West Brom vs. Arsenal: Gunners Show Stamina and Spirit to See off Baggies
With a threadbare squad beset by injuries, the last thing Arsene Wenger would have wanted was to play the full 120 minutes at the Hawthorns. However, the Frenchman will be delighted that after a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, he can reflect on the reward of progression to the Capital One Cup's fourth round.
Wenger rotated his team heavily, making nine changes to the team which beat Stoke in the Premier League last weekend.
Youngsters like Serge Gnabry, Ryo Miyaichi and Thomas Eisfeld were afforded a rare opportunity to impress from the start. Youth-team captain Isaac Hayden made his Gunners debut as a last-minute replacement for Mathieu Flamini, who aggravated a shoulder injury on the day of the game.
Hayden is ordinarily a centre-back, but he impressed with a tidy display as a holding midfielder.
However, praise of Hayden should be tempered by the admission that he was lucky not to be red-carded for an ugly two-footed lunge in the first half. Fortunately for Arsenal, the referee was lenient and dished out a card that matched Arsenal's away rather than home strip.
There were also several experienced players named in the team. Arsenal's XI contained eight full internationals. The only three players without international recognition were the teenage Gnabry, debutant Hayden and Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard has a wealth of experience and would doubtless have won many caps had he been born in any country outside of Spain.
The Gunners also welcomed back club captain Thomas Vermaelen for his first start of the season. In Arteta and Per Mertesacker, they included the two men who have shared the armband in Vermaelen's absence.
This was not a side lacking in influence or leadership.
However, it was one of the "Young Guns" who gave Arsenal the lead. Gnabry won the ball back in midfield and found Nicklas Bendtner, who turned and played in Eisfeld. Eisfeld's intelligent and calm finish were reminiscent of Freddie Ljungberg at his best.
This game marked the return of Bendtner to the Arsenal team after an absence of more than two years. Bearded and wearing a samurai top-knot in his hair, Bendtner was almost unrecognisable from his previous appearance in an Arsenal shirt against Liverpool in 2011.
One moment in extra-time, however, was all too familiar.
Set free by Serge Gnabry, Bendtner dallied and allowed the centre-half, Craig Dawson, to catch him when he really ought to have scored. The incident raised painful memories of Bendtner's agonising late miss in the Nou Camp.
By then it was 1-1, with Arsenal conceding after lax concentration from a corner. That took the game to extra-time, when the match finally burst to life. A tiring Arsenal were on the ropes but managed to hang on for penalties.
By the time the shootout began, Arsenal had lost their first-choice penalty taker Arteta to cramp. Other players were clearly exhausted, and the momentum seemed to be with the more experienced Baggies.
Those fears were confirmed when Serge Gnabry's early penalty miss saw West Brom take a 3-1 lead.
However, Craig Dawson turned from last-ditch hero to villain as he blazed his kick wide. Morgan Amalfitano missed his attempt too, allowing Nacho Monreal to step up and send Arsenal through to a tantalising clash with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.
Huge credit should go to teenage substitutes Kris Olsson and Chuba Akpom, who both held their nerve to score in the shootout after being picked ahead of experienced professionals like Thomas Vermaelen.
At the end of the game, Akpom, Gnabry and Olsson were the first to run to Monreal to celebrate. This night will live long in the memories of these young players.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?