Relief all round as Arsenal tame the Shrews
Lowest ever crowd at the Emirates sees the Gunners come from behind against League Two minnows
Arsenal 3 Shrewsbury Town 1. It's a sign of the times that Gunners fans breathe a sigh of relief at the successful defeat of League Two opposition. But that was the case at the Emirates on Tuesday night when Arsenal hosted Shrewsbury Town in the third round of the Carling Cup.
Shrewsbury had beaten Port Vale in the league on Saturday and for the first 30 minutes of their Cup encounter against Arsenal the 'Shrews' were once again dominant.
They should have gone one up early on when Mark Wright's shot hit the post, but then on 16 minutes the visitors did take the lead when James Collins rose above a leaden-footed Arsenal defence to head the ball past Lukasz Fabianski.
The goal stunned the crowd of 46,539 (the lowest attendance at the Emirates since it opened in 2006) and minutes later Reuben Hazell came agonisingly close to doubling the Shrews' advantage when he headed inches wide.
Arsenal to their credit regrouped and equalised on 33 minutes when Carl Jenkinson's cross was headed home by Kieran Gibbs. But it wasn't until midway through the second half that Wenger's inexperienced side finally took control of the tie.
First 18-year-old summer signing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain got lucky with a long-range shot that found the net after a fumble from Shrewsbury keeper Ben Smith. And Yossi Benayoun put the game beyond reach of the plucky visitors on 78 minutes, benefiting from a mazy run from 18-year-old substitute Oguzhan Ozyakup on the right flank.
"It was a bit nervy because we played against a good side," said Wenger. "I said before the game that the lower divisions have improved in the last five years and you could see that. They were direct but not without technique."
While Wenger was gracious to the visitors, and complimentary of the resilience shown by a young Arsenal side, the Frenchman's mood darkened when reporters asked him about the vote of confidence he'd received earlier in the day from Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal's chief executive.
Gazidis had told delegates at a Sport Industry Breakfast Club that Wenger would not be sacked, and when asked for his response the Arsenal manager replied: "Whether I work here for the next 10 years or the next day here, I will give my maximum for the club. I will let other people assess the situation.
"I focus on doing well for this club, that is all. I am not bothered at all by all this speculation... I can understand that people are unhappy and criticise, but people are very quick to go overboard."