In the wake of Tuesday night’s Carling Cup quarter final victory over Wigan Athletic, Arsenal fans can have legitimate hopes of drawing an end to a painful spell of five years without lifting silverware. Whilst the scoreline was unremarkable in itself, the result takes on far greater significance when viewed in context.
A tenacious West Ham side humbled Manchester United, eliminating the holders and Arsenal’s principal rivals in the competition. Combining this development with Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City’s respective early departures and a favourable semi-final draw against Ipswich, the Gunners are left in pole position to lift a trophy largely overlooked during Arsene Wenger’s reign. That such widespread optimism has been sparked by the result is an indictment of the desperate need to land silverware and it has been mooted that the newfound enthusiasm for the competition represents a story of collapsing alternatives in N5. With assertions that the manager is lowering his sights under the pressure to deliver success, he has hardly moved to dispel the notion, having commented earlier this year: “If
The strength of the side fielded on Tuesday is not necessarily indicative of shifting priorities, but rather a greater depth to the squad. Marouane Chamakh’s arrival and subsequent form render his position secure, with Robin van Persie relegated to the fringes. Chamakh’s impact has also limited Nicklas Bendtner’s opportunities, leaving a full international available when rotating the squad. Wenger has continued to prioritise the league and Champions League, only now he has a greater wealth of talent at his disposal, meaning the squad is stronger than in previous campaigns when he does rotate. Even if he is affording greater respect to the competition, Chelsea illustrate the positive effect of cup success. The 2004/05 League Cup victory proved the catalyst to landing a first title under the Roman Abramovich era and subsequent cup wins in 2007/08 and 2008/09 kept momentum going ahead of a league and cup double last season.
Whilst the Wembley team and their cohorts failed to convince FIFA to award England the 2018 World Cup, domestic fans need no persuasion as to the draw of a Wembley cup final. As much as it is a chance to end the club’s trophy drought, it is a showpiece event for the fans. The players should bear both of these factors in mind as complacency appears to be the only obstacle between them and League Cup glory in March.