Is Arsène Wenger taking the Carling Cup more seriously? Comparing Arsenal selection policies since 2004

Arsène Wenger has a well-known reputation for using the League Cup as a stepping stone for star young players, the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Walcott and Alex Song are all established first teamers who have played in previous campaigns. This season Wenger’s selection policies have changed, but how much, and does this mean he is desperate for any success?


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Much debate centred over whether Wenger’s youth policy devalued the competition. The answer is yes. However, the value of a fourth competition, with an unbalanced system where the richest teams enter with only four games to the final is debatable. That debate continues elsewhere (see WSC here and here).

In light of the fact that Arsenal have won no major trophy since 2005, Wenger is under pressure to take the League Cup more seriously, and use first team players to try and pick up a trophy, creating a winning mentality.

This season a change has been noted in the approach, with much of the press picking up on the fact that Arsène Wenger has actually been taking the League Cup ‘seriously’. The question is, how different is the policy compared to previous years?

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Arsenal 2 – 1 Liverpool: Carling Cup

A good result against a half strength Liverpool team tonight. Arsenal played a mixture of squad players: Eduardo, Gibbs, Ramsey, Bendtner, reserves: Senderos, Sylvestre, injury returns: Nasri and youth players: Gilbert, Eastmond.

The game saw some end to end football by both teams. Arsenal’s passing was exquisite at times, although it got very sloppy towards the end. Babel was awful for Liverpool and negated almost every attack they attempted, Wenger was right not to sign him on this performance.

Merida’s goal was fantastic, as was Insua’s, Bendtner managed to finish Liverpool off with a good strike on 50 minutes. Eastmond made a decent debut, I was also really impressed with Nasri – he was fantastic, and looked really hungry for the win. Wenger may have a selection problem with him back in contention.

Overall a good performance, Sanchez Watt, Gibbs, Eduardo, Ramsey, Merida and Nasri particuarly impressed me. Senderos and Sylvestre had good and bad spells in defence. I wouldn’t like to see them against higher quality than Babel and Voronin to be honest.

So through to the next round, with the important game against Tottenham coming up on Saturday at 12.45.

Time to review Carling Cup strategy following FA Cup defeat

This is a guest post by Vertino of Gunners Today

It might sound strange to mention this now but it is high time we considered this. Last weekend we lost to Chelsea again in a big cup match. Of course most of the blame was shared between the curious case of Wenger’s team selection and Fabianski’s moments of utter madness but that is not up for debate this time round.

Image courtesy of wjarrettc

From next season I believe Arsene should scrap the policy of fielding an entirely youthful side in the Carling Cup. My excitement on discovering the Arsenal youngsters is tinged with disappointment; a realisation that most of these players for many reasons won’t make it at the Emirates. Cesc is the only player in recent years who has made the transition successfully. In that time we have seen the likes of Quincy, Lupoli, Larsson exit the red half of North London.

Does that mean youngsters shouldn’t get the opportunities? Of course not! For me the only youngsters I want to be seeing are those with outstanding talent and/or with the right mental attributes such as determination and composure. Gibbs is a perfect example of the latter specified criteria.

I am looking at it in terms of percentages, and my suggestion would be to field a lower number of youngsters. Perhaps Arsene could involve only 5-7 youngsters in the entire match squad. Or he could filter the numbers as the stakes increase, so start with 7 youngsters in the 4th round, 6 in the next round etc etc.

If you play the best of the best youth it means the rest of the team is fairly experienced. This playing environment fosters a quicker growth for youngsters. This is exactly why Cesc has gone on to become such a pivotal player for the Gunners because he was able to play and learn with the likes of Vieira and Gilberto. Just imagine how much Wilshere and Ramsey can learn if they play with experienced players all the time.

Remember the best players i.e. Gerrard, Scholes, Carrick, etc had a lot of experience surrounding them when they were young. This is a privilege Denilson, Diaby and Song no longer have. It forces them to learn by themselves, slowing their development a great deal and sometimes exposes them in big matches against more experienced players.

I seriously hope Wenger considers this for next season as his current strategy has yet to pay off in terms of competitions won. In Arsene we trust, but we can question his decisions sometimes, can’t we?

By Vertino

Burnley 2 – 0 Arsenal Highlights – Out of the Carling Cup

Burnley 2 – 0 Arsenal: McDonald 6, 57 Highlights: Goal 1, Goal 2

After the euphoria of the win at Stamford Bridge, a very young Arsenal side were unlucky to lose to Burnley at Turf Moor.

Burnley played very well and gave Arsenal little space, and took their chances. Meanwhile Arsenal had several one on ones with the keeper, but failed to put away easy chances. In the end it wouldn’t have been unfair for Arsenal to win, but the more clinical Burnely went through.

It is a little disappointing that we went out of the cup so early, it was fun watching the youngsters thrash Sheffield Utd and Wigan, but they couldn’t get past Burnley.

Gallas promotes his leadership skills as Arsenal look to close gap on leaders

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

First of all, attention has to be paid to the fantastic week Arsenal have had. Since my post last Friday, the Gunners defeated Manchester United (highlights here) to keep their title hopes alive, then on Wednesday the ‘kids’ proved how talented they are once again as they brushed aside Wigan in the Carling Cup (highlights here).

All in all, it has been a remarkable and pleasing turnaround that could just kick start the season once again. Of course, a lot of hard work would be undone if Arsene Wenger’s side fail to continue their return to form against Aston Villa this weekend – so here’s to another three points!

Speaking ahead of the clash at the Emirates, Arsenal captain William Gallas has hit back at critics that have suggested he doesn’t have the correct attitude to be the club’s skipper. Ever since his bizarre reaction to the 2-2 draw at Birmingham last season, his leadership skills have certainly been under the microscope.

Gallas believes that he has always been a decent captain for his side though and insists the criticism he occasionally receives is only after poor results. The Frenchman said that after the Manchester United win ‘everyone was saying my leadership was good’ despite questions over it before the game.

To be honest, I think he has a point here. As we all know, football is a results business. Gallas went on to say that he actually thought he had ‘a better game against Spurs’ which emphasises how much a win means to fans.

As long as the team wins, the criticism will be heavily reduced. That’s why Gallas finished by saying that at the end of the season the only thing that matters is that Arsenal have a trophy because ‘everything else is forgotten’.

So, the Aston Villa game tomorrow. Martin O’Neill’s side have been hailed as the only team capable of breaking the top four places in the Premier League and they certainly have a team of more than capable players. They only sit three points behind the Gunners, so a win is an absolute must for the home team.

As far as team news goes, well the ‘big guns’ are set to return despite the impressive showing in the Carling Cup at the weekend. Emmanuel Adebayor and Manuel Almunia should take their place in the starting line-up, as will the already mentioned Gallas. Robin van Persie is suspended though and Emmanuel Eboue is still suffering with a knee injury.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 19 Premier League matches against Villa, but have failed to beat them in the league at the Emirates as yet. Two 1-1 draws have been produced in the last couple of seasons. This time around though, I expect a confident Arsenal performance against a team that will be rather down after their home defeat to Middlesbrough last weekend.

By Thomas Rooney

Arsenal vs. Wigan – Vela and Bischoff in! Adebayor singing!

Arsenal play Wigan tonight in the Carling Cup, the squads have been announced, we’ve got Bischoff set to make his debut, and Vela should play up front with Ramsey and Wilshere in midfield.

The Boss has been talking about what a gamble signing Bischoff was this summer, he had injury problems for a few years, and he didn’t play much for Werder Bremen.

Also have a look at this video of Adebayor singing at Stamford Bridge!

Lovely stuff!

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