Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has vowed to abandon his policy of blooding members of his ever-burgeoning creche during the early rounds of the Carling Cup, in lieu of making a concerted effort to actually win something this time out – thus ending the club’s five-year spell of ultimately pointless dry-humping.
Whereas in the past Wenger would make use of the oft-derided competition to merely hand many of his fledglings a taste of cup football (under the pretense of ‘first-team’ football) without any real concerns over progressing through the tournament, if his comments at Arsenal’s recent Annual General Meeting (AGM) are anything to go by, the Frenchman is now willing to take anything he can get to end the club’s half-decade barren streak (the 2005 FA Cup, if you were wondering):
“[Arsenal] will go for every single competition with every resource we have. First of all because we have a big squad and, as well, I believe we have a good enough squad to now go forward and win trophies.
That’s why I think: ‘Okay, let’s go as far as we can’.
If needed we can still always choose later but, at the moment, it is important for everybody to think we go for everything we can. I said to the players we will go for everything we can, as simple as that. And not really specifying one more than the other.”
Wenger also stressed the importance of preserving the club’s current momentum having, at the time, scored an impressive 7 goals in their previous two games:
“I believe we are on a good run and we want to keep that going. It’s important to keep it moving no matter what competition it is. That’s what we want to do.
We are doing well in the Champions League and we have done well so far in the Carling Cup, and we are back on track in the championship.
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.”
Having been so dismissive of the Carling Cup in the past (“I do not consider that if you win the Carling Cup, you will be going on a trophy parade”), this new-found clamour for silverware represents a significant sea change in Wenger’s once-withering outlook.
It is widely expected that Arsenal will field players in the ilk of Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner, Kieran Gibbs and Laurent Koscielny against Newcastle at St James’ Park tonight, which could obviously be construed as merely giving a few recently recovering first-teamers a run out in order to find their legs again, but the deployment of such big-name ‘resources’ seems to sit fairly snugly alongside Wenger’s vow to ‘go for every single competition’.
The clearest indication that Wenger’s attitude toward the Carling Cup has been transmogrified by a certain degree of desperation came not at the AGM, but in the previous round’s 4-1 victory over rivals Tottenham.
Arsenal fielded a far more formidable line-up to that which we are used to seeing at this early stage of proceedings, with players such as Laurent Koscielny, Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky later being joined by Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin.
It would have been reasonable to assume that Wenger had made such a strong selection purely in a bid to ensure that the north London bragging rights headed back toward Ashburton Grove come the final whistle, but his promise to the club’s shareholders seem to imply that his desire to progress through the competition won’t be limited to just the one game.