Wenger to end trophy drought but fall short of big prizes


Arsenal have reached their first cup final in three years after overcoming a resilient Ipswich side in what turned out to be a comfortable night at the Emirates. What’s more striking is Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to go full throttle for the cup he so often dismissed as a ‘mickey mouse trophy’.

So what has changed for Wenger, has his opinion changed or has his hand been forced? The Gunners are overwhelming favourites in sports betting markets to lift the trophy in three weeks time against Birmingham City and this new-found determination to succeed in all competitions has surprised most with Wenger traditionally concentrating on the league title and Champions League.

Arsenal remain in the hunt for the Premier League title, face Birmingham in the League Cup final, take on Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League and have been handed an FA Cup fifth round trip to Leyton Orient.

However, the road to a successful climax may not come without problems as Wenger admitted after Samir Nasri suffered a hamstring injury against Huddersfield which will sideline him for at least three weeks. Fellow midfielder Denilson also fell victim to injury, forcing Wenger to consider bringing back a number of the young players he sent out on loan. Wenger said:

“History shows it’s extremely difficult. It’s difficult to tell my players not to go for this competition and that competition now as we are in there. We can’t pick and choose; we want to go for everything. It’s the important part of the season not to lose your players – when you go into the final sprint, it’s important you have all your best players available.”

Wenger may be taking a different view as the has served as a stepping stone for other clubs who have gone on to greater success after lifting the Carling Cup. When Liverpool won their cup treble in 2001, it was the League cup that started it all off.

When Manchester United endured a difficult transitional period after the departures of lynchpins Roy Keane and David Beckham, it was the Carling Cup in 2006 that gave their new breed the taste for silverware and their old-guard a reminder of what it was like to win trophies. Ferguson’s men went from strength to strength, reclaiming the Premier League trophy in 2007 and going on to win the Champions League the following season.

When Jose Mourinho took over Chelsea in 2004 he put an awful lot of emphasis on the Carling Cup, which was his first trophy in England and was the much-needed confidence boost that led Chelsea to their first league triumph in 50 years.

The 50-year-old, triple-handled trophy was also the start of the recent success of Tottenham Hotspur, who have gone on to finish in the top four in the Premier League for the first time. This, after reaching consecutive Carling Cup finals in 2008 (beating Chelsea) and 2009 (losing to Manchester United) is further testament to the competition.

It could also be suggested that the League Cup is a more attractive competition than the FA Cup nowadays with the final held in February and the opportunity to blood youngsters in the earlier rounds. So maybe this is why Monsieur Wenger has changed his tune.

While Arsenal continue to cover United’s old ground in the Carling Cup, it seems as though Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have their sights set on equalling a record set by Arsene Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ of 2004 whereby they completed the entire season without a single defeat.

United are, to the surprise of many, still unbeaten in the league and have not been defeated in over 10 months, Chelsea being the last side to taste victory over United.

The Red Devils are growing in confidence of late after hard-fought victories at West Brom, along with an incredible comeback to beat Premier League new boys Blackpool 3-2.

But Wenger feels the Old Trafford club have been riding their luck at best this season. He said:

“Have they been a bit lucky until now? Certainly, but we’ll see. I believe it is too long to go to say they will do it, but you cannot rule it out. They are solid defensively at the moment more than offensively. So at the moment they get through games.”

Asked when United could be considered contenders to emulate Arsenal’s achievement, he added:

With five games to go, you think, ‘We can add something to that’. But you don’t think about that with 16 games to go.”

With the Gunners coming face to face with Catalonian foes Barcelona once again in the Champions League, it is difficult to see them coming out on top. Wenger’s side typically pick up injuries galore at this point of the season and with their injury list growing, their assault on the Premier League and Champions League may well fall short once again.

The Frenchman has failed to address his problem in central defence in this transfer window and with first-choice goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski also out for the foreseeable future with a shoulder injury, he is already short of numbers.

So, ‘what’s more likely; Manchester United going unbeaten or Arsenal winning the lot?’ I hear you ask. Well with United hitting top form just at the right time and Arsenal picking up the injuries at just the wrong time, it looks more and more likely that United will go unbeaten while Arsenal struggle to compete for the top honours once again.

Share this article


  • The BearMan says:

    If only we could get the personal correct, Arsenal ought to have could three quality teams(not players from the bargain bucket). An A & B made up with players from the first team and a Reserve side challenging for the Carling Cup. It is a great idea, but wrong personal.

    Arsenal still has much room for improvements, but for what ever reason we are moving at snails pace, and potentially good youngsters are being distracted and moving away.

Comments are closed.