Time marches on so briskly at Arsenal that Jérémie Aliadière is no longer regarded as a youngster. And the 23-year-old forward stepped up last night as the guiding light of a side wet behind the ears even by the standards of his manager's radical Carling Cup ways.
Aliadière scored twice to ensure smooth passage at West Bromwich Albion, who were reminded of the Premiership's perils as their sequence of four successive wins was ended. The team just taken over by Tony Mowbray had their moments but were picked off in a manner to support Arsène Wenger's belief that he could be about to lift this trophy for the first time.
More of his talented next generation were on show: Matthew Connolly and the impressive Brazilian Under-19 captain, Denilson, while Theo Walcott, on the right, marked his first full game by seeing a late shot tipped wide by Russell Hoult. It was a bold selection and Wenger said: "I was worried that if it didn't work, we might lose and confidence would drop. But it was a great performance. Denilson has a tremendous presence and Jérémie was very mobile."
In an Albion side showing six changes of their own, Nathan Ellington crossed well for Jonathan Greening to slice a volley over before Manuel Almunia dived to palm away his stinging 25-yard free-kick.
Arsenal's inconvenience at losing Emmanuel Adebayor to a thigh injury that may rule him out of the match with Everton at the weekend did not stop them taking a 33rd-minute lead. Aliadière dashed into the area from the left and was clipped by Steve Watson. The Frenchman steered his penalty low beyond Hoult.
Aliadière missed a clear chance to add a second before perfectly anticipating the delivery of Walcott's 49th-minute free-kick to angle a sweet first-time shot into the bottom corner.
When Albion did find a way through a defence well led by Philippe Senderos on his return, Greening shot over after a one-two with Diomansy Kamara.
"Arsenal's technical ability and athleticism are something we won't see in the Championship," Mowbray said. "It's a benchmark for us because Arsenal play where we want to be."
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Watson, Davies, McShane, Robinson; Greening, Chaplow (Gera, 58), Quashie (Albrechtsen, 68), Carter (Kamara, 36); Hartson, Ellington. Substitutes not used: Steele (gk), Wallwork.
Arsenal (4-4-2): Almunia; Connolly, Senderos, Djourou, Clichy; Walcott, Song, Denilson, Flamini; Adebayor (Traoré, 24), Aliadière. Substitutes not used: Poom (gk), O'Cearuill, Randall, Simpson.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).Reuse content