Wojciech Szczesny and Arsenal Stars of the Future Demolish the Magpies

Hamlet AbayaCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 17:  Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal looks on during the pre-season friendly match between Barnet and Arsenal at Underhill on July 17, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)
Phil Cole/Getty Images

Although Arsene Wenger seems to have strayed from his policies in years past of using the Carling Cup as a venue for blooding his younger charges by picking many members of his first team against Newcastle United, the team itself was a very young team, with an average age of 22.8 years. 

In fact, if the old heads of 30-year-old Thomas Rosicky, 27-year-old Emmanuel Eboue, and 25-year-old Laurent Koscielny are taken out of the mix, that average age drops down to 21.2 years. 

As a young team maturing into a formidable side for years, Arsenal showed great attacking spirit and a grittiness to withstand numerous robust challenges and, towards the end, even some dirty play from a notoriously dirty player. 

But tonight was still one for the youngsters. 

Sure, there was only one teenager in 19-year-old Craig Eastmond, and other promising youngsters did not play because they are injured (Emmanuel Frimpong), are out on loan spells (Vito Mannone, Luke Freeman, Francis Coquelin, and Kyle Bartley), or are just deemed not quite ready yet (Benik Afobe, Chuks Aneke, Henri Lansbury and Havard Nordtveit). 

But after further review, many other promising young players were actually on display in Saint James' Park. 

From established young stars coming back from injury to promising young stars making their debut in the first team, last night's Arsenal squad had a balanced mix of new and experienced players, but most of them were under 25. For many of these players, they have many promising years of excelling and starring for Arsenal. 

Undoubtedly, there were three clear stars of the show. Back from long injury layoffs, Nicklas Bendtner and Theo Walcott reminded Gooners everywhere why Wenger had given them first-team starts so early in their careers. Either one or the other was involved in each of the four goals. 

For the first goal, it was Bendtner's header that caused confusion and chaos to ensue in front of goal.  Then both players were involved in the second, Walcott for running and scoring, and Bendtner for his "involvement" in the goal. Then for the third and fourth goal, Bendtner and Walcott each showed some individual brilliance to widen the lead. 

On any other night, one of these two players would have been the best player of the game. But for one night, a relatively unknown star shone the brightest. 

Wojciech Szczesny

Last night, the biggest star of the show was a young fourth string goalkeeper named Wojciech Szczesny. 

Already clamoring for a spot on the first team, the young Pole could not have done his chances any harm with yesterday's absolutely amazing display skill and athleticism between the sticks. 

With Almunia out injured, a much improved Lukasz Fabianski taking his spot in the first team, and Vito Mannone out on loan, the highly regarded Szczesny was given a rare opportunity to showcase his talents on a big stage, and against a physical and talented side. 

With just one big mistake of rushing out and missing the ball against lobbed pass to an onrushing Nile Ranger, he was superb. He made crucial stops against a Ryan Taylor free kick and an Andy Carroll shot towards the end of the match. 

More importantly, he was brave and decisive against free kicks, choosing to punch one out and send the ball flying way out, and staying back for a corner and eventually smothering an otherwise goal bound ball during a goalmouth scramble. 

Already Wenger has touted him as Arsenal's future No. 1, all while encouraging him to fight for his place and oust the other promising youngsters in front of him. And after that display, many Arsenal fans watching could not have missed how good he was, especially given the horrors from Almunia and Fabianski in recent years. 

Had Fabianski not seemingly turned a corner and started playing brilliantly, there should be no question that Szczesny deserves at least a chance at the No.1 spot. Even then, when Almunia returns to fitness, both he and Fabianski will have a tough fight on their hands with Szczesny banging on the door. 

Joey Barton

But the win wasn't all positive. 

After all four Arsenal goals had been scored, ex-convict Joey Barton decided to foul both Craig Eastmond and substitute Cesc Fabregas viciously from behind, proving once again that he belongs behind bars and not on a football field. 

Though ill-timed challenges with no malicious intent can cause serious injury, there is nothing worse than purposefully trying to hurt another player, especially when the game is all but over. There is a big difference between playing tough and playing for something, and playing tough to hurt someone. 

Until Barton is given severe punishment for his on-field behavior, he will continue to commit egregious fouls like the one yesterday.