Arsenal fail in final but seek 'massive targets'
Arsenal have yet again failed to taste the silver metal which they had been hankering for six long years. The phrase ‘six year drought’ still remains tagged to the burden of the team. Arsenal missed a glorious opportunity to end this drought by winning the Carling cup in Wembley against Birmingham. Hot favorites to win the trophy which could have been the springboard for greater success in the near future, Arsenal slipped the title right from their hands to Birmingham who won their first major title since 48 years when they won the same competition.
Birmingham City, on the other hand, considered ‘minnows’ against Arsenal, played with great courage and solid defensive skills which often left Arsenal fall back the line and create less chances. They were also lively at attack creating chances which always troubled the Arsenal defense. Arsenal started the game without their inspirational captain, Cesc Fabregas and ceative attacking winger, Theo Walcott, both out injured leaving Arsenal’s creative responsibility to Samir Nasri and young Jack Wilshere.
Like most of the cup finals, both the teams tried to dominate the game right from the start. Arsenal were the superior side creating some half-chances. Samir Nasri, Robin van Persie and Andey Arshavin played with their exclusive ‘Arsenal-like passes’ and kept the Birmingham defense busy.
Despite being the underdogs, it was Birmingham who drew the first blood. It was a simple enough goal: Sebastian Larsson picked out Roger Johnson with a right-wing corner, he nodded goalwards and Zigic rose high to flick a header past Szczesny despite the best attempts of Nasri on the line. That goal almost started to haunt Arsenal, who created some close chances before Robin van Persie came to the rescue.
Wilshere made it possible with a surging run and a thumping drive that crashed off the crossbar and Arshavin collected the rebound and wriggled past his marker to cross for Van Persie to volley into the corner. Arsenal were all-square six minutes before half time.
Second half, and both teams came out fresh to start all over again. The game had its usual flow with both teams creating chances and keeping the opposition defense busy. Injured while scoring, van Persie was substituted for Bendtner who almost scored when his shot got deflected but was saved by Birmingham keeper Foster. Foster also made a good save when he punched away Nasri’s venomous strike around the Birmingham box.
The game was looking forward to extra-time when the unexpected happened. With one minute left on the clock, a long free-kick from Ben Foster was flicked on by Nikola Zigic and seemed destined for the arms of Wojciech Szczesny. But the keeper, distracted by Laurent Koscielny’s attempt to clear, fumbled the ball into Obafemi Martins’ path. Martin, who just acme on as a sub, slotted the winner coolly into the net. From then, Arsenal had no chance to come back into the game and at final whistle, it was an emphatic Birmingham side emerging as champions.
All is not over…
Carling cup, according to Arsene Wenger is a second string competition. There are even bigger challenges ahead with the Premier League and the Champions League which are “massive targets”, as quoted by Wenger. Arsenal are still vying for other trophies from three fronts. Arsenal play the FA Cup replay at home against Leyton Orient which if they win, will face Manchester United in the next round. They also have a big chance to close down the gap to 1 point of leaders Manchester United, who lost to Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal again face Barcelona away at Nou Camp in the return leg of the Champions League already winning the home leg 2-1.
Tough road ahead….
The major problem which has haunted Arsenal in the past few seasons which denied them trophies has started to grab them again. Injuries to the teams most successful players this season, Cesc Fabregas, Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie is a big concern for the team. With Walcott and Robin van Persie already out of the Barcelona tie, captain Fabregas is doubtful to be fit by then. It seems to be yet again a difficult challenge to a young but talented Arsenal squad who are yet to win ‘something’ for the team.