Arsenal head to St. James’ Park tonight to play Newcastle in the Carling Cup. Arsenal’s Carling Cup squad may be a little different to what we’ve become accustomed too over the years. In previous seasons Arsène Wenger often utilised the Carling Cup to showcase his talented youngsters. The more experienced first team players were often rested and Wenger would play a healthy mixture of reserve-players and players just on the outskirts of the first team. On a good day this meant that we had an opportunity to see Arsenal’s stars of the future stake their claims for a role in the first team. On a bad day this was seen as a lack of ambition on Wenger’s behalf. There’s no doubt that such prioritising has aided the development of a number of Arsenal youngsters – but the decision never paid any real dividends.
Arsenal fans will be sick to the teeth of hearing it, but they have been trophy-less for five seasons. Could things have been different if Wenger hadn’t been so reliant upon youth in the Carling and FA Cups? It seems Wenger has finally realised that no matter what the competition, supporters still crave success. Arsenal fans don’t want another season of ‘what-ifs’. Wenger must attack on all fronts and go after every trophy with an unshakeable zeal.
Tonight should see starts for Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielney all of whom are first-teamers or have experience in the first-team. This team-selection appears to be Wenger putting his money where his mouth is. At a recent shareholders meeting he announced that he would “go for every single competition with every resource we have”. He added, “We want to end our wait for a trophy. We want to respond with the maximum commitment to the demands of people. The only thing I can promise is that we will try to give our best in every competition.”
This must be music to the ears of Arsenal fans. Arsenal may have the best young players in the world, but what really matters in the footballing world are trophies. Why would you not give it your all to ensure you have every chance of bringing back the goods? There are very few players in Arsenal’s squad who know what it’s like to win on a grand scale (Gael Clichy has a league winner’s medal and Fabregas has European and World championship medals) and Arsenal need to break their duck and establish a trophy-winning confidence. The old mantra is true – winning inspires winning. You get the feeling that when Arsenal finally do win a trophy, it will be the first of many more.
There may be those who mourn the days of old. How do Arsenal blood their youngsters if they’re not going to get game time in the Carling Cup? Although he has changed his policy, Wenger still grants a great deal of importance to developing Arsenal’s youth players. This means that younger players will get their opportunities – I would imagine that your average Arsenal Carling Cup squad will be made up of 70% experienced first-team players, whilst the remaining 30% is up for grabs. Increasing the competition between players isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It means the cream of the crop will rise to the top and it’ll be easier to see who is developing best within the club. Good news all round for Arsenal fans.
If you’re interested and want to hear more feel free to follow me on Twitter.