Saturday 21 April 2018

Podolski shatters Sky Blues' dreams

Arsenal 4 Coventry City 0

Lukas Podolski celebrates as he scores Arsenal's second goal with a header at the Emirates Stadium
Lukas Podolski celebrates as he scores Arsenal's second goal with a header at the Emirates Stadium
Lukas Podolski rises to score Arsenal's second goal with a header
Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in action against Coventry City at the Emirates Stadium

Henry Winter

Some of the lights briefly went out, some of Coventry's attacks were really threatening in the second half, and there was a one-man pitch invasion by a visiting fan protesting against the club's controversial owners.

But nothing could stop Arsenal advancing inexorably into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Wenger's conspiracy-theorist tendencies will doubtless note that the fifth-round draw will be made by Spurs' Andros Townsend tomorrow, but the Gunners will meet whoever they get confidently.

Lukas Podolski is back in prolific business, scoring twice in the first half while the substitutes Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla doubled Arsenal's lead.

Reports emerging from Germany signal that Arsenal are still actively pursuing their interest in the 20-year-old playmaker Julian Draxler from Schalke.

But this game was all about another German international – Podolski. It was also about Coventry fans' protests. More than 5,000 of them journeyed to the Emirates, many of them veterans of their team's 6-1 defeat in the League Cup here last season.

They are used to travelling south, having to make the 35-mile trip to Sixfields in Northampton as crazy politics preclude their use of the Ricoh.

Coventry's supporters made their point about wanting the owners, Sisu, out of the club and voicing their desire to return to the Ricoh. Their team were up against it early on. Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were controlling central midfield.

Serge Gnaby was linking well with Carl Jenkinson on the right. Mesut Ozil was in the hole, from where he created Podolski's goal after 14 minutes shortly after Coventry fans had felt emboldened enough by their team's brief passing excursion to chant "ole".

MOVEMENT

After Per Mertesacker intercepted Danny Seaborne's pass, Wilshere took up the running, playing the ball through the middle to Ozil, who was already looking around for Podolski's movement.

Ozil played the ball accurately towards his compatriot, who rounded Joe Murphy before lashing the ball into the net.

Arsenal soon pushed forward again, scoring a second. Again their neat passing swept the ball down the pitch, the ball shepherded by Laurent Koscielny to Ozil and on to Kieran Gibbs, who won a corner.

The goal was an all-German affair: Gnabry curled the corner to the near-post, Mertesacker headed on to the far-post where Podolski had the simple duty of nodding in.

Carl Baker was increasingly influential for Coventry after the break, sending Leon Clarke through but he shot at Lukas Fabianski under pressure from Koscielny. Arsenal should have made it 3-0 on the hour-mark: Nicklas Bendtner had time and space but utterly wasted the opportunity. Coventry still had chances, Billy Daniels going close.

Wenger shook up his team, sending on Cazorla and Gedion Zelalem for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the anonymous Bendtner, the prince of fresh air shots. The Berlin-born Zelalem went into central midfield alongside Wilshere but Arsenal still need shaking from their complacency.

Coventry were delighting their fans, Clarke attacking again, Cyrus Christie flying down the right again, and Baker having an ambitious long-range shot

Wenger paid Coventry the compliment of sending on Olivier Giroud for the final 12 minutes, replacing the tiring Podolski.

Ozil also looked ready for a breather judging by the way he gave up when Christie flew past him with eight minutes remaining. But Arsenal did have their third when Cazorla passed to Gibbs, who picked out Giroud. The Frenchman finished strongly past Murphy, and Cazorla got a fourth late on to compelte the rout. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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