|photo by Môsieur J. [version 4.0b]]
I can't remember a recent Cup final I was less excited about than Arsenal vs. Birmingham in the League Cup yesterday afternoon, but I found myself enjoying the match despite my initial feelings, especially the final few minutes when Arsenal totally lost their bottle and threw away the game. Regular visitors to this spot will know I find it hard -- almost impossibly so -- to root for Birmingham City (heck, I find it hard to watch Birmingham City), and I certainly wasn't getting too over-heated about Arsenal's attempt to end their silverware drought. It's in that admittedly humdrum spirit that I offer the following thoughts on Arsenal's shocking collapse, and Birmingham's unexpected victory in the Carling Cup:
- First things first: I hope the Arsenal players didn't spend too long debating whether or not Cesc should lift their non-existent trophy. Although it's hard not to feel a little bit sorry for him in the game's immediate aftermath, Arsenal's goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny displayed either incredible arrogance or naivete (or maybe both) when he tweeted pre-game that he was "gutted" that he had learned that Cesc wouldn't be lifting the Cup if Arsenal won. Consider this a lesson, Wojciech: Nothing in this life is guaranteed.
- It was a shocking collapse by the Arsenal defense which cost them the Cup. Arsenal are very immature right up the middle of the pitch, and while people -- and the London-based media -- can keep talking about talent and potential, you're going to struggle in tight moments when your most composed player is only 23 years old (and especially when he's not even on the pitch). One just can't see a veteran 'keeper or center half making the mistake that opened up the goal for Obafemi Martens. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Arsenal will not win a trophy without a top notch goalie, or strong central defenders. Just won't happen.
- And just when every Arsenal fan was crowning the 20 year-old Szczesney as the next coming of Edwin Van der Sar.... Fabien Barthez? Maybe. Van der Sar? Not quite.