Fresh from a very creditable draw in Manchester on Sunday, the Arsenal’s Capital One Cup campaign begins tonight at home to Coventry City. Well, it will begin for those Arsenal first team squad members who have yet to feature very much, if at all, so far this season. I liked these nights, it was always a good opportunity to watch players that you would normally have to wait a couple of years to see. I guess, as the trophy “drought” has continued- would seven years really constitute a drought had it not been proceeded by at least one trophy a season for four years?- the emphasis has changed somewhat. The days of fielding a team of young tyros are gone. And we’re kind of back where we were, with the competition being used, well, as I described it in the second sentence of this blog.
Just to illustrate that point, Johan Djourou seems certain to make his first start of the season tonight. I remember being at Highbury- yes, Highbury- for Djourou’s Arsenal debut in this competition, when we played Everton seven years ago. Seven years! He’s hardly a bright young thing now, is he? He is still young, in fairness, but the promise of that night seems, and is, a very long time ago now. Arturo Lupoli got two goals that night and that illustrates a further point that I’ve thought about for a while, but never really articulated here. My point is this: the League Cup was basically used by Arsenal to sell us the future. Or, at least one possible future, a bright, trophy laden one, with midfielders rolling off the production line Rolls Royce style, Carlos Vela chipping opposition goalkeepers for eternity. But it never really panned out that way- the ones that came through and made it have largely fucked off to parts who cares where. The ones that didn’t? Well, some of them are still here because we can’t get rid of them and the rest have been cast out into Europe. Or the lower leagues.
And yes, I know that Jack Wilshere and Keiran Gibbs have come through and are vital parts of the first team squad now, and two into the first team at a club like Arsenal is good enough- and it is good enough. It doesn’t quite square, though, with some of the demolition jobs we’ve witnessed, the hope we’ve felt, over the years, does it?
Notwithstanding these observations, and I say observations because that’s all they are- I’m not moaning- honest, I do like the League Cup still. I just feel that it has become something of an irrelevance, again. That said, I would have loved to take up the offer of a spare ticket tonight, but I’m not feeling very well. In fact, I’ve just downed some Beechams All In One (so if this posts gets all trippy with the pixies and the fairies, you’ll know why). I have gone to Arsenal ill before, but I’m not so sure it’s wise on what is likely to be a chilly, autumnal week night.
It’s a bit of a pain, obviously there’s no tv coverage to get involved with and whenever I listen to us on the radio we always concede a goal or two, so I won’t be doing that! I’m not a lover of scrabbling around the internet for streams either, so I’ll be reduced to following the game via Twitter and/ or livetext updates. Alternatively, I’ll stick a film on with Jo and enjoy my evening without worrying too much about the game. Yes, I’m a revolutionary.
In terms of the game and what I think might happen, whatever side we put out tonight, it’s likely to be a strong one if not the tip top one that has made it through the opening month of the season unbeaten. Our home record in the League Cup is, simply put, superb. Aside from the Sergio Aguero inflicted defeat last season, by my reckoning you would have to go back to Middlesbrough in 2004 for our last home defeat in the competition. I haven’t checked that, so I stand to be corrected. Coventry are, clearly, not Manchester City despite wearing similar colours and so I expect our excellent Ashburton Grove record to continue.
If I was going tonight, I’d be looking forward to watching Nico Yennaris and Francis Coquelin in action. I know, I know, I’m contradicting myself- blogger’s prerogative, right? I’d also be quite excited to see Thomas Eisfeld given a run out and then there is the tantalising prospect of Olivier Giroud scoring his first goal for the club. I almost feel guilty about mentioning that. We don’t want to turn it into “a thing”, do we? I’d be excited to see Andrei Arshavin deployed, properly, behind the striker. But it’s not going to make any difference to his first team prospects. He would have to score a hat trick and create a chance every minute to get a go in his favoured position for the first team proper. And, with Santi Cazorla making a fast start to London life, rightly so.
Despite the fact that Cazorla will almost certainly have his feet up tonight, as we prepare for the visit of Chelsea in the early Saturday kick off, it is with Cazorla that I wish to leave today’s blog. Speaking on the Football Weekly pod on Monday, the Guardian’s man in Spain, Sid Lowe, answered some of the more nonsensical “if Cazorla is so good why don’t Barca or Real Madrid want him?” questions. Logically too. Barca don’t want him because they’ve got the best midfield ever. Madrid did want him, Cazorla didn’t want them. He finished the Cazorla defence with the words, “I just think he’s brilliant”.
The more I see, and read, of Cazorla, the more I think that this little genius could be about to propel Arsenal to heights we haven’t scaled since leaving Highbury.------------
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