ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger toasted a timely return to scoring form for Nicklas Bendtner and Marouane Chamakh as his side restored some much-needed cheer to Emirates Stadium by sauntering into the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Bendtner plundered a hat-trick and Chamakh netted his first goal since November as Wenger’s back-up strikers auditioned for a leading role in the absence of Robin van Persie for two crucial games against Sunderland and Barcelona.
Full-back Gael Clichy even got in on the action as a second-string Gunners side put Sunday’s Carling Cup final defeat behind them and overwhelmed League One Leyton Orient to set up a box office last eight trip to Manchester United.
“We’ve lost Van Persie so for Bendtner and Chamakh it was very important to score in order to have the level of confidence needed to succeed in big games. Bendtner did that very well,” said Wenger. Bendtner’s (left) clinical treble makes him favourite to lead the line in the Champions League second leg clash at Camp Nou on Tuesday, but Wenger is refusing to ponder that glamorous clash before his team attempt to close to within a point of Premier League Manchester United on Saturday.
“You know what, it puts him in contention to play against Sunderland. And, frankly, for us that is a massive game. If we beat them we are in a great position, so our all focus is on that.”
Chamakh opened the scoring in the seventh minute when he converted Tomas Rosicky’s cut-back and Bendtner put the game to bed before half-time with a looping header from a Kieran Gibbs cross and a fine low drive into the far corner from 20 yards.
The Dane wrapped up his second career hat-trick and took Arsenal’s tally for the season beyond 100 goals with a penalty just after the hour, and substitute Clichy lashed in only his second goal in 255 appearances on 75 minutes.
Orient, having already secured a bumper payday for forcing a replay, not to mention a pre-season trip to Las Vegas for the first-team squad, never came close to upsetting an Arsenal team featuring 10 changes from Sunday’s Wembley defeat. The win was a welcome return to form for the north Londoners so soon after that hammer blow, but could hardly be called a response given that most of those players beaten by Birmingham did not feature here.
Wenger confirmed Van Persie’s knee injury wil keep him out for three to four weeks, and said captain Cesc Fabregas would undergo a fitness test on Monday as he battles to recover for the trip to his native Catalonia.