After watching Arsenal's young Gunners manhandle Stuttgart today, I am heading down to my nearest betting office and putting money on the Arsenal, right now, to win this year’s Carling Cup.
There’s always lots of talk about the talented youth at Arsenal, but that youth is a little older, a lot more talented, and ready to start going some serious damage at a high level.
They took on a nearly full strength Stuttgart side that won this year's Intertoto Cup on Sunday, and beat them 3-1 with goals in the second half from Carlos Vela, Nicklas Bendtner and 16 year old Jack Wilshere (a player so new to Arsenal's reserves that he doesn't even have a picture on their official website).
Sure it's pre-season, but for a crew of youngsters to take on a crew of internationals and dominate them is impressive whenever it happens. But I digress.
In last season's Carling Cup the young Gunners made it to the semis where they were famously dismantled by their North London rivals, Tottenham. Spurs went on to win the whole thing, but if recent action by Arsenal's youth is any indication of things to come 2009 will not see a repeat of 2008.
Just consider Arsenal’s probable Carling Cup starting XI: Lukasz Fabianski, Armand Traore, Philippe Senderos, Johan Djourou, Justin Hoyte, Jack Wilshere, Alexandre Song, Aaron Ramsey, Mark Randall, Carlos Vela and Nicklas Bendtner.
There are a few players in that group who will be semi-regular in the Arsenal first team, but most of the side are subs and reserves. Yet it’s still a side that any of the teams just promoted to the Premier League would love to boast.
Now consider the subs Arsene Wenger will likely draw upon: Vito Mannone, Tomas Rosicky, Eduardo da Silva, Gavin Hoyte, Theo Walcott, Nacer Barizite, Amauray Bischoff.
Not a bad bench.
This is all speculation of course, but it is an educated guess built on Wenger’s consistent use of the Carling Cup to both rehabilitate injured players and blood his youth. This season that policy will likely bear fruit.
Arsenal’s young Gunners can do impressive things, and winning the Carling Cup is absolutely within their grasp.
Watch for Vela and Bendtner to dominate the scoring, Ramsay, Wilshire and Song to dominate every midfield they face, and Arsenal’s baby defense to finally show signs of real strength.
Who cares about the Carling Cup?
Well, most Premier League fans don’t care about the Carling Cup, but their clubs give them no reason to care.
Some may think the same can be said about Arsenal, but that’s not the case.
Youth is so important to everything Arsenal does, that every true Gunner knows and loves the young players nearly as well as they know and love the first team regulars.
The Carling Cup is as important to Arsenal as it is to any team in the Coca Cola Championship and beyond.
The Arsenal want to win. Their players want to win. And this year I am betting nothing will stop that from happening.