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Arsenal's Season Comes Undone with Rovers Loss

In the space of just one week, Arsenal’s entire season has come undone. The team failed to get a valuable away goal against PSV Eindhoven last week, which may signify their Champions League demise. Last night the youngsters couldn’t overcome Blackburn Rovers despite numerous chances to put the game away, and the same young side lost the Carling Cup Final — undeservedly so — this past Sunday. For all intents and purposes, Arsenal’s season may be over.

Sure, Arsenal’s youngsters such as Denilson, Traore, Clichy, Aliadiere, Walcott and others have learned a lot this season and gained valuable playing time, but at what cost to Arsenal the club? I don’t think it was worth it to have a stronger side next season when they could have won the Carling Cup Final this year. And they could have easily made it to the semifinal stages of the FA Cup if they had fielded a first team against Blackburn and had presumably beaten Manchester City in the quarterfinals.

Sure, Arsenal’s youth had taken the side through the FA Cup and Carling Cup up until now, but it should have been the first team that had taken it from here with a smaller mixture of younger players instead. Arsene Wenger, give the youngsters the credit of taking Arsenal this far, but don’t jeopardize your only chances of winning silverware just because you’re stubborn.

In the FA Cup match replay last night in Ewood Park, it was a similar story for Arsenal. Chance after chance came their way to put Blackburn out of their misery. In the first half alone, Aliadiere knocked the ball too far ahead of himself in the penalty area when he could have controlled it better in front of the approaching Brad Friedel. Julio Baptista had a couple of clear cut chances, one of which was a header that sailed over the bar. And Freddie Ljungberg miscontrolled the ball on the outside of the penalty area, which otherwise would have led to a one-on-one against Friedel.

Credit has to go to Blackburn and especially Benni McCarthy for showing the Gunners how to take advantage of a goalscoring opportunity. McCarthy drove his right footed shot into the far corner of the goal in front of the delirious fans in the Blackburn Road End Stand. It was a gorgeous goal to end a dire match in which Rovers did well to stifle Arsenal’s midfield especially in the second half where Mark Hughes changed formations and switched from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2.

Arsenal now has to concentrate on the Premiership and Champions League starting with Saturday’s home match against Reading and next week’s crucial Champions League second leg against PSV. Both of these matches will be a true test of Arsenal’s grit. If Reading can achieve a shock result at the Emirates against a wounded Arsenal side this Saturday, it will put Arsenal’s fourth place position into jeopardy. It’s vital that the Gunners take advantage of their goalscoring opportunities. That’s the lesson they need to learn this season, whether it’s the youngsters or the first team on the pitch.
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  1. Anonymous

    March 2, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    We only have 14 players to choose from for tonight’s clash against Reading. Another big chance for Ali and Baptista to show their worth.

    On Carling Cup :
    It matters not that we lost, quite undeservingly I must add. The kids played breathtaking football, it was a great game and it filled me with pride That is what I will always remember the first Cup final at the new Wembley.

    Come On Gunners!

  2. Anonymous

    March 2, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Cesc needed a rest and Almunia is a fine keeper and has played all the cup matches. Arsene played I’m sure what he felt was the best team to win the game, given the decimating injuries. Arsenal lost due to horrendous finishing by two sub-standard strikers and a shocking, shocking game from Graham Poll (as per usual). In regards to the Carling Cup, I will say I think he should have played Gilberto, but I applaud Wenger’s commitment to be consistant as to his approach to the competition.

  3. riocharlie

    March 1, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Gaffer exactly what impact would lehman have made last night?

    PLenty of chances to win the game and arsenal didnt take it, i think ive seen this movie too many times this year. I dont lay it on injuries, every team has em, i mean listen to the moaning in stamford bridge when they lose 1 central midfielder, can you imagine how annoying hed be if he had lost 10 of his 1st teamers? so please.

    the real blame to me is with wenge. he played 2 of his 4 defenders out of position both on the right side. he easily could have either kept senderos inside or at the least protect him with moving gallas to the right. wenge has many strengths but he does tactically come up short.

    tough week to be a gooner

  4. jm

    March 1, 2007 at 11:05 am

    I similarly have to take issue with this notion that Wenger was being stubborn by fielding a youth team yesterday. I will then turn to the Carling Cup.

    So let’s start with lastnight’s team. What could they have done different? Traore had to be called back from abroad to play, and Eboue’s suspension was appeal pretty much just to allow him to play yesterday. Their back line was decimated, they had no other options. What about the front line? Aliadiere and Baptista played, not because of their role in youth side, but because, they were the only strikers left!

    The only two players who could have possibly played yesterday that are first teamers are the two you mentioned – Fabregas and Lehmann. Wenger has been clear that Lehmann’s rest schedule is such that he won’t be playing in the cups. Either way, he’s beside the point – no keeper was stopping the Rovers’ goal. Fabregas? Sure, he would’ve helped. But first we need to look at why he wasn’t playing! Fabregas has been anchoring this injury riddled lineup all season, and has been showing serious signs of fatigue lately. He absolutely needed a rest. When do you rest a player when you have FA Cup, Premiership (where we are fighting for a champions league spot!) and Champions League games all in one week? Wenger had to pick a spot to rest him, and any choice would’ve had negative consequences.

    Now to turn to the Carling Cup. Wenger made the right decision. Casted in the way you put it, pragmatically, you might be right. The gain of a Cup win might be better than the gain of one day of experience. But, Wenger’s decision was not purely pragmatic. It was ethical. He told these kids that this was their tournament – and how did they respond? By beating Liverpool and Tottenham. Wenger gave them the opportunity to play in the Cup, and they earned a chance in the title. I think it was the ethically correct decision to let them play the match that they earned.

  5. payam

    March 1, 2007 at 9:48 am

    arsenal will beat psv with no problem and beat reading! next year the we can win every tournament going! we have the best future out of all world football, Wenger just knows how 2 manage a football team, unlike ferguson, benitez and mourinho!

  6. The Gaffer

    March 1, 2007 at 9:40 am

    What about Fabregas and Lehmann? They weren’t on the injury list and could have made a huge impact last night.

    The Gaffer

  7. Anonymous

    March 1, 2007 at 9:20 am

    no one cares about the carling cup …let’s be honest

  8. Anonymous

    March 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

    I take issue with the statement that Arsene should/could have fielded a stronger team than what he fielded last night. Due to injuries and suspensions we had at least 10 recognized first teamers unavailable for last night’s match. Including RVP (our top goalscorer this season, Henry another with a bad foot). We didn’t do ourselves any favours by missing some sitters but it would help if you research a little before making sweeping statements about why Wenger put out the line up he did.

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