Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur: Does Arsene Wenger Really Want To Win the League Cup?
Perhaps Arsene Wenger really wants to win a trophy this year. As proof, Arsenal's Carling Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur brought a completely unexpected change to his lineup.
Unlike in seasons past, this year it seems that Wenger is not going to use the Carling Cup competition to blood his more inexperienced charges, instead opting to field a relatively experienced yet still young side against what can only be classified as a second-tier Spurs side.
Among the Arsenal starting 11, only Henri Lansbury has not been a part of the first team. Everyone else, including substitutes Fabianski, Djourou, Gibbs, and Vela may not have played many games as part of the first team, but they can hardly be called inexperienced young players.
On the other hand, Harry Redknapp opted for a youthful approach, undoubtedly believing that his counterpart would continue his policy of trusting his younger players and giving them valuable experience in a relatively low-stake competition.
Unfortunately, that meant that Arsenal fans missed out on seeing Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Havard Nordveit, or Wojciech Szczesny, who openly lamented his lack of opportunity in the club. Traditionally, Wenger uses this competition as the perfect stage to showcase new blood and amazing young talents.
But who knows? Maybe years of missing out on the biggest trophies is pushing him to win any trophy, by any means possible.
Arsenal 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur
With Wenger in the stands serving his FA mandated suspension from his actions during the Sunderland-Arsenal match, the gunners seemed fired up from the get-go.
The game was generally a one-sided affair that should have been done and dusted earlier. In fact, if not for the referee waving play on as Henri Lansbury was brought down in the box in the 10th minute, it could have been worse for Tottenham earlier on. But it was just a precursor to what would happen throughout most of the game.
But the deadlock was broken soon thereafter when, in the 14th minute, a wonderful passing move sent the impressive Jack Wilshere down the left flank, where he sent in a wonderfully drilled cross that debutant Henri Lansbury was able to finish with aplomb, leaving behind a host of Spurs defenders seemingly planted to the ground and staring at his wake.
But at the start of the second half, substitute Robbie Keane equalized after two individual mistakes: one by the linesman, and the other by under-fire goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
To be fair the linesman, he was behind the play and his line of vision was not in line with the last man. As a result, Keane was allowed to play on and score the goal even though from the replays, he was very clearly offside. But even then, he still had to finish the chance, and he finished with a rather tame shot near post that Fabianski simply missed badly.
It was a bad missed save by the young Polish 'keeper, and he really should have done better. After his last few performances, it's actually a surprise that Fabianski was picked over the promising Vito Mannone or the aforementioned Szczesny.
Arsenal generally dominated the rest of the 90 minutes, but could not break through a stout Spurs defense, and when 90 minutes were up, both teams had to play extra time.
In the beginning of extra time, Andrey Arshavin floated a ball to Samir Nasri, who was taken down by an unfair tackle by Sebastian Bassong, for which the referee pointed straight to the penalty spot.
With images of the weekend and Thomas Rosicky's miss still strong in all Arsenal fans' mind, there was undoubtedly a strong sense of apprehension as Nasri came up to take the spot kick. He had played a rather forgettable game until that point. But he took the kick confidently and scored, sending 'keeper Pletikosa the wrong way.
A few minutes later, a through ball send Chamakh free into the box, where he was also dragged down unfairly by Caulker. Arsenal were given another penalty, and Nasri tucked that one in equally well, this time going the other way, and again sending the 'keeper the wrong way.
Then, before the end of the first half of extra time, Arshavin put the icing on the cake, getting on the end of a quick free kick and finishing superbly with his left foot in the far corner of the net.
Game, set, and match. Yet another North London Derby ended with yet another Arsenal win.
What It All Means
Going forward, this match might be a good indication of Wenger's intentions for the future and this competition specifically. At the very least, it shows that he was not naive enough to send his young wards into a potentially difficult matchup without some experience. At best, it might be a sign that he is willing to take the League Cup seriously for once.
And though the League Cup cannot be compared to the Premier League competition or the Champions League, winning it will provide some justification for Wenger's longstanding youth rebuilding policy.
This season might be a little too soon for Wenger's young guns to win the Barclays Premier League or the Champions league.
But if he continues to use a mix of experienced and outstanding younger players in the League Cup and the FA Cup, he could very well win both competitions and ultimately validate his policy of promoting youth from within, if it hasn't already been validated by the likes of Fabregas and Wilshere.
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