ARSENAL (3) vs SHREWSBURY (1)
ARSENAL manager Arsene Wenger called for his detractors to gain a measure of perspective after watching his side avoid a major Carling Cup upset at the hands of League Two Shrewsbury.
For the first time during his tenure Wenger has been forced to field questions about his ability to take the club forwards following a calamitous run of results since the Carling Cup final defeat in February, capped by Saturday’s 4-3 collapse at Blackburn.
Wenger was given an emphatic vote of confidence by chief executive Ivan Gazidis earlier in the day, but any comfort the Frenchman took from that would have been forgotten upon seeing James Collins give the visitors a 16th minute lead.
But a first Arsenal goal for Kieran Gibbs and maiden strikes for summer signings Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Yossi Benayoun restored a sense of normality to proceedings in front of a crowd of 46,539 – the lowest attendance at Emirates Stadium since the move there in 2006.
“Whether I work here for the next 10 years or the next day here, I will give my maximum for the club. I am not bothered at all by all this speculation,” said a defiant Wenger afterwards.
“I accept critics and I don’t say it doesn’t matter. I prefer it if people say I am good but I cannot complain when we lose a game and you are criticised.
“When we do well, we take all the plaudits so we have to take the blame when it doesn’t go well. But we have, on both sides, to take a little bit of distance.”
Despite the need for a convincing win, Wenger opted to field a largely inexperienced side. Despite the unfamiliar personnel, however, the same defensive problems were evident with Johan Djourou caught ball watching and allowing Collins to open the scoring for a Shrewsbury side who had already hit the post.
With the unthinkable suddenly dawning on a stunned home crowd, Gibbs equalised with a firm header in the 33rd minute before Oxlade-Chamberlain, 18, the most expensive of Wenger’s summer recruits, gave Arsenal the lead with a crisp 25-yard shot on the hour mark.
Victory was confirmed by Benayoun 12 minutes from time when he swept home from close range after good work from debutant Oguzhan Ozyakup.
Wenger added: “ We took a gamble and it worked because you could see some players, who we haven’t seen so much of, like Oxlade-Chamberlain have done extremely well and that is positive for the future.”