Arsenal's recovery from Sunday's Carling Cup disappointment began apace as they comfortably brushed aside Leyton Orient in the FA Cup 5th Round replay at what was a pretty sterile Emirates Stadium last night.
Arsene Wenger gave a debut to 19 year old Conor Henderson while Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick as the Gunners put five past the League 1 outfit to secure a quarter-final tie away to Manchester United on Saturday week.
After Marouane Chamakh broke his goal drought - stretching back to November - by turning in a Tomas Rosicky cross, it looked as if this would be one of those nights where the team's technical proficiency would be far too much for their lower league counterparts to handle (it's been a while since we've had one of those games).
And so it proved. Orient's Alex Revell missed a great opportunity after finding an entire postcode's worth of space in the penalty area. With the chance squandered, Arsenal continued to pass the ball around at their leisure. Bendtner scored his first after a fine header from a looping Kieran Gibbs cross, and added his second soon before half-time. Rosicky caught the Orient back-line dwelling on the ball, and with plenty still to do, Bendtner found the far corner of Jamie Jones's net.
Truth is, Arsenal never moved out of second gear in the first-half. They never needed to. And returning to the pitch, already 3-0 up, there was no need for the players to over-exert themselves. If the match was like a reserve game in the first-half, it resembled a pre-season contest in the second. With the result already secure, both Abou Diaby & Kieran Gibbs had the freedom to go on mazy dribbles into the box. While Diaby was predictably wasteful with his finish, Gibbs was brought down and Bendtner fired home the penalty. Goal number five was a collector's item from Gael Clichy, but he deserves credit for what was a good finish.
We shouldn't be too churlish about this result. After all, win's a win's and we still remain in with a chance of winning three competitions. But this was not the panacea that the club needed to shake them out of the malaise that is still apparent from Sunday. All yesterday did was prevent the misery from becoming even worse.
Bendtner has a habit of going on a scoring streak in the latter part of the season, and with Robin Van Persie sidelined for most of March, let's hope it's a habit that continues. There was also a good performance from Rosicky, who looked as lively as I've seen him this season. But even that raised the question, "where was that performance on Sunday?"
And therein lies the problem. As a club, the wounds from Wembley still haven't healed yet. Leyton Orient was a game that we were always going to win. The measure of Arsenal's recovery will be how the side perform in the next 10 days. Sunderland at home, and then Barcelona & Manchester United away. We won't be able to make a judgement on Arsenal's recovery until then.
Man Of The Match
Nicklas Bendtner - For someone who's considered something of an egomaniac, it should be pointed out that Bendtner has to often play in an unfamiliar wide-right position. And yet not once do we ever hear him complain about that. He's kicked up a fuss when he's been on the bench, but every player wants to contribute. When he pulls on an Arsenal shirt, his commitment is unquestionable, no matter where Wenger asks him to play. He took his goals with real aplomb, and Arsenal will need him to carry on this form in the business end of the season.
Almunia - 7, Eboue - 7, Squillaci - 6 Miquel - 6, Gibbs - 7, Denilson - 6, Diaby - 6 (Clichy - 7), Rosicky - 7 (Nasri - 7), Bendtner - 8 (Wilshere - 6), Chamakh - 6, Henderson - 6