LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of Arsenal celebrates he scores their second goal during the Carling Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Shrewsbury Town at Emirates Stadium on September 20, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
0-1 Collins 16
1-1 Gibbs 33
2-1 Oxlade-Chamberlain 58
3-1 Benayoun 79'
Arsenal progressed to the fourth round of the Carling Cup after a nervous but ultimately successful victory against League Two Shrewsbury. A side with a nice balance between youth and experience came back from a goal down, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Francis Coquelin the most impressive.
Wenger's team selection also caused some interest by naming Chamakh and Park together in a 4-4-2. While both of the strikers dropped deeper, this was closer to a traditional 4-4-2 than 4-2-3-1, though there was good movement with Chamberlain, Park and Chamakh.
It was Arsenal who started out impressively, with Chamakh having his header tipped over the bar by Shrews keeper Ben Smith. From the ensuing corner, Chamakh's shot was again saved by Smith. After that, though, Shrews came into the game: A set piece was missed by Djourou, but luckily no Shrews striker was sniffing around. They also hit the post, after Arsenal's high line was easily evaded when no pressure was put on the ball. They took the lead though, after a long ball after neat possession play won them a throw. From the throw-in, Lionel Ainsworth's cross was headed home by James Collins (not that one). The problem there was that Collins wasn't challenged at all; Fabianski stayed at home when the cross went into the 6 yard box, and Johan Djourou didn't jump. For a cross. He didn't jump at all. According to Wenger, he was "surprised". I guess he was unaware that balls can be headed for goals in a football match.
Arsenal, to their credit, came back strongly. Coquelin and Frimpong may have lacked the penetrative play of Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, even Alex Song, but they harried, won the ball back, and took a couple of good long shots, which is good because it begins to open space among a deep defence. Shrews were very dangerous on the counter attack, with Morgan, Wright and Ainsworth threatening. Arsenal, though, began to take control, and Jenkinson started to take advantage of a narrow back four to put in dangerous crosses. From one of those crosses, Kieran Gibbs equalised, powering home a header from outside the 6 yard box. It was his first Arsenal goal, and quite an impressive one.
Arsenal started the second half as they ended the first one; in control. Chamberlain's pace and trickery was a threat, as was Benayoun, who was beginning to thread balls through. It was Chamberlain who broke the deadlock though; after a move of 15 or so passes had Arsenal camped out in front of the Shrews penalty area, Chamberlain fired home into the bottom left corner from 25 yards out. From then on, he was buzzing, playing a more central role, but using pace on the wing as well. Coquelin was winning the ball back, and Shrewsbury couldn't get out of their own half. A third goal was coming, and finally it arrived from Yossi Benayoun, after Chamberlain and the sub Ozyakup combined before the latter cut back for Benayoun to finish.
It was a good comeback from Arsenal, and very good attacking play, but there were still some worrying moments. Arsenal's defending was shambolic at times; Johan Djourou can hardly do anything right at the moment, and the team is still insistent on playing a high line without pressure. When Arsenal do put pressure on, Arsenal's high line is better, and their defending in general is better. That is a part of Arsenal's game that must be emphasised by Arsene Wenger and Pat Rice. On a brighter note, Alex Chamberlain was fantastic, showing off an array of skills, including great pace and good range of passing. Arsene Wenger said prematch that he was not similar to Theo Walcott because Chamberlain is more of a midfielder, and it's not hard to see why. Unlike Walcott, Chamberlain has excellent technique, rather than relying on pace as Walcott did at that age. His future is very bright.