Carling Cup

Lack of firepower all too evident as Arsenal lose out to City

Having successfully negotiated past West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool in the two previous rounds, Arsenal’s youngsters came up short against a strong Manchester City side at Eastlands last night.

Some established first-team squad members, such as Emmanuel Eboue, Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky, started to complement the array of potential talents on show but, ultimately, it proved to be too difficult a task against Mark Hughes’ expensively-assembled outfit and Arsenal went out of the Carling Cup at the Quarter-final stage for the second season in succession.

After starting off brightly, Arsenal then wilted as City began to dominate and could consider themselves somewhat fortunate to go into the break without conceding. For all the nimble footwork and technical ability on display in Arsenal’s ranks, the lack of any significant firepower up front was all too evident. Carlos Vela hit a shot over the bar and Aaron Ramsey headed over but, other than that, Shay Given was unperturbed.

Craig Eastmond, starting just his second game the club, applied himself well initially, but then tired as the game progressed and had to be withdrawn. By that time Arsenal were already a goal down after Carlos Tevez had capitalised on a sloppy ball from Song and launched a ferocious drive into the back of the net via the corner of the crossbar. Watt added some much needed attacking impetus but City doubled their advantage soon after following a wonderful goal from Shaun Wright-Phillips, who bamboozled Mikael Silvestre.

Arsenal lacked nothing in determination and effort but they just couldn’t exert themselves on the game with City’s high-pressure tactics proving a nuisance. The lack of experience on the bench was telling and meant that Arsenal had no real route back into the game. City continued to push forward and eventually sealed the win after Vladimir Weiss coolly applied the finishing touch to a superb ball from Craig Bellamy. Fran Merida rattled the crossbar late on but it was irrelevant, the game was already over.

The Carling Cup has been a fantastic experience for the likes of Eastmond and Watt this season and will stand them in good stead for the future. Players such as Merida, Ramsey and Wilshere need games and this competition provides them with that.

Hopefully, however, Wenger will change his policy for the FA Cup and play a strong side against West Ham at Upton Park. It is now one of only three trophies we can win and is probably the easiest to do so. The FA Cup may have lost some of its prestigiousness in recent years but, should Arsenal apply themselves fully, it is certainly winnable and would put an end to the trophy drought.


Carling Cup preview- Wenger taking competition seriously with Liverpool in town

Arsenal take on Liverpool tonight at Emirates Stadium in what is sure to be a memorable occasion. It may only be the Carling Cup and the likes of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard might not be on show, but it should be something to savour nonetheless.

The above will be true if the incredible 6-3 victory at Anfield from three seasons ago is repeated, in which Julio Baptista scored four goals in a bizarre match. Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has said that he feels his current squad is much stronger than the one which capitulated then. Tonight will tell.

Both sides faced tricky tasks to reach this stage. Arsenal beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 in what was ultimately a convincing victory but only after the sending off of former Gunner Jerome Thomas and the introduction of Mark Randall and Carlos Vela, who just seems to thrive on playing in this competition. Liverpool, meanwhile, required a David N’Gog strike to edge past a gamely Leeds outfit and seal their place in the draw.

Now they meet and it should be something to savour. Liverpool are on a high following the pivotal win over Manchester United on Saturday and, even though the majority of the players who featured in that game won’t be involved tonight, the good vibe will surely reverberate around the whole squad. Arsenal are looking to fulfil Arsene Wenger’s belief that this can finally be the year when they end their trophy drought.

Wenger is certainly taking this competition more seriously than he used to. In his post-match press-conference at Upton Park, the Frenchman stated that it will be a ‘mixed’ side against Liverpool and he subsequently revealed that Samir Nasri, Lukasz Fabianski, Eduardo and Nicklas Bendtner will all start the game having recently recovered from injury. Fran Mérida is set to feature having watched the West Ham game from the paddock behind the substitutes, although the bad news is that Jack Wilshere, Nacer Barazite and Armand Traore, who all featured in the last round, have been ruled out through injury. The back four of Kerrea Gilbert, Philippe Senderos, Mikael Silvestre and Kieran Gibbs is likely to remain intact, whilst Vela and Aaron Ramsey should also start. Francis Coquelin should beat off competition from Mark Randall, Craig Eastmond and Emmanuel Frimpong to start in the anchor role.

Liverpool will hope to hand a debut to summer signing Alberto Aquilani, although the midfield player is not ready to start a game just yet so will take his place amongst the substitutes. N’Gog, who sealed the win against United on Saturday, could start as could Ryan Babel, Jay Spearing, Martin Kelly, Philip Degen and Andriy Voronin. Defenders Andrea Dossena and Sotiris Kyrgiakos, a Euro 2004 winner with Greece, have recovered from injury and could be involved.

It should be an encounter to savour and, for some of Arsenal’s youngsters, an opportunity to test themselves against high-quality opposition. Both sides will go full throttle for the win and some of the young Liverpool players who lost to Arsenal over two legs in the FA Youth Cup final may seek revenge.

Predicted team:






subs: Szczesny, Randall, Watt, Sunu, Bartley, Frimpong, Eastmond.

Update: Vela is not in the squad

Wenger opts for experience over youth

Well to start with I’m not suprised that Vito Mannone is the only player outside the first-team to be named in the Carling Cup squad for tonight’s semi-final with Spurs. The youngsters, such as Mark Randall, Henri Lansbury and Kieran Gibbs have all performed well in previous rounds of the Carling Cup, but tonight’s game is of such importance that Wenger has drafted in several first team players, including the likes of Fabregas, Hleb and Adebayor. Gibbs has a foot problem anyway so he couldn’t be included.

The Reserves game last night was an entertaining affair and it was a shame to see Gavin Hoyte sent off, although he could have no arguments about the decision. His studs were clearly showing and the referee had no choice but to send him off. As I touched on last night, Sanchez Watt played well and Cedric Evina was impressive on his debut. The Frenchman was quick but his close control let him down although he did try his best for the team. You can read Neil Banfield’s views here.

    Loan watch from the weekend. Good to see Vela amongst the goals again. I can’t wait to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

    A Report from the u-18s match with Portsmouth.

    And that’s it.

    More tomorrow and thanks for reading.

    Arsenal in hot water over Barazite approach

    Good afternoon,

    There’s more on Theo Walcott today, with this article making for interesting reading. In it, he is compared to a young Michael Owen. It remains to be seen what will happen with Walcott, but at the moment he remains a bit of an enigma. However, I do feel that some people are being a little bit harsh on him because he’s not even nineteen yet and although we all expected something miraculous when he first came, it’s fair to say that many have been disappointed so far. But he will get better. As I said yesterday, I think a loan spell could do him good but it’s up to him to stay focussed and concentrate on the next task ahead. He was dropped from the squad for yesterday’s match with Fulham, but should start against Tottenham so we will see how he does there.

    This article in the Mail on Sunday questions Arsenal’s approach over bringing Nacer Barazite to the club. It’s fair to say that some of these dealings with foreign youngsters do seem rather suspicious, and there was a similar situation with Fran Merida a little while back. Having said that, Barazite was in impressive form before his injury and you can see why Wenger moved so quickly to secure his signature.

    The under-18s lost 2-1 to Portsmouth in an away game that was staged at London Colney yesterday. Thomas Cruise scored for the Gunners. It was only their second defeat all season and I must say I’m pretty suprised at the result. But you have to consider the fact that we were without the likes of Randall and Lansbury for this game.

    The Reserves play Birmingham tomorrow and there will be a preview of that up on the site before kick-off. There’s also the Carling Cup tie with Tottenham to consider and that should be an interesting game to watch. Hopefully some of the younger lads will be involved again, it will be interesting to see how they respond to a pressure situation.

    And that’s it.

    Thanks for reading, and there’ll be more tomorrow.

    2008/09 Arsenal Carling Cup side(early prediction)

    Well, with the recent analysis of many of arsenals young stars the point of carling cup debut’s and chances has been raised very often, such is the talent associated with many of arsenal’s young players, so here we go, my prediction for Arsenal’s carling cup run next season.
     Lukasz Fabianski: the young 22-year-old polish keeper is already the current carling cup keeper and with Almunia and Lehmann at the club he looks to be third choice but some brilliant performances of late have led many to believe he is already No.2, and given his young age i see Wenger easing him into the premiership and other major tournaments
    (though Vito Mannone is knocking at the door with some impressive displays in recent times for the reserves)
    Armand Traore: the young lad has already been installed as 2nd choice left back and would likely be part of any other 1st team in the world, but due to the brilliance of Clichy his chances are limited, though he is often impressive and baring some consitancy issues he is one who i firmly believe is capable of repeated 1st team performaces.
    Havard Nordtveit: since his move to arsenal he was installed as arsenals reserves captain immediantly before an unfortunate injury, he looks very impressive and im sure Wenger sees him as Gallas’ long term replacement, given a good run of health he will become a vital member of the reserves squad and without doubt feature in next seasons Carling Cup.
    Kyle Bartley: his completely opposite style to Nordtveit seems to complement the quick norwegians skills, and although very young i could see the 16 year old being given he chance depending on how his run up to the end of this season and into next season goes, fingers crossed for the young lad
    (though upon furthur thought i feel Gavin Hoyte will recieve the nod ahead of Bartley with Bartley’s chances to follow in seasons to come)
    Justin Hoyte: simply will be a gunner for life and his recent preformances have confirmed to me he is a brilliant 2nd choice right back and i believe will remain here for seasons to come doing his bit for the team, and who knows maybe one day he’ll knock Sagna off his perch, but i dont like his chances, at least Arsene has enough confidence in him as 2nd choice and im sure he will impress wherever applicable.
    Kieran Gibbs: Gibbs has installed his name on everyones lips with impressive performances during pre-season and also some good cameo’s in the CC this season, i think its his time to shine
    Fran Merida: Fran has the technical quality to open up any team in the premier league, and given time to develop(such as his current loan spell) he will become a brilliant player for the gunners in seasons to come.
    Henri Lansbury: for me it has to be Fran and Henri, both phenominal talents going forward but regularly unhearalded for their defensive cover although both men can do it considerably well, i think this could be a future arsenal pairing if ever cesc leaves(either way it will certainly provide some fireworks in the CC if my predictions are to be true).
    Mark Randall: Randall has been something of a revelation this season and is certain to break into the carling cup squad as a starter anytime now, nad i feel next season may be his calling
    Gilles Sunu: Sunu has been strong this season and is clearly rated by AW, and i’d pick him for my carling cup squad, if he holds up to the Thierry tag even a little bit he will soon be a revelation
    (possibly because of my dislike of the 4-5-1 formation, but again after more thought i’d have to go for barazite)
    Carlos Vela: Impressing 10 fold at Osuama and will return in the off season, as with all new players its quite possibly AW will install him in the carling cup to help him acclimatise to english football
    (Cedric Evina has impressed at Left back this season for the U-18’s and has proven credentials at left mid and striker, though he may have to wait a year or two for his carling cup chance)
    (Nacer Barazite has been brilliant for the reserves this season but has been hit with that shoulder injury, and some players simply dont get back to their previous accolades once that has occured, so i hold huge hope for the guy, but i remain unconvinced, seems fore in AW’s plans so who knows at this point, but i see the midfield quality even without him, perhaps a 4-5-1 with Sunu left out to accomodate the brilliant young dane)
    (Theo Walcott could also feature but as many fans lost their patience with him, Arsene may well choose not to use the young englishman)
    J.Hoyte— Nordtveit— G.Hoyte—- Traore
    Randall— Merida——- Lansbury—– Gibbs

    Trio hoping for Carling Cup chance

    It’s Carling Cup night tonight, and as expected Mark Randall, Gavin Hoyte and Vito Mannone have been named in the squad, although they are unlikely to start. It should be quite a tough game especially as Spurs are playing such a strong team (well, it is their only chance of winning anything this season. Mannone probably won’t be involved but I think Randall may come off the bench at some point.

    Also, there’s a great article here, which gives a fascinating insight into the Academy.

    By the way, the site in need of contributors, so if you want to write, or have any suggestions for an article, then just leave me a comment. Thanks for reading. 

    Carling Cup watch: Devastation for Barazite

    Arsenal beat Blackburn 3-2 in a thrilling Carling Cup tie at Ewood Park last night, here I look at how some of the younger players got on.


    Mark Randall started the game and was involved in the first goal. He played a neat pass to Bendtner who crossed for Eduardo to fire home. He made some good touches throughout the match, but was subject to some rough challenges from Robbie Savage et al and eventually tiredness got the better of him. He definitely needs to work on his fitness, but the ability is definitely there. He was booked for a mis-timed challenge.


    Nacer Barazite replaced Randall on 80 minutes, and showed flashes of his great pace and technical ability on the ball before being strechered off with what looked like a very serious injury. It was later revealed that he had dislocated his shoulder. The injury comes at a bad time for the Dutchman, who has been performing well for both the Reserves and the u-18s recently.
    Spanish sensation Fran Merida came on for Barazite on 101 minutes. He made a few decent runs and set up a few goalscoring opportunities but failed to make an impact on the game. It was, however, another great learning curve for the ex-Barcelona youth player. It is rumoured that he is set to return to Spain to join Real Sociedad in January.


    Lambeth born Kieran Gibbs replaced the hero Eduardo in extra-time. He didn’t really have any chances to make any sort of impact on the game, but it was another great experience for him nonetheless.


    Gavin Hoyte was once again an unused substitute, but his chances will come. Perhaps in next season’s Carling Cup.


    Italian ‘keeper Vito Mannone remained on the bench throughout the game, but he did have something to smile about afterwards as he signed a new contract, confirming Arsene Wenger’s strong belief in the youngster. 
    After the game, Arsene Wenger unsurprisingly revealed that he will continue to play the youngsters in the semi-final no matter who they come up against.