Even now, well over 48 hours on from the event, Tuesday night’s events at the Madejski Stadium remain difficult to make sense of.
The 7-5 victory over Reading in the Capital One Cup must have been particularly incomprehensible for the younger players who were involved in the fixture despite being on the fringes of the first-team squad, and, for many of them, it was a rather mixed night with the performance levels of the majority of the side suddenly experiencing a dramatic increase midway through the second half of normal time.
Goalkeeper Damian Martinez, who was making just his second senior appearance for the club, will not look back on the night with any fondness, though. In fact, had it not been for the seemingly improbable scoreline, the Argentine could be said to have had a night to forget, as he conceded five goals, making a significant contribution himself to the concession of Reading’s third as he palmed Mikele Leigertwood’s strike into his own goal. Shambolic defending did of course play a significant part in proceedings, but Martinez was just as culpable for the majority of the goals and his performance emphasised why he hasn’t been selected in the Premier League despite Vito Mannone’s poor form of late.
At just 20 years old, Martinez has much time on his side, but he also learnt the hard way during his one-game loan spell with Oxford United at the end of last season as he conceded three poor goals. He has many strengths, though, such as his superb reflexes, a monstrous goal-kick and, usually, Tuesday night’s game not withstanding, a calm persona when in goal. It is suspected that he will be seeking to impress more than most if he is called upon against Bradford in the Quarter-Finals.
In contrast, midfielder Thomas Eisfeld, who came on for his debut in the second half, caught the eye with his passing and direct running and, in some quarters, was praised for helping to swing the game in Arsenal’s favour alongside fellow substitute Olivier Giroud. Now over the injury problems that dogged him during his first six months in North London, Eisfeld looks ready for senior action of some kind, although a loan spell is likely to be in the offing before any first-team breakthrough is made.
Eisfeld’s compatriot Serge Gnabry failed to make a sustained impression, save for a couple of efforts on goal, and, like Liverpool’s prodigiously talented winger Raheem Sterling is beginning to discover, it becomes increasingly difficult to make a sustained impact once the opposition is aware of your qualities. Gnabry can look forward to plenty more first-team action this campaign, particularly if Theo Walcott, Arsenal’s hat-trick hero against Reading, departs in January.
There was also a debut on Tuesday for diminutive left-back Jernade Meade. A player who twice came close to being released by the club in recent seasons, Meade has been one of the star turns at U21 and Reserve level over the past couple of campaigns, impressing with his composure on the ball allied with his technical awareness. However, further improvement will probably be needed if he is to make the breakthrough in the long-term, with Arsene Wenger keen to promote 16 year old scholar Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, also a left-back, as quickly as possible.