Feb 272011

Before I start, let me congratulate Birmingham. I suspect a lot of their fans will be reading articles from every angle in order to soak up their glorious day, and that includes Arsenal blogs. At the end of the day, they were the better team and fully deserved their victory. They were dead on their feet at the end, precisely as you should be, and did not win by roughing us up or playing outside the law. They hassled and harried for ninety minutes, never gave up, and got their rewards. Fair play.

But I’m not a Birmingham fan, so even typing those words is painful. Six years without a trophy was supposed to end today, and that isn’t some arrogant dismissal of Birmingham – the simple fact is that we were heavy favourites and had we played as well as we have in recent games we’d be celebrating the barren run coming to an end. That it didn’t happen is bad enough – losing any cup final is a horrible experience – but the manner of the defeat made it a hundred times worse. Koscielny and Szczesny, two of our best performers in recent times, will be having nightmares about the winning goal, which came so late that there could be no response.

Forget that this was supposed to be a stepping stone, a platform for bigger and better things. That notion is utterly irrelevant, and far more disrespectful to the Carling Cup than any team selection. It was a cup final, a chance for silverware, and we blew it in the final moments. Birmingham were not threatening to score anymore – they were shattered, heavy-legged and hanging on, and we were moments from putting them through another half an hour, where surely our superior fitness would have given us the crucial advantage. But their resilience was keeping them in it, and when they sent forward another clearance, Zigic won yet another flick on. The header seemed harmless enough, dropping towards keeper and defender, but Koscielny made to clear it before pulling out at the last second, and Szczesny was sufficiently put off to fumble the ball sideways, where Martins, on as a fresh substitute and eager for scraps, was waiting for the simple tap in. Half the stadium went ballistic, the other half collapsed in despair. The game was up, and we knew it.

At the end, you could see how much the defeat hurt – the players were distraught, not least Jack Wilshere, who broke down in tears at the final whistle. His time will come, no doubt about it, but ironically it is on his young shoulders that a huge burden now sits – he is exactly the type of driven character we need to help pick the team off the floor and keep fighting. We are still in three competitions but within a few weeks, we could be out of them all if we allow this to linger. On the other hand, a positive, anger-fuelled reaction could lead us to other trophies before the season is up. Wallowing is not an option.

It was an attritional game from start to finish. We didn’t play particularly well in the first half, and were somewhat fortunate to be level at the break. Within a couple of minutes, Bowyer was sent through and Szczesny took him out in the area, before being saved by an erroneous offside flag. A penalty it most certainly was, but a red card would have been wrong, in my opinion, as Bowyer was heading away from goal and two defenders had the time to cover on the line. I’m not saying Mike Dean wouldn’t have sent him off, just that if he had, I would’ve considered it a mistake. Either way, it was a massive let off.

At the other end, we were creating half chances – Arshavin spun and shot at Foster, before Djourou missed a free header from a corner. Otherwise, we couldn’t get out of the centre third – Birmingham were controlling the ball and hassling us successfully when we had it, and they got their reward when Zigic nodded past Szczesny after a corner had been headed back into the danger area. It was poor defending – Zigic had three men around him but no-one marking him or standing between him and the ball – as soon as we saw it landing on his head, we knew there was only to be one outcome.

In fairness, our response was decent – Van Persie nearly provided an instant riposte when his header from Sagna’s cross floated just wide, but Birmingham were still threatening at the other end, and nearly doubled their lead when Zigic was found with space in the area. Fortunately, the giant isn’t as good on the ground and took enough time to get the ball out of his feet for Szczesny to close him down and make an excellent smother. It seemed a critical moment, even more so when we levelled just five minutes later. A fine counter attack saw Wilshere crack a terrific effort off the bar, and when the ball came back to Arshavin, he make space for himself before clipping the ball back to Van Persie, who expertly volleyed home with his chocolate leg. It was a stunning effort, but it came at a heavy price – challenged by a defender at the same moment as striking the ball, he appeared to jar his knee and would eventually be forced off. There are rumours that he might have ligament damage, but we have to wait for confirmation.

After struggling for most of the first half, we ended it in the ascendancy – Nasri stung Foster’s fingers from range, and Birmingham were getting tetchy, Larsson booked for dissent as they came under pressure for the first time. We knew we had to up the pace in the second half, but somehow it didn’t happen – we created fleeting chances, but never forced Foster into top saves, only routine ones. He made plenty – Nasri had a couple of long range efforts turned away, while Bendtner and Rosicky were also denied – but they were all saves you would expect him to make. Meanwhile, Birmingham can rightly claim to have come far closer to scoring when Fahey lashed a shot against the inside of the post.

As the minutes ticked away, extra time seemed inevitable, and with Birmingham players cramping, it seemed an opportunity to turn the screw. But as minds turned to the additional half an hour, we made one horrendous mistake, and the cup was gone.

It is very easy to start pointing fingers, especially as both goals were defensive lapses, but at the end of the day this was a cup final, and nerves can make even the best players make stupid mistakes or daft decisions. It happens, and until we start winning silverware, that tentativeness will always be a threat. We all know that trophies come in bursts, and while it was hoped this would be the first of ours, it wasn’t to be. It hurts like hell, for us, for the players, for the manager, but this is not the time for recriminations. We don’t have time for that, as much as anything.

Predictably, however, there are those that cannot take disappointment without calling for half the team to be sold and Wenger to be sacked. To them, the fact these players were good enough to beat Barcelona ten days ago is irrelevant, as is the fact we even made it to the final. I’ve heard numerous people claim Koscielny is a waste of space, which is frankly moronic – the guy has been superb in recent times, and was an absolute rock against Barcelona. Yes, he has made a few mistakes this season but is improving rapidly. I listen to people talking about how he should be replaced, how Szczesny should be shipped out for Given (yes, really) and I wonder how many brain cells they’ve got between them. I can only imagine how it frustrates the manager.

But what really bugs me is that this presents more ammunition for the pundits who love to harp on about how long it has been since we lifted a trophy. Prior to the match, the BBC showed a great interview with Wenger, where he explained how he rejected the clamour to spend millions on a keeper because he knew it would set Szczesny back, and even the most anti-Arsenal pundits (that’ll be Alan Hansen) credited him for it, before saying that we could dominate English football for the next five years.

Ninety minutes of football later, and all that changed, in their minds at least. Suddenly we had reverted to having no leaders, no keeper and no commanding centre back. Wenger’s only option was to buy, buy, buy. This from paid analysts who two hours earlier were acknowledging that while the policy caused short term frustration, it was perfect in the long run and would lead to us becoming England’s top club. Fickleness knows no bounds.

The internet is awash with reactionary nonsense, no more so than after a painful defeat. But we’re in this together – players, manager, staff, fans, everyone is gutted tonight. But it is done – what matters now is the reaction. Leyton Orient, you’d better be fucking ready.

  46 Responses to “A painful defeat, and a howler that cannot derail the season”

  1. A shameful indictment of this team and their character. Mass clear out in the summer required and build future teams around Wilshire. Wenger needs to go, he refuses to teach them how to defend! We’ve seen these type of goals conceded again and again and again. Wenger is negligent and needs to step aside now.

    • *sigh*

      Name me one manager who could have maintained our position in the upper echelons of Europe during the financial crippling stadium build. Go on.

      Did you watch the Barcelona game? Did you watch our defending in that game?

      • The classic response of the Arsene not Arsenal fan.

        • Wow.

          So because I disagree with you, I’m not an Arsenal fan?


          We all have our opinions, and we don’t have to agree. That doesn’t stop us being fans.

          You didn’t answer any of my questions, incidentally.

          • I can think of several managers that would have maintained finishing 4th every season, given we’re London’s top club. I responded in the way I did because you gave a *sigh* to what I said. Not the response to give if you want a rational debate. Which let’s face it I and many others aren’t going to have at the moment. But am just sick to death of the defending of Wenger no matter what – did you see that today? He needs criticism in the way that Terry Neill did, Don Howe did, George Graham did, Bruce Rioch did. Why must Wenger be above it all? He’s just a fallible man that has made some blatantly awful decisions today.

            • Jekyll, you’re a Troll… The loss isn’t purely the managers fault..

              • I do believe a troll doesn’t make considered responses… by your criteria anyone that doesn’t touch the hem of Wenger’s garment is a troll. Farcical. I was a Junior Gunner when it first started back in 1983 by the way.

              • Yes it is Wenger’s fault. He has had the money to address the defensive and goalkeeper frailties but has done nothing. But aside from that my main issue with him, and the reason I am done, is his choice of Rosicky to run the midfield instead of nasri, who had beaten BHam twice this season at CM and beaten England with France at M on that very ground. In the build up to the game all the talk in the papers was about whether Jack or Samir would play CM. I really do believe Wenger put Rosicky there to prove everyone wrong. His lineup and formation decisions are increasingly reminding me of Raymond Domenech. Yes, if he left it would be bad in the long run. It is more difficult to maintain a top four place than win a cup. But it will all be forgotten if they don’t win anything, ever. And until the defensive frailties are addressed they won’t

            • I apologise if me sighing made it seem that I wasn’t taking you seriously. I was, but I sighed because yours was a response I expected and explained in the piece why I disagreed with.

              You didn’t answer my Barcelona point. The defending on that day was awesome, which is why games like that are always ignored by people making your argument.

              What bugs me the most is that the Sack Wenger brigade pop up after every defeat ad if defeats are unthinkable. Where have you been during our two and a half month league unbeaten run? It annoys me that I get silence through that and then everyone appears after a defeat.

              I agree Wenger made mistakes. Playing Rosicky was one. Putting him in the middle another. But I couldn’t disagree stronger that the grass is greener.

        • Jekyll…. You are completely misguided and wrong. What happened for the second goal was nothing to do with Wenger or his philosophy. It was a catostrophic error unforeseen by anyone. Just one of those incomprehensible things. They happen and it is heartbreaking. However if anyone is to blame it is people like you who constantly heap such enormous and unreasonable pressure on the players that it makes mistakes more likely to happen. I don’t care if we do not win a trophy this year or next, I am proud of the way our club is being run and I salute our manager for his high principles and moral courage.

          • It happens and happens again and again against Arsenal because Wenger doesn’t drilll the defence. Lee Dixon said it, the defence is a shambles and once again its been found out when it really matters. You mindlessly believe the hype if you want to about the ‘high principles’ that mean the highest ticket prices in world football.

            Unreasonable pressure? What a joke. If they can’t handle it they shouldn’t be there.

          • rightly said Mick..

          • mick ya sound like that crazy screaming woman from the Simpsons “But what about the CHILDREN!?” – “NOBODY COULD SEE IT COMING!!” Are you for real? For the last 6/7/8/9 seasons people have been talking about how Arsenals defence is a shambles – when Mourinho first won the League Arsenal were way out in front in November but were shipping goals like crazy – Henry said at the time “In every game we feel like we have to score 4 or 5 just to draw”…. Do you understand what it takes to fuckin win? Not 90% possession! Not 300 shots on goal! but clinical atttacking,, clinical defending and a knack for winning – something which Wenger ultimately lacks. IN ARSENE WE RUST.

            • its funny how jekkyll and most of his friends think that if we only hired a Harry Redknapp we would win everything we looked at.

              You all loved Chesney before this, what will you do the day Wishere has a bad day at the office? Sell him too?

      • Wenger must go! No half decent manager would have played Rocisky behind the striker. The guy can not score. Arsenal will not win anything as long as Wenger is Manager. Beating Barcelona 2-1 in the first leg does not win you cups! Wenger is useless!!

  2. We r gonna lose in the 2nd leg. Anyway. We r so rubbish. Off with wengers head. Ahoy.

  3. great article mate we just need to pick oursellves up these thhings happen

  4. haaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhahahhahhhahhahhahhahhahahah

  5. hahahahhahhhahahhahahhahahhahhahha

  6. hahahhahahahhahahhahhahhahaha

  7. to be honest I don’t no where we go from here, why are arsenal so bad at defending… We lose every ball in the air, we shit brick it everytime somebody smashed a long ball in to the box. Wenger must stay!!!!! He must, if we lose wenger I feel it really could get worse, we still have wilshere, we must build round this guy. He is the best young player I have ever seen in my life.

  8. leighton orient?????????ffs is that what we r reduced to? i was so pleased as a fan to see us beat barca but now i am gutted.todays result now makes the barca result seem like it was a fluke……i admire what wenger has done in THE PAST but 4 6 seasons he has brainwashed us saying he believes in this team.he is wrong not to strengthen the team when he had the chance..
    rosicky is crap,how long will he recieve wages???we have tooooooooooo many weak links in the team & our b team is not good enough.
    all i am waiting for now is the barca second leg…….to see if it was really a fluke

  9. We should call Arsenal – Aldi-nal – we just buy cheap brand footballers and expect them to play brilliantly. The funny thing is – in the last 6 years weve sepnt over 500 million in salaries -so how does Wenger rationalise his economic “sobriety”?

    Look the truth is Wengers not a winner, or a proper football coach. He should be put in charge of youth develoment and let the likes of Hiddink take over.

    All off you psychophant “In Arsene We Trust” dickheads need to realise we’ll never win a trophy with Wenger ever again.

    Is it 4-4-2? 4-4-1-1? 4-2-3-1? 4-5-1??….Absolute nonsense.

    I’m an Arsenal fan – have been for 25 years – IM NOT AN ARSENE WENGER LICK ARSE. Its time for him to go.


    • to know who a sycophant is, please look into a mirror and and think about all the baseless accusations you’ve just made in your post and tell me if it isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

    • What on earth make you think hiddink would come to us?
      His ‘uk club’ ties are with chavski!

  10. hahahahahahahahahhhhhhhhhhhhh

  11. i think its already derailed the season. The reality- this team has no leadership without Fabregas. We have good players, but noone knows how to control the game when Fab is out. We can’t even beat Leyton Orient without Fabregas! Wilshere played well, Arsh and RVP had their moments. But the rest especially the back 4 and Rosicky were borderline shameful. Kos is a disgrace to the Arsenal shirt. This loss has crippled the season. I cant’ see this young team with no leadership and no discipline to speak of go on to win the league. UNless Fab miraculously plays every game from here on out, which with his chronic hammy troubles is unlikely.
    Wenger should hold his hands up, his tactics and substitutions were all wrong, what is his fascination with Rosicky he’s terrible?!

    • yeh we need a 40M man to help us! waaaah! quick fix is what we need! like City! Splash like CIty and we will win!

  12. Sack Wenger.. Lol you fools . Who going to replace him.. The grass is always greener. Let me tell you when he finally goes it will be a sad day and none of you Wenger haters can see it. You can point the finger and look for someone to blame but All your venomous comments about the manager aren’t fair. The two center back purchases in the summer weren’t good enough or least one isn’t ready yet but could be by next season .. Remains to be seen and the simple fact is when CF doesn’t play they look lost.

    • You are the blind fool. Any half decent manager would have won today with the Arsenal team we have against Birmingham. Rocisky should not have even been on the bench. Nasri should have played behind Van Persie with Bendtner on the right. I am no coach, but with that formation, Arsenal would have been out of site by the time of the calamity. Why the rubish Czech Republic stayed on the pitch for 90 minutes is beyond comprehension. Only a rubbish manager would make that mistake. Arsenal will never win anything with Wenger! You can take that to the bank

      • surely any half assed manager could of won today, hell, alex Mcleash won a trophy but could any manager do the job Wenger has been doing in the past few years for us? He has achieved things with a shoestring budget what managers like Mancini haven’t with a budget more akin to the GDP of some countries. what his work has done to arsenal would only be truly visible in the long run when he would be long gone and we’d be sitting pretty on top of the football food chain.

      • Agreed. That was the formation that beat them twice. Why change? Because Wenger has to prove everyone wrong. Remember all the goals Nasri scored eariler this season? Playing CM? That’s what we needed yesterday

        • ah yeh you are right, we all hate the team and wenger now, we should sell all the foreginers(especially the french ) and we should just lay down and die!

          And hate! not least hate! lets hate hate hate to our heart stops! lets make a list over all the players we could substitute ours with and send it to AW in the mail!
          And lets not forget LETS HATE, HATE, HAAAATE!!!!

          Am i right?

          • oh and most important hate wenger! hes the main reason we loose all the time. hes the main vilan. hes so shit he cannot even build a team. Hes so shit he does not even understand using 40M a year on players is a must for a winning club.
            Look at United Beba, Rio, Rooney. They were all expensive, without it we cannot win.
            Thats how shit wenger is.
            We should have murino or Redknapp or Saf. Then wed win.
            a half decent manager woudl manage to assemble a team like ours and win. We all know it. Does not have to be a genious to win over Birminghan,

            Not that i care aobut CC its a micky mouse cup but still..


  13. Agreed accidents do happen as it did yesterday, one thing i could not comprehend is what Rosiscky was doing on that pitch for 90 mins. His shooting boots have long deserted him and AW gives him the central midfield role in a cup final! It is high time we said byebye to players like that and those who just sit on the bench and with whom it is glaringly clear will never come on to change the game. Denilson, Eboue and self destroyers like Diaby and Squillachy readily come to mind. What we need are competitive players on the bench who can turn things round when d going gets tough.
    Having said all these, STEP UP JACK WILSHERE, YOU ARE A GEM! Wish other players with more years and experience on the clock wovld take a cue from you.

    • It was Wenger who put Rosicky out there. The entire world figured it would be Jack or Nasri. But Wenger has become the Domenech of England. Samir better reconsider that extension. Clearly he was expecting to play CM and Wenger putting Rosicky there blew the game, and I bet he knows it

  14. The players needed picking up right after the final whistle and the fans in the stadium could have given them this lift. Instead most left the stadium in masses immediately.

    Saw the West Ham-Liverpool match just before the final – right at the end you can here the chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. These are fans who have nothing to look forward to this season (OK maybe the Europa Cup…), yet they were still there cheering thier team even after a horrendous display and a painful 3-1 defeat.

    We Arsenal fans on the other hand will only be there if we win.

    • Well said mate. But I only blame AW for one thing – losing the psychology battle long before the kick-off. In the build up to the game, he had lots of chances to take the spotlight off his team and deflect it onto Birmingham’s capabilities which he didn’t.

      The only threat we had from them was the competitiveness that comes with the tag of being overwhelming underdogs, and a little acknowledgment of their strengths would have gone far in alleviating this. As history has it now, he didn’t, Birmingham came overly prepared to fight, and fight they did! They even caused us to panic?!

      But as it is now, we still have three trophies to fight for and there is absolutely no time for respite. Every match is a cup final and players shud play their socks off in every game. I donnot know y he played Song three consecutive games, is Denilson that bad now?

      Common u Gunners!

      • Good point actually, hadn’t thought of it this way. Wenger does seem to engage in psychology against top sides and rough sides, but he may have missed a trick or two here.

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