A delayed report on the 2-0 Carling Cup victory over Newcastle this morning, due to the fact that I hadn’t seen enough of the game to be able to comment up to now.
Calling the shadow side a ‘youth outfit’ compared to the first team is a bit like saying black is a really dark colour compared with extremely dark brown – shorn of Gilberto, Gallas and Lehmann on Saturday, the team that demolished Derby had an average age of 23, only two years older than the one that dispatched Newcastle on Tuesday night.
And the styles were very similar. There was Traore rampaging down the left, pinging in two beautiful crosses for Bendtner, one of which he missed and the other he powered in for the opener. The French full back’s speed is so reminiscent of Clichy that we wouldn’t miss Cashley Cole even if he was the same talented left back we used to have, and not the neutered attacking force he is at Chelsea.
In the centre, Denilson showed the passing range of a certain young Spaniard, and his finish was the second goal was outstanding – for someone whose long range shooting hasn’t impressed up to now, it was a spectacular way to get off the mark for the club.
Strangely, at centre back Song looked more comfortable than Senderos, who is playing without any sort of confidence at the moment. His goal line clearance from Martins, which would’ve made it 1-1, however, was nothing short of outstanding.
Up front, Eduardo was scrapping while Bendtner was causing havoc in the Newcastle defence, but for me the real star of the display was Lassana Diarra, our inexplicably cheap 2m capture from Chelsea. They may come to regret that sale – he was busy and efficient, and gave the team a perfect platform from which to show their skills. With performances like that, it cannot be long until he pushes into the first team.
Which is bad news for Gilberto, who is targeting a new contract when his current deal expires at the end of next season. The way things are going, I’m not sure he’ll be getting one. Flamini has been outstanding alongside Cesc in the middle, and with Diaby, Diarra and Denilson pushing hard for a central midfield role, the only option for the Brazilian seems to be at centre back.
I’m not sure why Gilberto has been frozen out the way he has. Perhaps Wenger doesn’t consider him fully fit after the Copa America run in the summer. Perhaps his levels have dropped since his disappointment at missing out on the captaincy. But the big man has been a hugely professional asset to the club, always positive, always effective, and it would be a shame to let that go. But Wenger has shown his ruthless side before. Is it his turn?
It’s West Ham away at the weekend, which provides a chance to right a few wrongs from last season. Quite incredibly, the Hammers got the double over both us and Man Utd with four 1-0 victories, a remarkable statistic given their otherwise appalling defensive record.
Let’s hope we create as many chances as we did at the Emirates against them last season. Because the way the team are playing and finishing at the moment, that sort of performance will end in a rout.
Until then, bask in the glow of a grumpy Sam Allardyce, who having spent a week trying to wind up Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger, can now only whinge that his team didn’t have enough time to prepare for the match. Which is the same excuse he used for losing to Derby last week.
Big clubs play lots of matches. Is this Sam’s way of admitting that Newcastle aren’t a big club?