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Where Do Arsenal and Birmingham City Go From Here?

After Birmingham City’s shock victory against Arsenal to win the 2011 Carling Cup, it makes me wonder what the future holds for both teams. The last minute goal by Obafemi Martins, after Laurent Koscielny’s critical mistake, puts Birmingham City into next season’s Europa League. It also gives them a massive confidence boost, which will presumably help lift them out of the Premier League danger zone near the bottom of the table especially if they can take this victory and translate it into points in the league.

It’ll also help them in their upcoming FA Cup quarter-final match against Bolton Wanderers where they’ll be just one game away from qualifying for the FA semi-final, which would mean another trip to Wembley. Could they go all the way to the final? There’s certainly a decent chance given their performance Sunday.

For Arsenal, it was a devastating blow to lose this match especially when the man of the match, in my opinion, was Birmingham City goalkeeper Ben Foster who made several decisive saves to keep Arsenal to their solitary goal. Where Arsenal goes from here is completely up to them. Mentally, the loss will deal a massive blow to their egos and confidence. But it’ll be how they respond to this that will depend whether they can pick up a piece of silverware such as the FA Cup, Champions League or Premier League title. Arsenal could easily melt away and become unable to surpass the obstacles ahead of them which block their chances of winning something this season.

With Arsenal, it’s always hard to predict. One night they beat Barcelona in an amazing match. And another day, they fail to keep a 4-0 lead against Newcastle and crumble to a draw. While Arsenal didn’t have a poor match against Birmingham, the team from the Midlands was the one who fought tooth and nail to win this match. In the second minute of the game, Birmingham City should have been awarded a penalty kick after Bowyer was brought down by Wojciech Szczesny. However, the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside just seconds earlier and Arsenal was awarded a free kick. The TV replay showed how the assistant referee and referee made the wrong decision.

As I mentioned on Friday, the first goal of the match was going to be decisive. In this case, Birmingham scoring the first goal not only put the Brummies out in front, but it was also a huge psychological advantage because Birmingham could feel that Arsenal was there for the taking. They battled hard for every ball. They defended well and won the battle in midfield. But most importantly, they believed in themselves. Even after Andrey Arshavin cut through the Birmingham box and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Robin van Persie to equalize, I felt that the game wasn’t out of reach for Birmingham. In cup finals, anything can happen. There was only going to be one winner, so what did Birmingham have to lose other than to try to prevent Arsenal from scoring again and hoping to find a last dash winner, which they did.

While Birmingham’s win will hopefully spark their performances for the rest of the season, the win was also an important victory for “The Other 16” in the Premier League, the clubs who are out of the Big Four. The ones who historically are also-rans. Seeing Birmingham City go all the way in the Carling Cup will provide motivation to other teams out there that if you’re willing to take risks and play with incredible pride and passion, that anything is possible.

Congratulations to Birmingham City and their supporters, and commiserations to Arsenal and their supporters. While it wasn’t the best cup final I’ve seen, it was entertaining. It felt like how a cup final should feel. And, as a neutral, it was wonderful to see Birmingham City celebrating at great lengths after the final whistle was blown.

The question is, though, was that the final whistle on Arsenal’s chances of winning silverware this season? What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments section below. And where do you see Birmingham going from here? Was that a flash in the pan or can they surprise teams in next year’s Europa League?

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  1. Andrei

    February 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    The mental state after painful cup defeat will have very little bearing on future Arsenal performances. RVP injury and if Fabregas and other key players manage to stay fit will define how Arsenal do in the remainder of the season.

  2. Psych_101

    February 28, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I love all the frontier psychologists coming out of the woods every time Arsenal loses a game to analyse their mental state. People find something else to base your criticisms on because it gets tiring. Arsenal hasn’t won anything the past 6 years because they haven’t been the 1st or 2nd best team in EPL nor have the spent enough money to acquire talents compare to the likes of Chelsea, United or Liverpool end of the story. But now they are close to United on the table because United sold it’s best player and Chelsea stalwarts are finally aging because as bad as Arsenal have been this seasons and the number of ways they have found to throw away points, the fact that they still 4 points away speaks to their mental strength to keep pushing on. Enough with the mumbo jumbo frontier psychoanalysis.

  3. Pakapala

    February 28, 2011 at 11:23 am

    That’s it! I am done defending the Gunners for their clumsy mistakes that just see them lose points and games like this one.
    It’s funny how I was just telling my brother as Foster placed the ball to take the free kick that this game looked like one of those games when we’ll lose on a gaff by our defense. I was still ending my sentence when the unthinkable (not so unthinkable when it comes to Arsenal) happened!!! UNBELIEVABLE!!! The most surprising of all this sequence of action is that as a fan I expected it to happen, like it was normal, business as usual. I usually defend them against the onslaught of criticism they receive but I can’t defend them anymore. Ridiculous!

  4. R2Dad

    February 28, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Safe to say this season isn’t playing out how anyone imagined. And so I expect more wacky results. Since Arsenal has been slapped down by Birmingham, they should by all rights now go out and beat Barca, again. Birmingham, now fully content having put a trophy in the cabinet, will be relegated. Eventually the English FA will understand that all these injuries and the lack of a winter break in the EPL may give the smaller teams a better chance of getting a result but ultimately hurt the product on the field. Seems obvious, but money talks and no one cares about the health of the England squad until 2012 and 2014.

  5. Peero

    February 28, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I tink,wilshere shud b groomed to play Nasri’s role.He is stronger,mor direct n has enuf skills 2.D Gunners blatantly refused 2 play wide 4 Van Persie 2 benefit,tryin 2 force their way d middle.Song dint impress,Rosicky out of sorts.Take nothn away 4m d winnin goal,it was a wel timed injection of a persistent striker.

  6. Jon Sharp

    February 28, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Agree with Pacificstyle, but still think Arsenal with Fabregas and Walcott on the pitch are a different team and one that can win something this year. As a Bluenose I take pride in our tough-to-beat form at St Andrews and Arsenal took us to the cleaners this year. We definitely benefitted from Cesc’s absence today. That said, Blues were incredible and if they continue to play like that against the teams in the lower half of the table, we will have another top half finish. Martins is looking very sharp – scored a great goal against Wednesday in the FA cup, Zigic is looking more confident and our most consistent man-of-the-match winner this year, Bentley, wasn’t even on the pitch today. Provided we can move up the table and with the promise of European football next year I am hoping that we can sign players like Bentley and Martins on long term contracts and hold on to the likes of Johnson, Dann and Larson.
    It’s a great day for bluenoses everywhere KRO!

  7. pacificStyle

    February 27, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Here are a couple of things that need to be remedied before Arsenal win anything:
    – Defense! No – I’m not one of those “let’s go all out and splurge” guys. I have immense respect for AWs scouting awareness and will choose to work with what we have. What we have then, is poor defensive training. Perhaps the Arsenal defense need to adopt a more English style of defense and clear the ball without hesitation every time it gets in the box instead of trying to calmly and nonchalantly keep possession as if it’s no sweat. See – opposing teams will always press Arsenal players more than other teams and for this reason it becomes imperative for Arsenal defenders to not try and pretend that they got the sh8 covered at the back and instead, to clear the ball efficiently – Look at Nemanja Vidic tapes over and over again.

    – Midfield: There is one conundrum that needs resolution and that is who replaces Cesc? If it’s Nasri, then be consistent with that approach because frankly, Rosicky is horseshy8 with the ball. He was a very promising talent when he arrived but he’s absolute horseshy8 in possession and play making right now. Denilson and Rosicky are no longer Arsenal first team quality. Diaby’s borderline – give this kid more chances to prove himself. Get the other kids that are out on loan in – Jay Emm. Thomas seems so promising! Or even consider placing Diaby in a more holding position and allowing Wilshere to roam free up front, granted that would be a bit of a shame because Wilshere is superb in defense as well.

    – Lastly, goalkeeping. Szczesny (my keyboard just blew out) is alright! Kid’s confident and got promise. I don’t doubt there’ll be many problems once Vermaelen and Djourou command the back. Teach ’em all proper English and send ’em to Disney world together so they can communicate better, however.

    Congratulations to Birmingham City! A well deserved win.

  8. jonathan

    February 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    i have faith that the team will push on, and keep their heads up, this was the first of four trophies they could bring home…bigger and better things await this team. Not to talk down the carling cup, but just in perspective

  9. Danny Correia

    February 27, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I think that this Arsenal defeat is really going to affect them mentally. If this win could mean anything to this team, besides the obvious silverware that has been escaping them for tha last 5 years, was the boost in confidence that this win would bring. It would give them more strength and confidence to try to fight to get a result in the Nou Camp, and fight even harder to get closer to a Manchester Untied, that has been more lucky than good this year. But it wasn’t a win, and the ghost of an empty trophy cabinet full os spider webs, only haunts them more, and the extra weight that puts on those Arsenal players. I hope I’m wrong, and they bounce back quickly, but that’s what they have should us in the last five years. A tema with great quality, capable of great things, but mentally weak when it really counts, when the pressure is on. Lets see if they prove me wrong this time.

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