Don’t mention the score
It’s back into the Milk Cup saddle this evening as Bolton roll into town. Despite having despatched Shrewsbury Town already, the merest mention of a Carling Cup tie takes me back to memories of filing out of Wembley in February. It’s hard to forget, even now. They weren’t the kinds of conversations for gentle souls.
Defeat that day, as we know, precipitated our worst run of form for a long, long time – we’re only emerging from it now – but Wenger’s approach last year, to my mind, was the right one. He wanted the team to taste victory, to kick on. It couldn’t have backfired more spectacularly but there you go. Given our start to this season, our form and our brittleness, it still represents one of our best chances for a crack at a trophy so once again he will look to get the balance between youth and experience right. It’s an especially tough call tonight because Bolton, though down on their luck, is a tougher assignment than Shrewsbury and we will need to take that into account, all the while thinking about Saturday’s game.
Part of the reason we have looked stronger in this competition could be that the players we blooded in it are young but now experienced. Others, like Coquelin and Frimpong, are raw but are hardly sitting idle on the sidelines – eight starts between them this season already.
Cor blimey, striker light
One area there is room for rotation in is up front. van Persie’s two-goal cameo on Sunday, delicious though it was, simply reinforced the point that while we have one trigger-happy marksman at the top of his game to fall back on, we have another two marksmen tottering around in the wilderness.
Bit harsh, maybe. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Chamakh’s workrate at the moment but he’s peculiarly devoid of confidence (one goal in 31 appearances, I read somewhere, and no shots on goal on Sunday. Blunt). As for Park – defended yesterday, as you would expect, by Wenger – he’s been banging them in for South Korea but nowhere to be seen at Arsenal.
“Some people judged our players very quickly in a negative way and slowly they changed their mind through their performances. I prefer it that way round than the other” said Wenger. “Some players make you jump off your seat in the early stages and then disappoint you after”, he added, not I imagine consciously referring to Chamakh, “ These players will win over all the sceptical people and Park is one of them.”
Well, he’ll certainly get his chance tonight.
Under the radar
One of the side effects of stumbling from one mucky defensive error to another for months is that we are now commanding less media attention. You’ll have had to stay up into the wee small hours to see us recently on Match of the Day. The column inches are down. Monday’s Times has an excellent 20-page football pullout called The Game. Five of those 20 pages were given over to the Utd v City game, one half of one page to us. I’m not saying that’s the wrong balance but it does mean that despite having now won 6 out of 7, we are operating somewhat under the radar. I prefer it this way.
No doubt this will change as the game at Stamford Bridge edges closer…