Off the top, a shocking admisision: this will not be the most compelling farlieonfootie column you've ever read. How's that for hard hitting and honest journalism?
There's just not as much to write about tonight after a few days of feverish footie action. United don't play again 'til the weekend, so I'll have to sate myself with some more League Cup action in the form of Arsenal - Newcastle in the meantime. That being said, bad farlieonfootie is still better than 86.5% of all other stuff out there you could be reading, so stay with me. Please. Before we get to the game, though, I know the one question that's been nagging at you in the deepest recesses of your mind for much of the past fortnight, the one that haunts you, possibly, even in your sleep: Where's my fearless farlieonfootie colleague Ed? And when will he be writing his next column? (Yes, I know that's actually two questions, but they both revolve around the same central theme, so don't split hairs on me). Don't worry; I've been wondering that, too. And now I can reveal the answer: Ed did see fit to check in today after an extended absence. In doing so, however, he only served to convey his utter disregard for conventional mores, as well as a total lack of even the slightest hint of regret for his extended period of silence. Still despite it all, you continue on hopefully: During his two week absence, you ask, has Ed been busy building up a treasure trove of columns, with copious amounts of research and witty insight into EPL matches, to enlighten his devoted and long suffering farlieonfootie readership in the future? Have several long trips back and forth between Florida and England to view games worn Ed out so much that he found himself thoroughly fatigued and unable to type up even the barest of match reports for his adoring throng of fans? Did the overwhelming pressure of the unrelenting farlieonfootie deadline take its toll on poor Ed? Nothing quite so glamorous or intriguing, it seems. Instead, Ed has been otherwise engaged: "...in NY for a tax seminar and to meet some clients, got sick, ...etc., etc., etc.". So there you have it: Ed's explanation in full, etc.'s included. Not surprising, perhaps, but revealing for sure, the lack of inner fortitude and desire etched painfully in each of his very words. But fear not: Ed promises to return soon, maybe even as soon as this weekend, to check in with his thoughts on Spurs' travels to Old Trafford for a game of some relative import. Unless another tax seminar gets in the way. So don't hold your breath, I say, but you can always hope. Now onto the game: both sides displaying their youth squads in full tonight, with the kids on the pitch averaging somewhere between 23/24 years of age. It's difficult as the teams walk onto the pitch to distinguish between the children who join the players for the traditional pre-game handshakes and the players themselves. Tomas Rosicky, the captain and old man of Arsenal, actually has to be pushed out onto the pitch in a wheelchair and dodders around the field for much of the night with the help of a cane. Well not actually, but you get the point; neither team is brandishing its most experienced players this evening. Which begs the question: if not even Newcastle is playing its front line players, why do we still bother to stage the League Cup? Is winning this particular trophy less important than winning one of 38 regular season games (even if the next team up for the Geordies is Sunderland)? Some may call me a snob, but I can understand why teams like Arsenal and Man United use the Cup to gain experience for some of their younger players due to their significant squad depth, but if even Newcastle and Wolves are using it to play their second and third tier players it may be time to consider putting the tournament to bed. Permanently. Although I do have to say that last year's semi-final matches between United and City were some of the best matches of the entire football year. So maybe I take it back. Sort of.
Back to the game again, it's Arsenal spurning all sorts of opportunities in the early going, and it could easily be game over by the 10 minute mark. But as if trying to prove the point that these are not their most experienced eleven, the score remains frustratingly tied at 0. That is, until it doesn't. On the stroke of halftime Newcastle produce a comedy of errors that include the goalie whiffing on a relatively easy catch, a defender clearing the missed ball off the line, and then a humiliating own goal as the clearance rebounds off the back of the aformentioned goalie's head for a 1-nil Arsenal lead. As I've intimated already, not the best soccer I've ever seen.... The second Arsenal goal is almost equally bizarre, as a clearly offside Nicklas Bendtner is allowed to remain such, as an onside Theo Walcott chases down a long pass toward the Geordie goal before depositing it in the back. Although Bendtner is supposedly uninvolved in the play, he does manage to get entangled with a chasing Newcastle defender in his attempt to stay away from the play, interference if I've ever seen it but not, apparently, according to the referee. 2-nil to the Gunners. In a reversal of the ususal style, the big name players come on late substitutes, with Andy Carroll, Jonas Guttierez and Cesc Fabregas all joining the game in the second half. Only the latter stamps his presence on the game, as Fabregas' assist to Bendtner seals the game for Arsenal, 3-nil. Walcott, feeling hard done by Bendtner's brace, scores one of his own in the 88th minute to wrap up the scoring, his sixth goal in six games this season.
The game ends 4-nil to the Gunners, who are still overwhelmingly young, but a bit more experienced by evening's end. As I said, not the best. But a helluva lot better than attending a tax seminar. I'm farlieonfootie for October 28.