The acid test.

February 27, 2011

Hello from a very excited blogger here in Yokohama. Not that I need to tell you, but today sees us take on Birmingham at Wembley in the Carling Cup final. Regardless of whether or not the cup itself has any kind of real prestige value (because it doesn’t really) it still feels good to be involved in a final again. I don’t care that it is our fourth choice trophy, I want to win it.


Gone are the days when it is an exclusively uber youth team that takes to the field in the Carling Cup. Project youth started out initially due to the building of the Emirates and the need to bring through and develop young players in order to avoid the need for spending vast sums of money to sign players, because that money wasn’t going to be there for a while. It then became as much about financial prudence as about the manager’s self-imposed crusade to make project youth work. It was the footballing equivalent of Magnus Magnussen on Mastermind, he’d started so he’d finish. Today’s game could well be the pot of gold at the end of the project youth rainbow. If the team wins today, then the manager will feel that he has proven that he was right to stick with these players.


This game is going to be huge for this squad. Winning it could give the team the belief and confidence that it so badly needs in order to go on and achieve greater glory. This team needs to taste the glory of picking up a bit of silverware. Winning today could do the same for this team as it did for George Graham’s team over twenty years ago. It’s important that they get over the psychological hurdle of winning that first trophy. They already have the trophy girlfriends, now they need the one that counts.


The flipside of that is that if they lose…well, let’s just try and not think about that nightmare scenario. Losing a final would be bad enough but, losing a final to Birmingham would surely do untold psychological damage to the squad and would, inevitably, lead to questions being asked. No doubt there would be the Twitter equivalent of an apocalypse, too. To those of you in Ireland, you will have to have a look around for those iodine tablets that the government gave every citizen a few years back (when they thought that Sellafield was going to go bang-wallop) should the unthinkable happen.


Team news for today is that Cesc has been ruled out with a hamstring injury that will probably keep him out until after the Sunderland game, but that he should be okay for the trip to Barcelona. It is very sad for the player himself as he has longed to lead this team out in a final and for that chance to be snatched away from him just four days before the big day is cruel. The player himself is dying to be involved in the game, but the manager has to look at the bigger picture and do what is best for the team and its chances of success this season.


Koscielny and RvP are both set to be involved having shaken off minor injuries, the latter being given the honour of leading the team out as captain. As sad as it is for Cesc to miss out, it is in many ways the culmination of RvP’s journey back to redemption. From his early days when he used to lose the plot a bit, get sent off, through to his numerous periods of injury hell, finally he gets the chance to show how much he has grown both as a man and a player. I’m delighted that he will get the chance to lead the team out as captain.


In defence, we should line up with Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Djourou and Clichy. Midfield will, hopefully, be Nasri, Song and Wilshere in the middle with Bendtner wide right and Arshavin wide left and RvP up front.


Sagna        Koscielny        Djourou        Clichy

Nasri        Song        Wilshere

Bendtner                                        Arshavin

Van Persie

That said, we could well see Bendtner on the bench, with Diaby in the middle and Nasri wide right.


The game is a 01:00 JST kick-off and is not being screened on TV, so it will have to be a stream for those of us living in Japan.


Here’s to a win, any kind of win, and a trophy.


Take it easy. Come on you Reds!!