Carling Cup Preview
Hello again, I have been pretty quiet over the last few days. After a short soujourn to Amsterdam/ Eindhoven, and a chest infection which sounds like the bastard son of Darth Vader and emphazima my absence has been enforced. But with the Carling Cup Final fast approaching, I thought I'd bash out one of those round by round thingies that you always see in the papers. Having followed this competition through every round, my overwhelming feeling for Sunday is a relaxed one. The youngsters have used this competition to demonstrate their indisputable talent. In fact, despite not being much better in the league this year than last, it's managed to finally convince people that talk of a 'decline' was laughably premature. Armand Traore and Denilson have come to prominence, stepping up with a series of mature displays (as has Alex Song, but you won't read about that anywhere). Julio Baptista has been able to use it to cement his revered reputation with a four goal haul at Anfield and demonstrating amazing character to score twice at Spurs having scored an own goal and missed a sitter. Manuel Almunia has shown himself to be an able deputy and reports that he could be our number 1 once Jens is dragged off kicking and screaming (I've heard Bethlem Royal XI need a 'keeper) are fine with me. I think Jeremie Aliadiere marginally pips Denilson as our player of the tournament, a series of comfortable, mature displays, where his movement and dribbling skills have not been handled by a single defence. What is most impressive is that Arsenal's kids have had to play away in every round, at difficult and hostile places, our ease in progressing to the Final bodes for a very exciting future indeed.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION 0-2 ARSENAL (Aliadiere 2)
The Gunners began the tournament in fine fettle, Denilson and Song conquered a physical Baggies midfield, but the star of the show was Jeremie Aliadiere. Given his first start of the season and buoyed by the Baggies' boos (after his loan spell at Wolves), Jeremie tore WBA apart with two brilliant goals. The first from the spot after a mazy run from inside his own half saw him chopped down in the box. The second was a brilliantly controlled low volley from Theo Walcott's quick free kick. The match was particularly memorable as Jonathan Greening- who had played terribly- was announced as the sponsor's man of the match, much to the derision of the travellign Gooners. Seconds later, he horribly sliced a clearance into the stands just a few feet from our enclosure.
Read the full report: www.arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=35213
EVERTON 0 (McFadden sent off) 1 ARSENAL (Adebayor)
Another impressive display from the Young Gunners. A full house at Goodison Park proved to be very hostile owing to an early sending off to James McFadden for calling Graham Poll a 'f***ing cheat.' Fuelled by injustice, the Toffeemen tried to bully the young Guns, with the likes of Phil Neville flying into challenges. But Denilson stood up to the physical barrage, whilst Alex Song might as well have been Gilberto, so effective was he at breaking up Everton attacks and retaining possession. Arsenal completed a smash and grab spectacular which put the first team to shame when Flamini's corner was headed in by Adebayor with five minutes to go.
Read the full report: www.arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=37181
LIVERPOOL 3 (Fowler, Gerrard, Hyppia)ARSENAL 6 (Aliadiere, Baptista 4, Song) Baptista m/pen
After a frustrating postponement (particularly when said postponement is announced upon your arrival at the Ground), the Gunners produced one of the best games the League Cup has ever seen. Knowing that Tottenham awaited the winners added a little extra spice, while Arsenal's F.A Cup win at Anfield four days earlier was amazingly overshadowed as the kids took a near full strength Liverpool apart. It was to prove to night of the Beast, as Baptista became the first opposing player to score four at Anfield since Tottenham were any good. The Beast could even afford a missed penalty, even the customary Fowler goal could not dampen the delight of the travelling Gooners, as at one stage we led 5-1 having missed a penalty. The night also marked a sensational virtuoso performance from Aliadiere, who scored one and laid on three. The kids had arrived, once again the much maligned Song had a handle on Steven Gerrard, whilst Johan Djourou repelled Bellamy and Fowler with embarassing ease.
SEMI FINAL 1ST LEG
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (Berbatov, Baptista o.g) ARSENAL 2 (Baptista 2)
Whereas Anfield saw the Young Guns demonstrate their flair, White Hart Lane showed their grit. The Spuds flew out of the blocks and found themselves two up through Berbatov, after a misunderstanding between Toure and Almunia, and a wicked deflection off Baptista from Huddlestone's free kick. When Baptista missed a sitter right on half time, you had the feeling it was not our night. But a second half resurgence, led by the teenage duo of Cesc and Denilson saw the Beast unleash with two close range goals that gave Arsenal a narrow lifeline and once again silenced the Spurs fans cries of 'easy, easy.' Do they ever learn?
Full report: www.arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=48640
SEMI FINAL 2ND LEG
ARSENAL 3 (Adebayor, Aliadiere, Chimbonda o.g) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (Mido) AET. Arsenal win 5-3 on aggregate.
TWO NIL AND YOU F***ED IT UP, the all too familiar chant went, but it was far from plain sailing in the second leg. In a terse encounter, Emmanuel Adebayor seemed to have given us victory following great work from supersub Rosicky. But an undeserved Tottenham equaliser was to drag the game into extra time, Denilson wrongly ajudged to have fouled Defoe, and Mido powered in Jenas's free kick with five minutes left. Arsenal appeared to have hit the wall physically, but spurred on by the outstanding Denilson, Arsenal's young legs found the physical and mental resources to oust the Spuddies. Jeremie Aliadiere fired in after an embarassing clearance attempt from Rocha and Chimbonda unwittingly put through his own net when Rosicky's close range shot cannonned off the inside of the post. The away end emptied mysteriously quickly and suddenly, the Tottenham fans were not in the mood for a chant of 'easy!'
Full report: www.arsenal.vitalfootball.co.uk/article.asp?a=49948
Chelsea will be a different prospect altogether. With the possible exception of Newcastle away, they have had an easier run to the final and have always played their full side. There is little doubt that they are stronger than us at the moment, but given the fact we will be leaving out Henry, Ljungberg and Gallas, the pressure is all on Chelsea. Arsenal have played reserves all the way through the competition and I'm viewing my tenth visit to Cardiff with little expectation but to enjoy it and applaud the players warmly at the Final whistlke whatever the result. I have immensely enjoyed this competition for some years and it's testament to our unrivalled youth policy. The likes of Neil Banfiedl and Liam Brady command enormous repsect for the way these youngsters have been coached and they deserve recognition along with our maestro Mr. Wenger. I don't think it will quite be a team of youngsters on Sunday, though he will look to involve players who have been prominent in the competition, le boss deserves enormous credit for sticking with his principles. For my money, the team on Sunday will be: Almunia; Hoyte, Toure, Djourou, Traore; Hleb, Gilberto, Baptista, Fabregas, Aliaidere; Adebayor. Subs: Senderos, Rosicky, Poom, Denilson, Walcott. Your thoughts? LD.