View from the North Bank: Arsenal 3 Shrewsbury 1


Last night’s Carling Cup win provided a welcome distraction from recent Premier League woes with the opportunity to see yet more of Arsenal’s future.

There’s never any doubting the talent that is either produced by the Arsenal Academy or bought and nurtured by Arsene Wenger, but not all of them fulfil early promise. It’s always obvious when you see class for the first time though and we’ve witnessed many young debutants make an immediate impact: An unheard of, lanky frenchman, signed from AC Milan, coming on as sub against Sheffield Wednesday; Fabregas against Doncaster as a baby-faced 16-year-old; Wilshere’s first outings in 2008. And last night.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stole the show. Such strength and explosive pace for a youngster, with a low sense of gravity, a decisive Footballing brain, ability to put consistent crosses into danger areas and a sledgehammer shot. This boy will feature heavily in Arsenal’s first team this season, despite the depth we have in wide areas; Walcott, Gervinho, Arshavin, Benayoun, Santos, Rosicky. They’ll be watching over their shoulders.

Shrewsbury brought an impressive travelling support with them and did them proud with a spirited performance. Graham Turner’s men played a neat passing game and broke with pace. They also defended resolutely.

They took an early lead, with Djourou indecisive, leaving the cross for Fabianski who didn’t come. Djourou’s early season form is a huge concern – he lacks the ability to sense danger and is too nice for a centre back. Ignasi Miquel impressed again last night and is now knocking on the door to partner Per Mertesacker in Vermaelen’s absence and Koscielny’s ineptitude.

Another impressive performer last night was Francis Coquelin. The young Frenchman – loaned to Lorient last season in Ligue 1 – has all the attributes to make a fine box-to-box midfielder. Touch, passing range, anticipation, awareness, athleticism, skill. Whether he has the temperament and mentality required to succeed where others have failed (Denilson) remains to be seen.

Park Chu-Young made a nervy start but grew in confidence, flashing a shot just past the far post. His movement was excellent. Unlike Chamakh’s. The young Korean couple sat near me screamed with excitement every time Park got involved. Impressive, if a little over-the-top, fanfare!

The atmosphere was subdued at times but also very positive towards the team, even at one-nil down. Chants of ‘Arsene give us a wave’ were met with huge cheers as Le Boss duly obliged. The support for Wenger was there, and rightly so. The way he has kept our club competitive over the past few seasons since the oligarch’s came to town should be commended.

He just needs to sort that defence out.

Keep the faith.