Arsenal vs Birmingham: 5 years, 9 months, 7 days. Plus favourite line-up
Written by Chris on February 25, 2011 21:15
If my maths is correct – and nine times out of ten it’s not – Patrick Vieira lifted the 2005 F.A. Cup 2109 days ago, that 5 years, 9 months and 7 days ago.
On Sunday, we have the golden opportunity of ending this negative run by winning the League Cup, by some called “Mickey Mouse Cup”, as we face Birmingham City at Wembley, in our first of three visits to such an important venue in football.
Some of you know what I think of Arsenal reaching so far in this competition. Considering who we had to play against and considering the players we used in the competition, the Final is just what we had to aim for but as Nigel Winterburn said last week and Tony Adams before him, the players will never understand the difference between winning and not winning unless they finally get that one trophy which could lead the way to many, many more.
Because it’s funny, when you see the way we battled past Barcelona only weeks ago, you simply cannot expect this side, so full of quality, so full of determination, to win the League Cup and call it a day. But again, a win on Sunday would be the best possible boost to approach the last months of the season with the right mentality and the right fighting spirit.
But how easy/difficult will this game be? If you look at the English Premier League table, you would have no doubt on who is going to lift the Cup on Sunday and you would actually bet all your belongings when you see how we eased past Birmingham when the two sides last met in January. But, as they say, Cup magic should not be underestimated.
Make no mistake, I smiled at how many blamed the “magic of the Cup” for our away draw against Leyton Orient last week as if our opposition can cast some sort of spell for Cup games but we cannot. But Sunday’s is a Final, it’s one game, with no replay possibility and as we’ve seen in the past, surprises can happen in this competition.
There are of course some question marks on the starting line-up, who to rest and who to start, with one of our readers in the comments section this morning asking for Cesc to be on the bench and come on with one minute to go to lift the Cup. That would be nice indeed, wouldn’t it ?
As always, my favourite line-up is below. Remember you can submit your own at Arsenal Interactive and then share it on Twitter and Facebook.
So! To Manuel or not to Manuel? In his pre-match interview, Wojciech dropped a hint that Arsene could start with the Spaniard as he usually does in domestic Cup games. Not that I would be that much worried if he starts but considering he made yet another mistake at Brisbane Road, I would play it safe and start with the young Pole.
Laurent, Johan, Gael and Bacary should form the defensive quarter with changes in midfield, some forced and some not. Cesc is of course out and one of my first dilemmas is whether to actually start with Tomas or Samir in midfield. The Frenchman looked a little bit out of sorts against Stoke but if he is fully fit on Sunday, I would definitely start him alongside Jack and … Abou.
Yes Abou. Because if Samir looked tired on Wednesday, Alex Song looked like a shadow of himself in his last two games and with more-important games coming up soon, I feel the Cameroonian needs a well-deserved rest.
Up front, with Theo ruled out, my second dilemma also concerns Tomas because if not in the middle, Tomas could be a valuable asset on the right. I would not be upset if he gets the nod ahead of Nicklas but as I was very happy with the Dane’s performance against Stoke, he gets my preference for the right wing.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was full of praise for his players on Friday as he highlighted the great bond and the great determination of his side. The Frenchman confessed he is very happy with the group, made up of players who know and respect each other.
For me there are two characteristics of this team – the great bond and the great determination, great focus.
They have all been educated together and they have the advantage of a team that has grown together. It is a pleasure to work with them and it is not down to me to come out on who shouts, who doesn’t shout, who laughs or doesn’t laugh.
I feel it is a team that is very young but very hungry, very focused, very respectful. I wouldn’t say there are any individuals shouting more than others but there is a common understanding, a common bond, that comes out
Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish revealed he will sit down with his players to watch Arsenal games before the game in order to hopefully understand where and how they can damage the Gunners on Sunday.
It’s a long old time for silverware for the club. Arsenal will be favourites, everybody knows that. We have to devise a plan that is capable of stopping them but is also potent and capable of getting goals which win you the cup.
We will look at a lot of the Arsenal games on videos with a fine toothpick and see what the best approach is. If we play an open game and try to play the Arsenal way I’m not so sure that that will work for us. We want to give a good account of ourselves and mix our game up.
Where can we hurt them? We will be very strong at set-pieces. So that’s a factor. You have to use every strength you have. But we have got players who can win it in other ways. Obafemi Martins is available to us now, so we maybe have weapons we didn’t have before.
The Gunning Hawk Coverage
As always, tune in for team line-ups, streaming links, half time and full time reports, post-match thoughts, video highlights and what the press is writing. And of course, do contribute if you want to by making use of the comment box available at the bottom of the post as it’s always nice to hear your opinion. And as a final note, if you want to go one step further than just leaving a comment and want to have your articles published on our website, take a look here for more information.
And of course, don’t forget you’re still in time to pick your preferred team for this game. And when the final whistle blows, don’t forget to rate the players, comment on their performances and share your personal ratings with your friends. All this and more, available at http://www.arsenal-interactive.com.