Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Arsenal 1 v West Ham United 0 - Carabao Football League Cup R5

Tuesday 19th December 2017
Carabao Football League Cup Fifth Round, Quarter Final
at Ashburton Grove (AKA the Emirates Stadium),
Drayton Park, North London
Arsenal FC (0) 1
Danny Welbeck 42
West Ham United (0) 0
Attendance 44,741
It's 5.19PM as I hastily descend the stairs onto platform number two at Newark Northgate Station and board the London bound train that is due to leave in two minutes time, breathing a sigh of relief as I slump into my seat in a dishevelled heap.
I'm usually punctual and organised to the nth degree, but I didn't know that I was heading to the Emirates Stadium tonight until a little over a hour ago, when I received a phone call asking if I could use a spare ticket for the game.
I hastily booked my travel online, opted to collect the train tickets from the machine at Newark station, while hoping the queue wouldn't be too long once I got there and that the traffic wouldn't be a problem (as per usual) on the A46/A1 South junction.
After a quick post work shower I was on my way, via the inevitable hold up on the aforementioned exit from the A1 and a slow moving cluster of imbeciles faffing and dawdling by the ticket collection point. 
There should be two lanes at these ticket facilities: one for people who can manage very rudimentary understanding of technology with consummate ease and another for some of the assembled simpletons who I encountered and almost missed my train because of this evening.
Let the train take the, the TV advertising campaign used to say... hmm, actually coach B was overcrowded and the journey was as stressful as hell. In the event, I gave my seat up to somebody who needed it more than me... because I'm nice like that.
Alighting at Arsenal tube station, instead of Holloway Road, so I could meet my friend with the spare ticket next to the Ken Friar statue, I discovered that once again, I would be frequenting the club class tier of the stadium. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers.
There was actually more action on the train, with people jockeying for position and a bit of breathing space, than there was in either goalmouth all night, when the game got underway.
The line ups of both teams reflected that other competitions were more meritorious and prioritous than this one, even though tonight marked the occasion of the quarter final stage of the League Cup.
Prioritous isn't actually recognised as a word in the Collins English Dictionary, I urge you all to complain, very loudly, as a matter of some concern, because it bloody well should be.
With both sides fielding a whole load of changes from their most recent first team outings, this fixture had effectively become a second team game, in all but name.
Andy Carroll was on the visitors bench, which surprised me, because I thought that West Ham had offloaded him and dispensed with his services long ago. While Theo Walcott captained the Gunners and almost opened the scoring five minutes before half time when he dived to narrowly head Sead Kolasinac's well weighted cross wide of the post. He should have done better... but that could be said about most of the time he has spent on Arsenal's books.
Don't get me wrong here, but Walcott is twenty eight years old now, and to my way of thinking, though you don't make 47 appearances for your country and wear the armband for a team of Arsenal's standing unless you are a fairly decent footballer, his career path has been steady rather than spectacular and his impact on the games I've seen him play in, has certainly been above average, but not really anything too out of the ordinary or particularly outstanding.
Just before half time Danny Welbeck netted the only goal of the game, when he took Mathieu Debuchy’s header back across the face of goal from Francis Coquelin’s left wing cross down on his chest and nudged the ball Joe Hart from close range.
To my recollection, it was the first shot on target by either side thus far... and neither goalkeeper was unduly troubled for the remainder of the game either.
Obviously David Moyes, the recently installed Hammers manager sees Premier League survival as his main target for the season and he's started his tenure at his new club pretty well to that end, but his side seemed content to sit behind the ball and hit Arsenal with an occasional counter attack tonight, while Arsene Wenger's side weren't exactly displaying any kind of urgency to suggest that they wanted to kill the game off either.
On the whole it was a disjointed, boring and scrappy game, in which several fringe players from both sides seemed to be going through the motions when they had an opportunity to impress and push forward their claims for a regular first team start, although I would exclude Callaum Chambers from that sweeping generalisation, as well as Arsenal's young number 69 Joe Willock who both had a decent game.
FT: Arsenal 1 v West Ham United 0
ECWC Final 1980 shirt. Those collars! :-O
Display case in South Club Class foyer.
Oliver Giroud limped out of the game with twelve minutes remaining, apparently with a hamstring problem, that might lay him low for a few weeks, so Arsenal's win came at a price, as they move on to the two legged semi final phase.
All told, I've seen more entertaining games this season. But at least my seat was roomy and very comfortable and my half time coffee was free.