Arsenal to suffer long-term Blues?

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Football, Uncategorized

Martins' winner epitomised Arsenal's failings

Winning is a habit. And so is losing. One slip was enough to cost Arsenal the Carling Cup but the full effects of it are still to be seen.

 It was meant to be the first trophy of the Emirates Stadium era. It was meant to be the time to silence the critics. It was meant to be the proof that you can be stylish and successful.

Kevin Phillips said pre-match that unless you came from a Birmingham you would have been misgiven for not knowing they were in the final too. He was right.

All the build-up had been about how few of the Arsenal players had played in their last major trophy win back in 2005.

Birmingham’s 48-year wait was irrelevant. Alex McLeish was four-years old when Birmingham last won a trophy back in 1963 but it did not matter because Arsenal were going to win. If you backed Birmingham then you are cleverer and richer than most.

But Birmingham City were magnificent from first minute to last and fully deserved their victory.

Ben Foster proved once again what an able keeper England have at their disposal with; Roger Johnson embodied the mind-over-matter spirit with a performance of leadership that Arsenal so badly lacked and the ungainly Nicola Zigic cruelly exposed Arsenal’s well-known defensive fragility.

As for Arsenal their season – and arguably the next three of four years – will be defined by how they respond.

It is difficult to see how Arsenal can pick themselves up after this and galvanise an assault on the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League this year.

The great sides know how to win matches and trophies without hitting top gear. Arsenal do not seem to have that quality.

Jose Mourinho has always stated his belief that winning the Carling Cup in 2005 was the most important step to success during his stint at Chelsea. It was the first major honour for the likes of Frank Lampard and John Terry and gave the whole squad a belief they could push on and win every competition they were part of.

Of the Arsenal squad, only Fabregas has any experience of lifting a trophy for the Gunners as time after time they fail to kick on and earn the game’s major prizes.

But the Carling Cup final proved it is not just the mental side of the game that Arsenal need to develop.

For all the good football Arsenal play in the final-third it makes no difference if you cannot defend.

Since Jens Lehmann left in 2008, Wenger has never resolved the goalkeeping problem which is plain for everyone else to see. Alan Hansen claims a good goalkeeper is worth 12 points over a season – Arsenal are not good enough to sacrifice those points to their rivals.

Manchester United had the same problem when Peter Schmeichel left the club in May 1999 and was not solved until Sir Alex Ferguson bought Edwin Van der Sar six years later.

The defence is just as shaky. Obafemi Martins’ winner was a disaster waiting to happen.

Successful sides can attack and defend. Barcelona can play the way they do because Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are there to back up their attacking enterprise. Arsenal do not have that spine to build a great side around.

Arsene Wenger has developed and nurtured fantastic attacking talents since 2005. Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie would walk into most sides and Jack Wilshere seems to be getting better with every game he plays.

The uncomfortable truth for Arsenal fans is that if you put Nemanja Vidic and Van der Sar into that side they would be unstoppable.

But whilst Wenger stubbornly refuses to spend money on a world-class goalkeeper and centre-back they will continue to be second regardless of how beautiful their football is.

The deserved celebrations in Birmingham will only be matched by those in Manchester, as United effectively sealed their unprecedented 19th league title without kicking a ball.

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