First off let me apologise for the lack of live blog and also for the fact that the live blog seemed to do the server what Ryan Shawcross did to Aaron Ramsey. The whole thing was banjaxed, to use a technical term, so sorry about that. We’re working on something else for next time. And no, it’s not just not doing it. There also appears to be some residual banjaxedosity this morning so please bear with me while I try to get to the bottom of whatever it is.
Secondly, it turned out to be a decent night for us, despite a plethora of missed chances. We go into the Carling Cup semi-finals and we surely go into them as favourites for the trophy after United got spanked 4-0 last night by West Ham in the other 1/4 final. It’s a fantastic opportunity for this group of players to win something and hopefully benefit from the belief that will instill.
We should have been ahead within a couple of minutes. A Robin van Persie free kick was curled towards the far post where Nicklas Bendtner was waiting to head into an empty net. Instead he headed the air which seemed a curious choice. From a similar situation a little while later he decided heading the ball was a better option but only found the side netting.
Up the other end Wigan were getting some value out of Emmanuel Eboue. Clearly they targeted him. “Look”, they said, “a professional footballer wearing tights that appear to have come from Desperately Seeking Susan’s wardrobe. Let’s set upon him for clearly he is a weakling who does not fancy it”. So, whenever they got the chance they sent the ball out wide to Victor Moses. At one point the Wigan player parted Eboue like the red sea in our penalty area but shot just wide at the near post. Later, Eboue, concerned that his tights might have laddered, played a lazy back pass/fantastic through ball but Koscielny defended well and eased the danger.
That was Wigan really. They played some nice stuff until they got to the final third and then looked about as dangerous as a toothless kitten who had just spent an afternoon huffing opium with Sherlock Holmes. Yet we weren’t exactly causing them nightmares. Carlos Vela, given a chance on the left of a 4-4-2 or as part of a 3 in a 4-2-3-1, should have scored when clean through on goal. As usual he tried the little chipped finish but sent it wide. A poor miss from a player who needs to take chances like that when they come.
We went in 1-0 at half-time though when Alcaraz headed into his own net from a Theo Walcott corner. I’m not quite sure what he was thinking to be honest but I didn’t complain. Robin van Persie then played in Vela with a fantastic flick but the Mexican’s touch was that of a club footed mule and Wigan cleared.
In the second half Wigan hardly threatened at all. N’Zogbia was getting no change out of Rosanna Eboue on the right and we should probably have scored more a few more than we did. When we did get one it was a decent cross from Vela and Bendtner slid in at the far post to finish. It wasn’t what you would call emphatic but it went in all the same. There was no way back from there.
We had more chances, one in particular for Vela should have been a goal but it was brought about by a quite sensational pass from Wilshere to Walcott. When Theo fed Vela the Mexican might have done better. Nasri had one saved on the line, so did Theo, there were a couple of other half-serious attempts and then the ref felt sorry for Eboue and blew for full time.
Clearly the defeat of United presents us with a brilliant opportunity to win this competition but Arsene was trying to play down expectations afterwards, saying:
You have seen what happened to Manchester United. That can happen to us. We have to accept there is no guarantee, even though you have got to the Semi-Final, that we win will the trophy. You have to fight to win. Now it is home and away so it will be tough competition to us.
You cannot say it is not important but you can’t make an obsession of it. We want to focus on the quality of our performances and the rest will be the consequence of our performances.
Which is fine, the players’ focus can’t be on the CC semi-finals but the Fulham game on Saturday, and I understand him trying to play down the pressure. That said you could argue that challenging them to go and do it might be productive too but maybe he’s saving that for the training ground.
From a supporter’s point of view though it would be desperately disappointing if we didn’t go all the way in this tournament now. Our team selection shows we’re taking it seriously and I’ve said for a long time that this group of players needs to win something. Not just because the old ‘Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 5 seasons’ thing is tiresome (for many reasons) but because winning is habit in as much as not winning is also a habit.
Of course it’s not going to be easy and nobody, players or fans, should take it for granted but this is a tremendous chance for the team. They’ve got to now step-up and take it to show they’re learning, to show they’re progressing and to show that they’re capable of winning something. The draw for the two-legged semi-finals takes place after tonight’s games. As well as West Ham the other semi-finalists will come from the games between Birmingham/Villa and Ipswich/West Brom.
In other news this morning Cesc talks about his hamstring injury and says he won’t be back until he’s 100% fit. Whether that means he’ll play against United later this month remains to be seen. Obviously it would be better to make the trip to Old Trafford with him but the priority must be to get him right for the rest of the season. There’s still a lot of football to play even if he doesn’t make the trip to flying pizzaland.
Carlos Vela to Real Zaragoza according to Cadena Ser, the Spanish radio station. When? I dunno. How much? Who can say. I suppose he’ll be disappointed he didn’t get on the scoresheet last night but while his overall game was decent enough he needs to take those chances to convince people he’s got what it takes.
Anyway, with the midweek job done we can put that to one side and turn our attention back to the Premier League. More on that in the days ahead.
Hope you’re not snowed in, wherever you are. I’ve grown very tired of this rubbish weather now. And as I look out the window here it’s beginning to snow again. Boooooo. Never used to snow in Barcelona, you know. Hang on, phone call. “Hello? Xavi?! How did you get this number? You leave my DNA out of this ….”