It looks good dressed in red and white
I ended up missing the match last night as I was unwell. Thankfully it has turned out not to be the sickness bug I've been expecting, but enough to keep me at home last night. Thanks to the wonders of the internet I was still able to see the match live, though it's nothing like being there - even less so than watching it on a proper TV screen.
When I wrote the preview piece on Monday I said I thought Arshavin might play at the front of the midfield, where he finished the game on Saturday. In guessing at a possible line-up I completely forgot about Robin Van Persie. It's a bit embarrassing to be honest, that I could forget our vice-captain, but it's symptomatic of the fact that we've seen so little of him since this time last year. As it was, Van Persie was the leader of the team last night (until Nasri replaced him as player and Captain for the final stretch) and he looked in decent form. With Chamakh continuing to impress I don't see how RVP can play at centre-forward in this team. However, perhaps it ought to be remembered that we were flying last season until he got injured, and he played every game then in Chamakh's position.
One thing Robin certainly provides is a better delivery from free-kicks, and only Nicklas Bendtner's ineptitude stopped Arsenal from leading inside two minutes. He then set up Vela who tried to be too clever with his finish. The Mexican looked better last night, and was far more involved than in recent appearances, but a back-up striker must score goals when the chances arrive if he is to make an impression. I thought Theo Walcott looked sharp again, and started to take his man on more as the game went on, despite being constantly fouled throughout - I don't know how Hendry Thomas made it deep in to the second half before getting booked. Theo was also guilty of missing chances though, and he won't be replacing Arshavin or Nasri on Saturday. In fairness to Nicklas Bendtner he won his share of aerial ball last night, but his tendency to drift away from the middle is so frustrating. What happened when he got in the six-yard area? 2-0 to Arsenal, and game over.
So the boys are in the semi-final for the 14th time. It's incredible to think we've only won it twice with a record like that. We've also lost in four finals - 1968 (Leeds), 1969 (Swindon), 1988 (Luton), 2007 (Chelsea). With Manchester United well and truly dispatched by West Ham last night Arsenal are the runaway favourites now. There can be no doubt that the Carling Cup represents the best chance of silverware for this side. There is nobody left in this competition who should be remotely feared by Arsenal. I was really annoyed then to hear what Arsene Wenger had to say. He is still trotting out the mantra that the Club has two priority competitions but "if we can win this competition we will take it." What does this tell the players? What should happen now is that a full-strength team plays in the semi-final and, hopefully, final to ensure Arsenal get a trophy in the cabinet this season. Winning the League Cup on 27th February might just be the spark these players need to push them on to greater things. We can't underestimate what it could mean to know they have the mindset to win trophies. This competition was the catalyst for the modern Arsenal in 1987, and it reinvigorated Ferguson's Man Utd a few years ago after a barren spell. Please Arsene, try to realise the importance of this competition - your future could depend on it, and these players will never get a better opportunity to get their hands on some medals.