North London rivals Tottenham, you would’ve expected an air of panic around the Emirates.
If there was an ounce of nervousness, that quickly dissipated.
From the start of Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Spurs, the Gunners new attack flourished as Theo Walcott was deployed as the lone forward with German teenager Serge Gnabry and Spaniard Santi Cazorla coming in off the wings.
“I liked what he did today,” Arsene Wenger tole me after the game. “He has played before in that role, but today he added purpose, commitment and more decisiveness to his game. He had more of a fighting attitude. With that, he looks like he improves every time in that position. With that and the quality of the players behind him he can be dangerous in that position.”
Much has been made of Arsenal’s lack of depth this season, especially up front, but when it comes down to it they have a whole host of players who can interchange fluently between attack and midfield. Wenger was dubbed the ‘professor’ for a reason back when he arrived in England in the mid 90’s.
Arsenal’s current team are set up to only need one central striker, who can run in behind or hold the ball up and Walcott did that marvelously well. He timed his runs patiently to give Spurs’ center half pairing of Michael Dawson and Vlad Chiriches a torrid time on Saturday.
While those two were in a spin over who was marking Walcott, Gnabry and Cazorla slid off the wings secretively and that’s how the first goal came about. In the 31st minute Gnabry fed Cazorla to finish, after Walcott’s run took two Spurs defenders away. Gnabry excelled in supporting the excellent Walcott and Wenger was especially pleased with the 18-year-old German.
Although Wenger was reluctant to heap too much praise on his shoulder, just yet.
“Today again he has shown that he’s quality,” Wenger said. “He had a very good game. He is a very young boy but is very bright. He has a really good football brain. I’m a strong believer in Serge Gnabry because I integrated him last year at the beginning of the season. But let’s not make superstars with one game.”
Going back to Gnabry’s partner in crime, Walcott is regularly described as being “too quick for his own good” as his electric pace sometimes sees his body move before his brain has time to react. But in the 11th minute Walcott latched onto a central ball superbly, took it in his stride and balanced himself before hitting a low shot towards goal that Spurs’ Hugo Lloris had to tip wide. He looked at home as center forward.
Next, again from a central area, Walcott’s sweeping effort from the edge of the box was deflected wide as his deft-touch and composure was again on show. Walcott is no stranger to the central role, after seeing him star in that position for Southampton as a 16-year-old when he first burst on the scene, I can vouch for that. Even going back to his days in the youth team at Saints, many believed he would flourish centrally in the future.
On Saturday against Spurs he certainly did.
To go alongside Walcott’s first half attempts Gnabry and Cazorla also went close as the German youngster smashed an effort over the bar, then Cazorla’s curler just went wide of Lloris’ left hand post. Arsenal were rampant early on, as they bamboozled Spurs with their inter-changing trio of attackers.
Pace, ingenuity and composure was shown in abundance by Gnabry, Cazorla and Walcott.
After the break Walcott popped up on the right and Gnabry drifted inside to play centrally and the killer second goal came courtesy of Tomas Rosicky’s pressing on Spurs left back Danny Rose. Game over.
But with only a 2-0 score line sealing the Gunners passage into the FA Cup Fourth Round, Walcott alone could have easily had a hat trick as Arsenal spurned several gilt-edged chances as the game closed out. Throughout the course of the season, that wastefulness may cost them but for now their defense is holding firm, so one or two goals is enough to win them a game.
Late on Walcott fell awkwardly and had to be stretchered off with what looked like an injury to his left knee. As he left the field, he reminded Spurs’ fans of the score line (pictured, left) and then as he passed them in the stands, bottles and coins rained down on the England international.
“The doctor said to me that the coins were coming down over Walcott’s head and they had to protect him, that’s maybe why he did that,” Wenger said. “After that, it was not offensive what he did.”
On a more serious note, that’s two central strikers and a converted one (depending on the diagnosis of Walcott’s injury) down for Arsenal before they face Aston Villa on January 13 in their next Premier League game. That leaves only Gnabry and Lukas Podolski left at the moment, both of whom aren’t too comfortable in central roles and are much better suited out wide.
So does Wenger have to buy a new striker in January?
“We still had Podolski and Ozil on the bench today,” Wenger said. “Giroud was sick, he was not injured but was available if he wasn’t sick. So for the next game he should be available. Of course if you lose Theo for a longer period it is a problem. While Nicklas Bendtner is out for a month, but it could’ve been more so we got some good news on him. I am waiting to see who walks out there [new signings] and wants to knock at the door and come in, but honestly it is hard to find better than the players we have.”
Aug 1, 2014, 11:44 PM EDT
The 22-year-old is giving the 31-year-old all he can handle, and Barcelona looks set to forget Victor Valdes quickly.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:44 PM EDT
Goalkeeping starred in the first half before one a-piece settled the score.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT
Geoff Cameron may no longer fit at Stoke City, and could get a CB role elsewhere.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:04 PM EDT
Another Sounders keeper went up in the air, although he couldn’t remain awake for the whole flight.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:56 PM EDT
Two Eastern Conference teams on unbeaten streaks meet at Sporting Park in Kansas City.
Aug 1, 2014, 7:39 PM EDT
The Arsenal captain saw his games drop significantly last season, and would be a fantastic grab for Manchester United.
Aug 1, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT
After a very disappointing debut season with Norwich City, the Dutch striker is off to France.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:55 PM EDT
A head-scratching moment by the New York defender cost him two games, while the ensuing melee dug into the wallets of others.
Aug 1, 2014, 5:16 PM EDT
With helpful videos, NBC is getting you ready for the upcoming Premier League season just days away!
Aug 1, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT
Despite reports to the contrary a month ago, it appears the newly-added Crimean clubs will indeed play in the Russian leagues next season.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT
After 13 years at Chelsea, there’s a good chance Frank Lampard could play at Stamford Bridge again…in a lighter shade of blue.
Aug 1, 2014, 3:18 PM EDT
Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham are among the teams who’ve loaded up on talent.
Aug 1, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT
Myers and actor Daniel Craig were among the luminaries on hand to watch Liverpool take on Manchester City at Yankee Stadium.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
Silly season has reached an absurd level, with even sports books creating rumors out of club links.
Aug 1, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Birmigham City defender Will Packwood and Southampton goalkeeper Cody Cropper are on the list of U-23 stars preparing for the Bahamas.
Aug 1, 2014, 12:10 PM EDT
Serbia and the Ivory Coast also tab new bosses as the race for continental and world glory continues.
Aug 1, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT
Fans of Detroit City FC helped raise money for slain Michigan referee John Bieniewicz via a “swear jar”, then saluting him with silent red card salute.
Aug 1, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT
A great save followed up by an awful rebound, as Hull draws Trencin 0-0 in its Europa League debut.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
West Ham, Crystal Palace and Newcastle have all added players for 2014/15, according to reports.
Aug 1, 2014, 9:23 AM EDT
Would City’s best prospects playing in MLS be a boon for the league, or lend the league a minor league image it’s trying to escape?
- MLS Snapshot: Sporting KC 1-1 Philadelphia Union 0
- Reports: Geoff Cameron, seeking CB time, draws heavy Premier League interest 0
- Learn the chants for every Premier League team! 4
- Updated team-by-team list of Premier League transfers this summer 3
- US U23 list for Bahamas camp unveiled as Olympic prep continues 0
- New York City FC could be a proving ground for Man City youth 6