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McLeish power behind Birmingham glory

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Phil McNulty | 23:30 UK time, Sunday, 27 February 2011

Wembley

Alex McLeish may have forgotten that Carling Cup victory brought European football as a fringe benefit - but he remembered how the game's prizes can be won and lost.

One small detail revealed in the euphoric after-glow of Birmingham City's dramatic Wembley victory against Arsenal hinted at McLeish's meticulous planning to win the club's first major silverware in 48 years.

The outcome of a thrilling final ultimately hinged on a catastrophic communication breakdown between Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny that gifted Obefami Martins the winner two minutes from time.

But as Birmingham manager McLeish lavished justified praise on Ben Foster for his latest Carling Cup Final heroics, the Scot spoke of how training ground work on improving the accuracy of the goalkeeper's kicking to keep Arsenal under pressure formed part of his game plan.

A small detail maybe - but the sort of careful attention and diligence that characterised a perfect day for the Scot, his team and those he labelled "the long-suffering Blues fans."

mcleish_sunday.jpgThe sight of a tearful Birmingham fan dodging through lanes of gridlocked traffic on Empire Way to get to Liam Ridgewell as he strolled on the opposite pavement bore testimony to the emotions generated by this win.

McLeish made it the ideal 51st birthday present for Birmingham owner Carson Yeung by delivering a Wembley victory on a day that will live forever in the memories of supporters who have spent enough time in the shadow of neighbours Aston Villa.

And to think there was a time not so long ago when questions were being asked about McLeish's long-term prospects at Birmingham. Not any more.

The Arsenal images could not have been more contrasting. A desolate Arsene Wenger, gracious in defeat, Koscielny and Szczesny "destroyed" in the words of their manager and Robin van Persie and Jack Wilshere offering apologies to supporters via the Twittersphere.

In the time it took Koscielny to hesitate over a routine clearance and Szczesny fatally failed to command his area, Arsenal extended a trophy drought that stretches back to 2005's FA Cup win against Manchester United and old questions about defensive vulnerability, goalkeeping frailty and weakness under pressure were revisited.

Wenger claimed victory at Wembley would be regarded as a step forward for Arsenal. The question of whether defeat represents a step back will shape the rest of their season.

For Birmingham there were only emotions at the top end of the scale, all on show as McLeish and his players chewed the fat with fans outside Wembley as they made their way away from the scene of this triumph.

McLeish's only mistake of the day may have been to call Birmingham "a small club" because on this evidence they have real capacity to grow given the feverish backing they received and their prime location. Everything else he called spot-on.

The giant and often-derided figure of Nikola Zigic was central to McLeish's plan to play on Arsenal's nerves. It paid off handsomely with Birmingham's first goal and an important contribution from the Serbian.

And this was no "park the bus and hope for the best" win. It mixed discipline, determination and positive intent in equal measure. McLeish's 4-5-1 formation offered protection in the face of Arsenal's attacks but also allowed Lee Bowyer and, in the first half at least, Craig Gardner to advance in support of Zigic.

Van Persie equalised Zigic's goal but the manner in which Birmingham approached the game and the physical and mental courage they displayed in hanging on in the face of a late Arsenal surge made this a win that was well-merited.

It was achieved in the face of early injustice when Bowyer was brought down by Szczesny in the area after being wrongly flagged for offside. The goalkeeper may have escaped a penalty and possible red card in the first few minutes but his punishment was saved until the last.

No-one summed up Birmingham's spirit better than the magnificent Roger Johnson, limping and grimacing from the pain of a calf injury but refusing to give way in challenges in the air and on the ground.

On every occasion I have watched this natural born defender he has never been anything other than excellent and England coach Fabio Capello, who was watching on, will surely have been impressed.

McLeish said: "We had a brilliant game plan, or should I say we had a game plan that was executed brilliantly by the players. For a small club like Birmingham to beat the might of Arsenal is like a dream come true and I'm so happy for everyone."

Birmingham's celebrations will be low-key and held next weekend, but the memories will live forever on a day that is perhaps the greatest in the club's history.

Arsenal boss Wenger, who never set much store by the Carling Cup until this season, looked shell-shocked as he raked through the wreckage of this lost opportunity to shift attention away from his years without a trophy.

He told BBC Sport: "A little misunderstanding had a great consequence on the game and both players are destroyed. I blame no-one. When these things happen late in the game there is no time to rectify it. We have to wait a little bit longer for a trophy. It is very hard to take."

Wenger added: "The two players are destroyed and I don't think it is good for me to add anything to that. We have to lift them up and help them. That's what being in a team is about.

"What can you say? You have to be positive because he (Szczesny) is a young boy. He has to pick himself up from that goal and hopefully he can do that."

Arsenal may feel destroyed now but will surely be soothed by the bigger challenges that lie ahead in the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup, presenting the perfect chance to illustrate the strength of character Wenger insists lies inside his team.

The manner of Birmingham's winner was an object lesson in how not to defend a routine situation and raises again the spectre of Wenger's failure to strengthen his goalkeeping and central defensive resources.

It is a valid point, but the irony is that in recent weeks Szczesny has emerged as a goalkeeper of great potential and Koscielny, especially against Barcelona, has started to look like more at home. How much of that good work and progress is undone by the awful moment that handed Birmingham the silverware remains to be seen.

Arsenal's players looked drained and devastated at the final whistle. No signs of the Carling Cup being low on Arsenal's list of priorities. This hurt and recovery time will be needed.

Context is also required, however, and Arsenal are well-placed in the title race as well as holding an advantage over Barcelona in the Champions League in the battle for a place in the last eight. So much remains that could yet make this campaign a rich one.

For those goals to be pursued they will need Cesc Fabregas to make a quick recovery from his hamstring problem. Arsenal's captain was sorely missed at Wembley.

Wenger's side lack leaders on the pitch and there was a shortage of direction and inspiration at Wembley as they were confronted by the focus and fierce desire of Birmingham. Fabregas may not be a natural leader in the eyes of many but he is the best Arsenal have got and they cannot afford to be be without him.

Birmingham had leaders all over Wembley, particularly in the technical area in the shape of McLeish. And the manager now has a trophy to back his case for added investment from owner Yeung in the summer as they prepare for European combat.

The St. Andrew's anthem of "Keep Right On To The End Of The Road" shook Wembley at the final whistle - and this Carling Cup win may only be the start of the journey under McLeish.

You can follow me at twitter.com/philmcnulty and join me on Facebook.


Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    How long until Arsenal actually win some kind of trophy? It's getting ridiculous now.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was great to see Birmingham win the cup which had the rare underdog feel of the late 80s cup winning teams of Luton Town, Coventry City and Wimbledon.

  • Comment number 4.

    This carling cup final was one of the best we have seen in recent years two team that wanted the trophy neither completely dominating the other and both attacking within their strengths.

    I do disagree with the comment that Arsenal had no leaders on the pitch as i felt that Jake Wilshere througtout the game was leading them by example he kept driving them forward and kept coming back to help out the defence.

  • Comment number 5.

    Being an Arsenal fan is so frustrating.

    At least we've got stability. It's only a matter of time that we'll start winning competitions again, or so I keep telling myself.

  • Comment number 6.

    That's what happens when you sign players we can't pronounce their names.. KOSCIELNY and SZCZESNY!! Lmao!

  • Comment number 7.

    @6.... so if their keeper changes his name to Ian Smith and the defender becomes Harry King then they will become good players immediately?

    OK, so there was a mix up, but it seems as though certain media outlets have focused on that instead of Birmingham's great win.

  • Comment number 8.

    Almost worse than losing the game is reading the smug self satisfaction of McNulty revelling in an(other) Arsenal defeat. The clichés tripping off his blog with depressing predictability ...'defensive frailties'..check, 'mental weakness'...check, ... 6 years since winning anything...check.

    Wanting Arsenal to lose so much just so you can happily laud any team that beats them does not make you any more insightful, but instead shows a spite usually reserved for the playground. We all get it, you hate Wenger, you hate his passing game, you hate Arsenal. Why don't you just proudly proclaim it, rather than hiding behind the all too thin veil of neutrality?

  • Comment number 9.

    @53Szczesny53 just last week you said Ashley Cole throw Chelsea way i guess you gave arsenal away .throwing and giving away ?? kids talk i guess .i think kids should put their mouths inside pockets also Ashley Cole would be laughing right now maybe even fall from his seat or get stomach ace laughing out loud.kids !!!! OK now kids be careful what you say 20 year old not so matured

  • Comment number 10.

    this game showed why arsenal wont win anything this season, why they wont win anything until wenger actually goes and buys some players that have experience of winning something, they lack mental toughness.

    barcelona will take their chances against them in the nou camp, probably get knocked out of the fa cup by man utd and and lose the premier league to man utd, why?, because even though man utd's team isnt that great they have leaders in the dressing room like giggs, scholes and ferdinand that know how to win trophies and have ferguson with the hair dryer if the dont win.

    birmingham deserved to win, created the better chances and outplayed arsenal.

    so well done birmingham

  • Comment number 11.

    I think if you track away from the media hyperbole behind Arsenal going into this game, you would see that Birmingham weren't exactly that much of distant underdogs. Ben Foster and Stephen Carr have both won this trophy, McLeish has won plenty of cup-finals in Scotland and the likes of Roger Johnson, Barry Ferguson, Nikola Zigic and Obafemi Martins all have played in various domestic cup finals.

    It was always going to be a tight match-up. McLeish got his tactics spot-on on the day, pretty much restricting Arsenal to half-chances which Foster dealed with excellently.

    As for Arsenal, I think they would probably have won this had they had an experienced defender at the back. I feel really sorry for Szczesny. I think he will become a very good goalkeeper but even the youngest international goalkeepers had a strong backline to develop behind. Casillas had Hierro and Buffon had the Argentinian maestro of Sensini guiding him at very step. I feel the young Pole is being expected to do a man's job behind what is a relatively inexperienced backline (Kosicelny playing his first season outside of France for example.)

    Finally I don't really get some Arsenal fans who feel frustrated by the whole 6 years thing. We went 6 trophyless years at PSG from 1998 to 2004 and after that we won 4 cups and have a great chance this season of winning some more. Patience is a prime virtue of being a football fan, it makes you appreciate your wins as a football club even more - just ask any Birmingham City fan.

    There are far too many nouveau-riche plastic supporters out there who embody everything that is wrong in modern football today. Instant success without a care and understanding of the actual nuances of what it essentially means to be a supporter of your team. My heart goes to the older and more sensible Gooner fans, as I genuinely believe you will win something soon.

  • Comment number 12.

    Birmingham fully deserved the win, they came out with attacking intent from the word go and it paid off. Arsenal never seemed to get into gear, i think a combination of Birmingham getting in their face and making it difficult as well as choking on the big occasion. Either way it made for a great game of football and a real even contest. REally happy for Birmingham but massive sympathy for the two lads koscielny and szczesny. Both are young and improving and hopefully it won't set them back.

    @#8 Whilst it is clichéd to bring out the defensive frailties, mental weaknesses and 6 years without a trophy, people will keep talking about them for a valid reason. For all Arsenal's brilliant play and style, until they can show a killer and winning instinct, the same clichés will still be mentioned because they are true. The defence always looks vulnerable, whether it be long ball like against birmingham or the way barcelona carved it open in the first half of the first leg. And i know they were missinf cesc and theo today, but Arsenal didn't look as confident as normal, which i think highlights their lack of a winning mentality at the moment.

    However, the squad is young, and is in a much better position now than for a while at actually winning a trophy despite this. I hope they bounce back with victory in the CL, as well making the title race a really good spectacle. Realistically it's theirs or United's to lose now.
    I hope it's only a matter of time before they return to winning ways.

    But Birmingham should be applauded for this victory as much as Arsenal are criticised. They were worthy winners, and were more than equal to Arsenal. Congratualtions. Enjoy your success

  • Comment number 13.

    Birmingham did deserve to win and we should have been down to 10 men in the opening minutes. I am upset but we have to eat humble pie now, we were lucky as hell. I never once thought Birmingham were gonna do it at HT, but as usual a silly error gifted the other team. We rarely lose when it isn't due to error so I should have guessed.

    We can still win the other ones though, but this defeat will dent our confidence. At least we know it was error that gifted them and we weren't exactly outplayed. Good goalkeeping from Foster, hats off.

    Rosicky should have come off and shouldn't have been given the captains armband. He has great movement but it annoys me how many chances he wastes. He is awful on the ball. Arshavin had a bad game but should have stayed on. Had Theo and Fab been on the pitch there's no way we would have lost the game.

    Credit where it is due though, Birmingham did well today and I'm happy its going to them and not some heavily indebted big team like Man Utd, Chelski, Spuds, Pool or City. We have the chance to win other things this season. Will be nice to have more English teams in Europe too.

    It hurts to say but we buckled and justice was served.

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes it was a mix up of words between two Arsenal players that gifted Birmingham their winning goal.

    I believe the misunderstanding was due to Szczesny saying "Schzcnsiffhdcy skefp'idmedv"

    Whereas Kosicelny misunderstood and interpreted it as "Czsjfhhkopysy fazcqkhsczin" simple mistake really that could be made by anyone.

  • Comment number 15.

    GorgeousNinja lol
    I think he had to mention those points really. Can't just gloss over them when they have the same weaknesses letting them down season after season.

    How about some more (arsenal) cliches?

    I couldn't see it from where I'm sitting.
    In a couple of years this team will be unbeatable.
    We played great, they just hoofed it.
    If we had taken our chances we'd of won easily.
    This year we're bound to win a trophy.
    etc
    etc

  • Comment number 16.

    OUFCbackintheprem!! yeah & pigs will fly?, pity you hate Birmingham, because Birmingham really loves sad cases like you, knock that chip off your shoulder & dream on about ever matching what Blues have achieved against a proper giant football club in British football, get back to your pathetic ex-non-league team with its three sided ground, the last Blues played your mob, we won 1 - 7!!!
    "I hate Birmingham", you numpty, is that the best you can come up with, what a very sad & dull life you must lead to come up with such razor sharp wit.

  • Comment number 17.

    Ouch!!

    What a tirade!

  • Comment number 18.

    Yeah!! in reply to a silly brainless, unneccessary, pointless comment.

    "I hate Birmingham"

    Big deal, get over yourself, if thats the best you can dredge up, then your better off saying nothing at all, its not big & its certainly not clever, a bit like yourself i should imagine.

  • Comment number 19.

    Can you hear that beep beep beep noise? Ah yes, it's the Arsenal open top bus reversing back into the garage! The perennial work in progress who can't win a trophy.

    No steel, no leadership, no mentality, no goalkeeper. Only Arsenal could replace Almunia with someone even worse! If Wenger was in charge of any real top club, he'd have been out the door long before now.

    6 years and counting!!!

    http://thechinbeardboy.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 20.

    i laugh at people who say 6 years is a long time to not win a title...these people are shallow and don't understand how Arsenal is run....to make a profit and continue to be sustainable

    i have barely noticed 6 years have gone to be honest, and while it is nice to win things, the way Arsenal have adopted their approach both on and off the field should be admired, not the fact they haven't won a trophy (yet!)

    and to Phil McNulty...you twit McLeish had nothing to do with the winning moment... it's just dumb luck...to call him a power behind them is ridiculous as i'd like to clarify they're not exactly having a great league season...and he's behind that too!

  • Comment number 21.

    Fantastic game, one definitely deserving of a final. Its amazing how many people kept saying that the Carling Cup is not a big prize to win but judging by the players, managers and fans' reactions it did mean a great deal.

    Hats of to Birmingham City for playing a great game, what they lacked in quality they made up for it with a superb team spirit! Ben Foster was without doubt the man of the match for me. he made some incredible saves.

    As for Arsenal's 6 year long trophy drought... well it will end sooner or later. Arsenal are getting stronger every year and are producing some wonderful football at the same time. I personal respect the Arsenal football model and the management of the club for running it very responsibly. Arsenal will reap the benefits in the long run.

    It was an unfortunate mix up between Koscielny and Szczesny. Quandary for Arsenal is whether they get a 'top' keeper in the summer or do they continue to show faith in a promising (but inexperienced) keeper.

    One point of ire for me happened just after that incident with Koscielny and Szczesny. One stupid player just had to smack Koscielny on his head as he lay on the ground in anguish. To me it was very un-sportsmanlike.

  • Comment number 22.

    ARSENAL is that one team which fails flatly when it matters most. They can beat beat any team in Euroape NOT when it matters. They will wait wait and wait for a trophy.

    When Aresnal beat Barca and Phil wrote of Arsenals Pride; below is what i posted:

    .........................................................................
    356. At 1:56pm on 17 Feb 2011, you wrote:

    The best thing Arsenal has achieved for the last 5 years is its ability to raise expectations of its naive fans, flatter them and flatly fail when it matters most. Just wait and see what will happen at the Nou Camp. All folks here shouting will go silent as the gun in their badges has been trophy silent for the last five years.

    Even if Arsenal go past Barca rest assured they will fall flatly when it matters most. Is Wilshire a player you can all put your hopes on and expect trophies? As a kid he is just kidding you know that.

    .........................................................................

  • Comment number 23.

    I am a bluenose so it is very difficult to be objective after so long as a fan - but - I admire greatly Mcleish's sportsmanship and the fact that he repeatedly praised Arsenal's abilities prior to kick off in the Cup final and then paid tribute to his players as the main reason for victory at hte final whistle. None of this "I changed things at half-time and that was the difference" etc, etc.

    I was disappointed that Arsene Wenger forgot to be gracious in defeat and say something about the Birmingham performance. A simple "Birmingham played well" a la McLeish's style would not have been too much to ask for?

    Sure Arsenal made a mistake at the end but they were forced into it by the Birmingham team. Everybody makes mistakes just ask the assistant referee who robbed Birmingham of a penalty and a red card for the Arsenal goalie.

    If it had been the other way round I am sure the headlines would have been "Arsenal robbed of victory by blind linesman" and Arsene would have had his usual understated tirade at the official. McLeish didn't dwell on it maybe he would have if BCFC had lost?

    McLeish signed Foster, Wegner didn't - end of story. Well done the mighty Blues form someone who remembers Hatton, Latchford and Francis up front in a 4-3-3 formation.

  • Comment number 24.

    Typo corrections added, sorry readers.

    I am a bluenose so it is very difficult to be objective after so long as a fan - but - I admire greatly Mcleish's sportsmanship and the fact that he always praised Arsenal's abilities prior to kick off in the Cup final and then paid tribute to his players as the main reason for victory. None of this "I changed things at half-time and that was the difference" etc, etc.

    I was disappointed that Arsene Wenger forgot to be gracious in defeat and say something about the Birmingham performance. A simple "Birmingham played well" a la McLeish's style would not have been too much to ask for?

    Sure Arsenal made a mistake at the end but they were forced into it by the Birmingham team. Everybody makes mistakes just ask the assistant referee who robbed Birmingham of a penalty and a red card for the Arsenal goalie.

    If it had been the other way round I am sure the headlines would have been "Arsenal robbed of victory by blind linesman" and Arsene would have had his usual understated tirade at the official. McLeish didn't dwell on it maybe he would have if BCFC had lost?

    McLeish signed Foster, Wegner didn't - end of story. Well done the mighty Blues from someone who remembers Hatton, Latchford and Francis up front in a 4-3-3 formation.

  • Comment number 25.

    Gooner Here:

    Wengers biggest gaff by a mile was taking this competition seriously in the 1st place! The fact that he fielded " strong " sides may well prove very costly due to perhaps some now suffering from over work in all four comps which is now down to just three.

    I think AW is the man who will be sleeping easier than McCliesh thats for sure, the latter is involved in a relegation dog fight the former is challeneging for more meaningfull success.

    I can honestly say I do not give a flying fig about the Carling Cup its nothing more than a money spinner for the men in suits, replays, second legs etc all have taken their toll and IMO Wenger should have found some new " kids " in our block to take part irrespective of the accusations " not taking the competition seriously "

    Its far from a sad day for Arsenal the season is very much alive, as for Birmingham, well, after the euphoria has abated they will have to be focused on staying in the PL.

    To win the CC and then get relegated and subsequent loss of revenue is hardly an achievement. niether of course is playing one round in the Europa Cup.

  • Comment number 26.

    Good Morning Birmingham Surporters


    You are 3 points from the relegation zone


    Hows that for perspective wakey wakey.

    -------------------

    Good Morning Gooners

    We are 4 points behind Man u

    And soon to dump Barca out of the CL

  • Comment number 27.

    Odd comments about 'six years of hurt' for Arsenal - they're a magnificent side who are consistently in the hunt for every trophy going and currently have the second best youth set up in the country. They have a solid balance sheet and their trophy will come. It's a matter of when, not if. Surprised Wenger hasn't purchased a Given in goal or a Haageland in defence because surely that would speed up that 'when', but it's hard to argue with a manager who has taken Arsenal from where they were to where they are now. Maybe some of the younger Gooners forget that?
    All that said, it is nice to see someone other than the big four\five actually win something.

  • Comment number 28.

    @8 but all of those things defensive frailties, mental weakness check and 6 years since winning anything is all true. arsenal don't have a top class centre back (except for vermaelen). how nmany people had heard of laurent koscielny before arsenal had bought him. arsenal lacked creativity in the second half which is what arsenal is all about. And the way arsenal play football is the way football should be played, and i don't support arsenal, but they play football.

    Arsenal only had 1 britishplayer in their squad that were chosen which is a disgrace and birmingham had 13 british players.

    Birmingham had a plan nd stuck to it well. johnson and Jiránek played amazing. ben foster was quality (fabio capello if your watching)

  • Comment number 29.

    #21 I didn't see it like that. I thought it was more of a consoling pat rather than a "smack" as you put it. Don't jump to conclusions.

  • Comment number 30.

    So the BBC's football tactics blog that claimed it would be a wrong move to play Zigic up front on his won is exposed as being complete waffle then (although it is generally one of the most interesting blogs on the site)

  • Comment number 31.

    @19 the_fantastic_alistair

    Just tell me how exactly you can be fantastic yet be a Spuds supporter?

    Can you hear the clanking of doors, yes that's the door on Arry's cell at the scrubs, when they finally nail him for tax evaision LOL

  • Comment number 32.

    " Arsenal only had 1 britishplayer in their squad that were chosen which is a disgrace and birmingham had 13 british players. "

    can you tell us, with Birminghams great contingent of british players and talent how many have actually been chosen to represent england on the world stage. past and present.

    take your time with answer

    and as for " disgrace " i dont think we need to go there do we afterall you cloggers represent everything that is good about britain and football in general.

    3 points from the drop enjoy your day.



  • Comment number 33.

    As a neutral I was just pleased that the final was worth watching. I'm almost glad that the linesman messed up for the Birmingham penalty as if they were 1-0 up after 2mins with Arsenal down to 10 men it could have led to them parking the bus. Obviously as a professional match official he should be expected to get such a basic decision correct.

    @20 - As someone who is so unconcerned by your team's last few trophy-less years, would it kill you to give credit to Mcleish for his tactical victory in the final? He may not of made Kosicelny nudge the ball against Szczesny...but he made the bold decision to bring on another stirker to profit from Zigic's flick-ons, and that's exactly what happened. Also, starting Zigic in the first place turned out to be an excellent decision as there probably aren't many defences that could deal with his aerial threat if service to him is good. Wenger clearly has the upper hand over the course of this season, but Mcleish won the battle yesterday.

    @25 - Wenger has taken the CC more seriously this year because it is apparent that he wants to turn your fluid football into winning trophies. It's not a major cup, but it would have gotten the monkey off his and the team's back. The expressions on the faces of the players at the final whistle speaks a thousand words.

  • Comment number 34.

    #8 "The clichés tripping off his blog with depressing predictability ...'defensive frailties'..check, 'mental weakness'...check, ... 6 years since winning anything...check. "

    Is this guy seriously complaining about somebody stating facts which have been clearly evident over the course of the last 5-6 years? Grow up...if it's so predictable blame your own stuttering side...blame your team who haven't got the big match bottle..don't blame the person who writes the article..fool

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    It is an irony to have degraded Carling Cup for years by using it as the platform to persuade talent to join your club by telling them "come at Arsenal and you will play games" and when you need most to win it, to fail in the hands of a determined side, playing as a unit to their strengths. Perhaps it's justice.

    Before the final, many waited to see a comfortable Arsenal win, me included. Being in the area before the match, I went for a stroll outside Wembley. I saw families and groups of friends, in blue, walking about peacefully, joyful, looking forward to the match. You could tell they were enjoying the moment as it might be a rare occasion. You could sense it. A photographer took a picture of a group of Birmingham City fans. Asking them their predictions for the match, one said "Birmingham 2-1". I smiled and walked away thinking "one can hope", giving them few chances to their wish. Isn't football wonderfully unpredictable? All I know is that this final kept me hooked on my seat from minute one to the end of it.

    Birmingham City were never second best. They faced injustice, like the one that favoured my team against Aston Villa in the same competition, but they competed, playing to their strengths for the full duration of the match. They didn't allow their opponents to have the vast majority of possession. They didn't try to stop them with fouls - in fact they had less fouls than Arsenal. And if celebrating Birmingham City supporters argued the scoreline could be even better for them, you couldn't fault them.

    Ben Foster really impressed me, although I don't want to single out praise to individuals from Birmingham City. They were all invaluable parts of a well assembled winning machine really. From Arsenal, a team fielding one young Englishman, having a second one on the bench, Wilshere was a commanding figure in their team. Arsenal have their captain of the future in him. Tireless, efficient, impressive, he kept his side going more than anyone else in his team.

    One thing is for certain: McLeish will be adored in Birmingham for years. The vast majority of football fans expected his side to be the David facing one of the premiership's Goliaths or the mouse facing the cat. So much we all knew really. In his case, a good example would be a paraphrased one I saw weeks ago from Phil McNulty: give him an inch and he will take a mile - for all the right reasons.

    Is the Carling Cup a worthy competition?
    Ask Birmingham City about it. And look at a picture showing the hurt in Arsenal players' faces for a second opinion.

  • Comment number 37.

    Phil McNulty's claim that 'McLeish's only mistake of the day may have been to call Birmingham a small club"...' might be the result of selective quoting.

    It's certainly possible that McLeish has made this sort of comment more than once recently, but the time(s?) I can recall him making it, he has also been careful to qualify it. The immediate post-match on-pitch interview, for example:

    McLeish: '...and in relative terms for a small club like Birmingham to put one over on an Arsenal was a titanic, titanic effort for the players...'. Hard to quibble with that!

    As a neutral, it was a terrific spectacle. Did Hansen apologize to Shearer for looking at him as if he had two heads for backing Birmingham for the win? :)

    And I agree with those (like Andy_A... in #11 - nice post!) who find the "trophy drought" rhetoric for Arsenal a bit shallow. They will certainly come for Arsenal -- with patience.

  • Comment number 38.

    " The expressions on the faces of the players at the final whistle speaks a thousand words. "

    well well, thats a surprise even I as Gooner would have been well miffed if our players gleefully smiled and posed for the media after loseing a game they were favourites to win.

    and i stress AW's biggest gaff was taking this trophy seriously at all, i am sure that next season he will learn from his error.

    at the end of the day, to me, i dont give a hoot in hell for the CC behind the scenes and away from the Presenational obssessed i dare say AW would like to say the same as would the Arsenal Players.

    there is no " magic " in this tournament the FA Cup likewise when looking at the bigger picture.

    I am happy that such competitions are reserved strictly for British Teams with British Players who demonstrate flair and technical abilty as in the past and indeed present, this has shown to be greatly benifical to the national squad as its breeding a nation of winners in major tournaments. well thats the theory anyway shame its not worked but looks and sounds good.

    Im still waiting for the list of Players that have represented England past and present that were coached by McLiesh or any other Birmingham City Manager, perhaps whilst we are at it we could include Stoke? Blackburn two other great british teams who are providing players that will be Englands future.

  • Comment number 39.

    @25 HaHa CharadeYouAre,

    "I think AW is the man who will be sleeping easier than McCliesh thats for sure, the latter is involved in a relegation dog fight the former is challeneging for more meaningfull success."

    First, condolencies :)
    Let me give you a second opinion on this paragraph.

    McLeish will sleep quite happily, thank you very much.
    His team is flying the Birmingham City flag on the highest peak of mount Everest right now. One can expect this euphoria to carry them through to safety with relative ease and, coming next season, to build on from this success.

    On the other hand, Wenger knows that his team, having narrowly beaten Barcelona (thanks to a legitimate Messi goal unjustly given an offside decision), they will go to Camp Nou to face the team that demolished Real Madrid with a thumping 5-0.
    With regard to the F.A. Cup competition, Old Trafford awaits either of Arsenal and Leyton Orient. Arsenal seem incapable beating United on their own turf, never mind away.
    As for the premiership title, all Wenger can do is hope and pray - it's on someone else's hands to lose.

    Having seen your team lose a final is one thing but going on to say that Wenger will sleep easier is another.

    As for who from Birmingham City is an international, look no further than Ben Foster. If he brings his club form to his international game, he'll be the England goalkeeper for years.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well done Birmingham. I'm not happy but certainly don't begrudge the win as it was well deserved and I'm sure you'll appreciate it a hell of a lot more than Arsenal. For us it would have been a stepping stone on our way to greater things and perhaps that's one reason why we lost. Justice was served and the mutterings of men against boys still linger.

  • Comment number 41.

    My main disappointment with the match was Rosciky, he was so poor during the match and the whole season. I am not impressed at all with his contribution to the team. He is definitely way past his prime. Wenger should try to get someone in his position who can contribute goals to the team. I think one of the reasons why we lost the match was because of him

  • Comment number 42.

    39. At 08:34am on 28 Feb 2011, Football_UK wrote:

    ------------------

    Cheers ( smiles )


    " Arsenal seem incapable beating United on their own turf, never mind away. "

    carefull now, you along with thousands of others wrongly assumed Arsenal would lift the CC so the above premptive strike needs to be treated with some caution.

    also deep deep down Arsenal realy want that PL Title and will this be achieved? highly likely! IMO Man u should be very concerned as should Barca.

    ohhh best of luck to LO in the replay perhaps they could do us a favour as well.

    This Gooner is not worried ( yet )

  • Comment number 43.

    I just hope Birmingham don't become our season killers as they did in 2008

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    It was a pretty decent game, shame that it was decided by such a freakish goal.

    I think Sczesny will mature into one of the best keepers in the World. It was an unfortunate mistake and these things happen to young players.

    I thought Wilshire in particular tired after about 60 minutes and despite having had a decent game Wenger would have been better placed subbing him off. There is a lot of talk about Arsenal needing a centre back, but I still think they need a holding midfielder. It will never be Wilshires natural role, and I'm not convinced that Song is the answer. A Mascherano type player would do an excellent job for Arsenal.

    It is also clear that Vermaelen can't come back quickly enough. He is the leader at the back that Arsenal need. Still there isn't too much wrong at Arsenal and I'm sure that they will win a trophy in the not too distant future. It wouldn't surprise me if they knock Barcelona out of the Champions League as sometimes that's the way these things work!

    As for Birmingham they did well to hang on when Arsenal were putting pressure on them at the start of the second half, they also showed good character when they were denied a penalty in the first few minutes by a shocking call from the linesman. Only downside was the constant play acting by Bowyer! It was great to see Martins get the winner as he is such a talented player and could be a great signing for Birmingham. I would also echo calls that Johnson deserves an England call up. Also Carr at fullback had an excellent game and after pretty much retiring from the game, his return has been a great story!

    Well done Birmingham, and don't be too upset Arsenal as you have plenty more chances to grab some silverware.

  • Comment number 46.

    As a neutral at the game I was surprised by how poor Arsenal were - in midfield they were totally reliant on Wilshere, who played well with little support, but he is still only a youngster. Song was appalling alongside him, and Nasri and Rosicky looked uninterested in helping too much. Wenger didn't seem overly interested in changing that. They may not play like that every week, but there remains something weak about Arsenal's core. Given the speed their fans left at the final whistle they must know that too.

    Birmingham had their game plan and played it well, credit particularly going from where I sat to Foster (good but it's a typically patronising move to the 'smaller' club that when they beat the bigger club their keeper is named man of the match), Carr, Johnson and Jiranek (any of whom would have been worthy of that prize), Bowyer, and Zigic. Also to their supporters, noisy throughout, and who had quite a party at the end.

  • Comment number 47.

    HAHA CharadeYouAre.

    Your comments are nasty and bitter. You are the sorest and most ungracious loser I have come across.
    You label Birmingham a "disgrace" and "cloggers" which is an outrageous slur on a team that performed with huge determination, courage, spirit and no little skill to win against the odds.
    I am not a Blues supporter but I am full of admiration for their achievement. Maybe if Arsenal could add some of Birmingham's qualities to their undoubted ability - and a goalie and central defender of the quality of Foster and Johnson - they would start winning trophies again.
    In the meantime, you lost - just get over it and give credit where credit is due.

  • Comment number 48.

    As a gooner you have to say well done to Brum. On balance they deserved the win.

    What i can understand is how so many Arsenal players went AWOL. Sagna, Clichy, Song, Rosicky. All full internationals all were non-existent in the game.

    Arsene is the best thing to happen to Arsenal but he talks about mental strength when the players at his disposal clearly are void of any!

  • Comment number 49.

    44. At 08:59am on 28 Feb 2011, throughball wrote:

    -----------------

    " That lack of graciousness was pretty well illustrated by Arsenal with their talk of whether Fabregas should lift the cup alongside Persie, and by wearing tracksuits instead of formal suits. "

    1st off, dont confuse me with the Glory Boys!


    " Try a little graciousness "

    secondly when the majority of " English " Surporters along with some Managers and Media show AW the same I will recipricate.

    as it stands the word you use is not on my to do list and wont be for some time.

    however you will note i have wished L/O all the best so there is some graciousness in me somewhere .

  • Comment number 50.

    Well done to Birmingham. Enjoy the win as you played for it, know one can take this victory away from you (An Arsenal Fan)

  • Comment number 51.

    HAHA Charade,

    It sure looks as though the CC doesn't mean anything to you as you slowly empty that swollen spleen........

    Have some graciousness with your cornflakes and congratulate Birmingham on a job well done.

    Can we have some insights on why Birmingham won please as this is their day and shouldn't be hijacked by upset and annoyed Gooners.

    Obviously any happy and gracious Gooners are welcome to join in.

  • Comment number 52.

    The "coming of age" comments given to Arsenal couple weeks ago once again prove premature.
    Seriously I do not understand Arsenal, they have the opportunity to win a trophy for first time in 6 years, but they choke under pressure yet again. It's all well and good getting highly talented youngsters, but Wenger needs to get in some experienced winners into his team to help instil that mentality into his youngsters.

    It's nice to see a team like Birmingham lift some silverware, as nearly everyone (myself included) wrote them off. And unlike Portsmouth they have done it without spending well above their budget

  • Comment number 53.

    38. At 08:33am on 28 Feb 2011, HAHA CharadeYouAre wrote:

    Im still waiting for the list of Players that have represented England past and present that were coached by McLiesh or any other Birmingham City Manager, perhaps whilst we are at it we could include Stoke?

    ________________________________________________________________________


    There was this guy called Stanley Matthews... played for Stoke and England. He was alright, apparently...

  • Comment number 54.

    Morning everyone - even to those Birmingham fans who may feel a little worse for wear after those long-awaited celebrations.

    General point first. I thought it was a really enthralling Carling Cup Final with Birmingham putting Arsenal to the test for most of the first half and then showing magnificent resilience and organisation when Arsenal applied pressure in the last 20 minutes.

    And the faces of Birmingham's fans in those last few minutes were something to behold as they waited for the final whistle after Martins' goal, a combination of joy, disbelief and in some cases sheer terror.

    Let's start with the winners. What a day for Alex McLeish and his team, who got just about everything right.

    Birmingham fans. How does it feel to be winners today? And what sort of springboard can this provide for the future?

    And let me ask you this. I have watched Birmingham several times this season and on each occasion Roger Johnson has been flawless - is he worthy of consideration by Fabio Capello?

    Arsenal fans, in contrast to the rather angry words of gorgeousninja, I feel I made a fair and sympathetic reflection on your performance and the current state of your season.

    I made the point that Szczesny and Koscielny have developed recently and also that this season can still be a very successful one.

    How much do you think that loss with hurt Arsenal and will impact on their season? Am I right to suggest you lack leaders on the pitch?

    And for all the talk of the wonderful football Arsenal play under Wenger and the fine philosophies of the club, isn't your business actually to win trophies?

    As I said, this could still be a great season for Arsenal - but they will need to show mental strength to recover from the blow they suffered at Wembley.

    This is the platform for debate. Thoughts of all Birmingham and Arsenal fans welcome.

  • Comment number 55.

    @25 HaHa CharadeYouAre,

    "I think AW is the man who will be sleeping easier than McCliesh thats for sure, the latter is involved in a relegation dog fight the former is challeneging for more meaningfull success."

    .........................................................................

    Common Sense is common but is not common among all people. The winner (Read B. City) have got a motivation to fight and the looser (Read always loosing Arsenal) have been demoralized and the confidence is DEAD.
    Didnt you see Wilshire cry? They now have no more self belief and the last thing you should think is of beating the likes of UNITED, BARCA and the like.

    The winner has all the self believe and the looser (whom you know) who flatters its fans and always fails to deliver when it matters, will soon be out of the four competitions (now 3) in just weeks.

  • Comment number 56.

    53. At 09:13am on 28 Feb 2011, kanchelskis_legend wrote:

    --------------

    thanks i knew there was one.

  • Comment number 57.

    I was glad to see an underdog win too, even as a villa fan.

    I was at the Villa game on Saturday and the whole stadium was cheering c'mon Arsenal at the final whistle! I never thought i see the day when our fans would cheer on another team so vigorously!

  • Comment number 58.

    Arsenal were good going forwards but seemed uncertain at times further back. I notice the comment on Rosicky above, what happened to the free scoring midfielder lashing in shots from all over the park? RVP's goal was classy.

    Birmingham played well, all credit to them. Though never sure with the Carling Cup whether the players are really 100% convinced in it's worth. McLeish, how about cup winners and relegation / dismissal in the same season. Though the owner gave him a big smacker on the cheek anyway.

    Anyway, was expecting a blog from Phil on Rooney's chicken dancing funny bone, and the Man United staff's visits to Wengers opticians recently...

  • Comment number 59.

    Congratulations to Birmingham City and their fans. Commiserations to the Arsenal team.

    I think it shows the class of Arsenal fans when they cant be magnanimous in defeat and congratulate the other teams victory.

    But then we have come to expect this from Arsenal fans.

    I wonder what little gems of excuses they will perpetuate to explain for the loss? Keeper error? Give me a break. Attitude error? Now were talking.

    Well done Birmingham, deserved winners, dont listen to what the Arsenal fans say they are just insanely jealous.

  • Comment number 60.

    Without the ball, Arsenal are pretty much the worst team in the Prem it seems. Good job they enjoy 70% possession in most games.

    Cracking final, though, best for ages. Well done Blues and good luck in Europe.

  • Comment number 61.

    As an Arsenal fan at the game yesterday, I wasn't feeling very confident. Judging by the conversations I had with other Arsenal fans, neither were they! We've had many games this season where we've been expected to win (2-0 up v Spurs, 4-0 v Newcastle) so us Arsenal fans more than most, know that a game is never a forgone conclusion!

    Why is Birmingham winning such a suprise? They are a Premiership team after all! We've lost to far worse teams before.

    I don't think Arsenal played bad, but then again we didn't play as good as we know we can. Disappointed with Rosicky, and have been for awhile, would hope he'll be shipped off in the summer as he's probably picking up a hefty wage for doing nothing! Nasri tried too hard to take on the burden of filling in for Cesc whose creativity we deeply missed. Arshavin once again, had a mixed game, great assist yet was often pushed off the ball to easily and failed to track Carr who at one point, sprinted past a strolling Andrei.
    As for THAT goal, there was no pressure from a Birmingham player, Szcezny and Koscielny just literally got in each others way. Who's to blame? Both of them. Koscielny should have just booted it out into row Z, and Szcezny after calling for it, should have made it his!

    I have a terrible feeling that this result could implode our season. Wilshere looked devastated, as did Djourou and RVP, and of course the two culprits for the goal. It is however, Wenger's job to pick them back up as we are still challenging on 3 fronts! And if we win our next four games (Leyton, Sunderland, Barca and possibly United) then that will go a long way to healing yesterdays wounds.

    It was quoted the other day our teams average age is 4 years younger than Barca's, we're growing better each year and when we do finally end our trophy drought, it'll be more than worth it! After all, how long had Birmingham gone without silverware?

    Hold your heads high Gunners, support The Arsenal, the players need us now more than ever.

  • Comment number 62.

    48. At 09:07am on 28 Feb 2011, arronooi wrote:
    As a gooner you have to say well done to Brum. On balance they deserved the win.

    What i can understand is how so many Arsenal players went AWOL. Sagna, Clichy, Song, Rosicky. All full internationals all were non-existent in the game.

    Arsene is the best thing to happen to Arsenal but he talks about mental strength when the players at his disposal clearly are void of any!

    -----------------------------------------------------------

    Arsenal looked tired to me. All these cup replays haven't helped your cause. Add to this some injuries you've had, leading to certain players being overused and there you are. Sometimes you want to do things but you don't feel the legs can.

    The worrying thing for Arsenal is that this situation with midweek matches sandwiched in between weekend matches is carried on well into March and your team can't afford slip ups.

  • Comment number 63.

    Congratulatiosn to Birmingham. They came and they played football, we can have no complaints.
    We were unlucky that Foster had the game of his life, but then we could have been down to 10 in the first few minutes, that's just how it goes sometimes.
    I can't begrudge the Blues fans their long awaited joy.

  • Comment number 64.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 65.

    How good was Stephen Carr????? That guy never stopped running and running.......................................and running and running................................and running and running.....

  • Comment number 66.

    1. At 00:16am on 28 Feb 2011, jhwalker wrote:

    How long until Arsenal actually win some kind of trophy? It's getting ridiculous now.

    ---------------------------------

    Haha I know it is getting ridiculous. Last week pretty much most goonies on here were declaring themselves as the team who will do the quadruple.

    Article after article was made on the Chelsea board mocking our position at the moment. Looks like it come back to bite them on the ass big time. Another trophyless year awaits them because realistically, Will they knock out Utd out of the FA Cup? I doubt it. Barcelona will get a result at the Camp Nou. The League will probably be won by Utd.

    Goonies you do make me laugh. The arrogance of some of you was ridiculous to see last week. Boasting to evrey man and his dog that you have the best team around and how you just beat Barcelona and you're gna dominate for years to come. Another big mistake was just thinking all you had to do was turn up on Sunday and the trophy is yours. Even the team waltzing in wearing Nike Tracksuits was a joke. No doubt every goonie will now tell you that this cup wasnt important and their main priority is the league, CL & Fa Cup. Yeah right. Thats why you played your strongest eleven available and still lost. Also what on earth is Van Persie made out of? Seriously. One of the league's most ruthless finishers in the box and he gets injured again just like Walcott and Fiberglass. Anyway Goonies, maybe next year, try being arrogant after you won the trophy and not before.

  • Comment number 67.

    Great game, bothe sides were excellent and the only down point in terms of officiating was the linesman giving offside.

    Not sure ho whe managed it as Clichy was to his left and no-one was directly in front of him so how he thought Bowyer was offside eludes me.

    Howver given the comendy error for the winning goal I bet the Arsenal keeper wishes he had been sent off in the 3rd minute to spare the embarrassment that followed.


    BTW - I think he is an excellent goalie but it was funny

  • Comment number 68.

    Birmingham fully deserved their victory and Arsenal were very lucky to be in the game for so long let alone level at 1-1. Its the usual centre back problem though, Vermaelen is the only decent player they have in that position, the rest of them are absolute liabilities and the goalkeeper was not to blame on this occasion.

  • Comment number 69.

    FeedItWhisky wrote:

    "I think it shows the class of Arsenal fans when they cant be magnanimous in defeat and congratulate the other teams victory."

    Actually most Arsenal fans I have come across have been perfectly gracious. There are a few on here who haven't but they've mostly been reacted from snide comments from other fans.

  • Comment number 70.

    It was quoted the other day our teams average age is 4 years younger than Barca's, we're growing better each year and when we do finally end our trophy drought, it'll be more than worth it! After all, how long had Birmingham gone without silverware?

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Thing is though Arsenal tend to go through phases of team building, the team gets better and better and just as they seem they'll finally win something the best players of said team get sold. If Arsenal choke and don't win anything again this season and Fabregas does leave, it'll be back to square one again.

  • Comment number 71.

    No tough tackling or referees to blame either. "We're gonna win the quad", ha ha, fell at the first hurdle!

  • Comment number 72.

    So it's not the Gooners fans fault, is it now? It's those nasty snide comments from other fans teams?

    Those "young" fans (average age 24.8?) always getting themselves into trouble, tut tut. When will they learn?

  • Comment number 73.

    and other teams fans too. (LOL)

  • Comment number 74.

    @ *62 football_uk

    Arsenal looked tired to me. All these cup replays haven't helped your cause. Add to this some injuries you've had, leading to certain players being overused and there you are. Sometimes you want to do things but you don't feel the legs can.

    --------------------------------

    I think your correct Arsenal did look tired, but your in a cup final if you cant pick yourself up in a game like that then you have to question why your there in the first place.

    Don’t get me wrong, im not jumping on the Arsenal are rubbish on the back of one result bandwagon, but the performance was awful yesterday, that’s the worst part about it. The team let themselves and the fans down badly.

    Take nothing away from Brum, they played the conditions (Wembley pitch awful again) and were well worth the win for their hunger alone, but to go out at Wembley and play like that leaves such a bad taste in the mouth.

  • Comment number 75.

    #25 - I think McLeish will be sleeping better than Wenger as he has a trophy and Wenger doesn't.

    I don't put this loss down to frailty etc as Arsenal has several good chances to win and were denied by the woodwork and some excellent goalkeeping. Yes theer was an error for the goal but this happens (ask the linesman who is lucky the Brummies won and saved him being savaged by the press)

  • Comment number 76.

    Thing is though Arsenal tend to go through phases of team building, the team gets better and better and just as they seem they'll finally win something the best players of said team get sold. If Arsenal choke and don't win anything again this season and Fabregas does leave, it'll be back to square one again.
    _________________________________________________________________________

    Here's hoping Cesc doesn't leave then! Ivan Gazidis said the other day we are under no pressure to sell him as he is under contract so he'll be here for the foreseeable future we hope! However, I'm not naive enough to believe every word someone says and I agree with you. I think he will stay though, only worry is, if he was to go, would the money be put into strenghtening the team? Or would it just add to our profit at the end of the season.

    Our players will eventually learn from this, what are the chances Koscielny puts the ball into touch next time rather than leave it for the keeper?

  • Comment number 77.

    Spurs fan in peace,
    I though the match out performed expectations as Birmingham up'd there game accordingly but to say that McNulty has written this piece in an anti-Arsenal way is unfair. If the result was reversed and the headline was:-
    "Can Birmingham survive just with the long ball?"
    Then the posts would be polar opposites such as:-
    "Another piece of anti-Birmingham Journalism"
    There’s always going to bad feeling when your club loses, you support them until you die right? But you need to look beneath the skin and look at what’s wrong. Do we expect AW to be reading these posts this morning and making the changes accordingly? Of course not but it is food for thought.
    Birmingham raised their game and reaped the rewards and as much as it pains for me to say this the Arsenal side is full of quality but it does lack belief and a couple of dogged players in the middle of the park to get stuck in (Ray Parlour anyone). If Arsenal get some strength in the middle and belief then that will go a huge way to complimenting there already talented squad (hard to say from a Spurs fan!!) but if not then it’s more of the same for them going forward.
    I don’t expect the majority of Arsenal fans to agree with me but unless something changes that trophy cabinet will stay empty another year longer.
    On a side note, if Birmingham stay up how will they fair with the Premiership and European football next season?

  • Comment number 78.

    arsenal havent won anything since 2005. so what. back before sky ruined football, lots of teams could win any competition so going a massive 6 years without a trophy was not exactly an issue. and arsenal are hardly in dire straits. they can still win the league, the fa cup and champions league......and i'm a bloody spurs fan.

  • Comment number 79.

    @63 Steve Tudor

    Now that's how a decent football guy should talk. You're obv disappointed with the result but at least you have the common decency to extend congratulations to Birmingham and while acknowledging that it was a scrappy winner admit that you should have conceeded a penalty/man sent off early in the game. Sometimes it is hard gauging the attitude of Arsenal fans because you have some obnoxious ones posting continually above which can skew everyones perception but I am glad that fans like yourself put up postings to let the world know that not all Arsenal fans are ungracious.

  • Comment number 80.

    #53 - didn't Gordon Banks play for Stoke?

  • Comment number 81.

    I think he will stay though, only worry is, if he was to go, would the money be put into strenghtening the team? Or would it just add to our profit at the end of the season.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Didn't Arsenal make a loss on the financial year largely because they didn't sell a player? I'm sure there's no pressure to sell from the shareholders but its quite clear if Cesc was given the choice to stay or go he'd be on the first plane to Barcelona before Wenger had finished talking. If Wenger doesn't sort out the defensive and goalkeeping problems the trophy drought could carry on for a while. I might be in a minority in thinking Szcezny is not great, he's just a bit better than the other Arsenal goalkeepers which isn't saying much.

  • Comment number 82.

    21. At 06:05am on 28 Feb 2011, ManUtdFan wrote:

    One point of ire for me happened just after that incident with Koscielny and Szczesny. One stupid player just had to smack Koscielny on his head as he lay on the ground in anguish. To me it was very un-sportsmanlike.

    ======================================================================

    Yeh to be honest after a heartbreaking mistake in a cup final the last thing you need is a smack on the head! that was poor really. other than that it was a great day for Birmingham, a deserved victory for the Blues.

    Having said that i would love Arsenal to do Barca at the cam nou this week. And for Kosceilny to get the winner. That would be sweet!

  • Comment number 83.

    Fantastic display from Birmingham. Defence and goalkeeper were different class. Same can't be said about Arsenal's? That was the difference between the two teams.

    How many years has Arsenal not won a trophy 6? It could be possibly another 6 more years to wait. I can't see them beating barcelona or manchester united in the fa Cup or the premier league!

    I said it at the start of the season that Arsenal will finish trophyless this season and i still believe that.

    Well done Birmingham!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    Nice to see the majority of the Arsenal fans on here are magnanimous in defeat, just a few idiots who are bitter about it... but then every club has them.

    Great result for Birmingham though - still got to put some distance between us and the relefation zone but still in the FA Cup as well. Perhaps we can do the cup double this season (okay, not that much chance of it).
    We need to try and get Bentley signed up for next season and Seb Larson to sign a new contract then things wouldn't be looking to bad with the £5 million option on Martins taken up. Hopefully we are going to look an attractive proposition to players with the Cup win and Europe, even if it is the Europa League, to play in.

  • Comment number 85.

    It's not the first time a keeper and defender got mixed up, it happens to the best and it happened to Ben Foster too, look how well he has played? It's happened to Chec,Van der Sar, Smeichel, Buffon, it happens everywhere. You are making way too much out of it. What you could be doing instead is praising the quality of Martins who latched onto the error.
    Arsenal are really trying to convince everyone that they are bottlers and they are doing a really good job of it.
    I think you are right they lack leadership, more to the point, I think the lack conviction. They know they can play brilliant football but they don't believe they are world beaters, so they are not. Barcelona lite my rear end, just Arsenal lite. Well done Birmingham, nice to see a side written off by the BBC journos stick it to them.

  • Comment number 86.

    6. At 00:31am on 28 Feb 2011, naf_aeslehc wrote:

    That's what happens when you sign players we can't pronounce their names.. KOSCIELNY and SZCZESNY!! Lmao!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Why? No one can pronounce your name either

  • Comment number 87.

    86. At 10:29am on 28 Feb 2011, collie21 wrote:
    6. At 00:31am on 28 Feb 2011, naf_aeslehc wrote:

    That's what happens when you sign players we can't pronounce their names.. KOSCIELNY and SZCZESNY!! Lmao!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Why? No one can pronounce your name either

    __________________________________________________________________
    Think he is a backwards Chelsea fan in more ways than one!

  • Comment number 88.

    87. At 10:36am on 28 Feb 2011, cantona1968 wrote:

    86. At 10:29am on 28 Feb 2011, collie21 wrote:
    6. At 00:31am on 28 Feb 2011, naf_aeslehc wrote:

    That's what happens when you sign players we can't pronounce their names.. KOSCIELNY and SZCZESNY!! Lmao!
    ----------------------------------------------------------------
    Why? No one can pronounce your name either

    __________________________________________________________________
    Think he is a backwards Chelsea fan in more ways than one!
    ----------------------------------------------------------

    Aren't they all? hahaha, .........sorry chlesea guys and girls couldn't resist. Birmingham the inform blue team.. Well done again.

  • Comment number 89.


    You just know you are watching English football when a team wins a free kick in their own half and the keeper takes it and and punts it into the opposition box.



  • Comment number 90.

    #89

    Did the fact Arsenal were playing Birmingham not give you a hint as well?

  • Comment number 91.

    Forget the 6 year wait Arsenal have had to suffer, we have won nothing big in the last 48.
    Yesterday was a day that all Blues fans deserved after putting up with relegation, division 2 football, play off semi finals exits and of course being cheated out of the Carling Cup 10 years ago.
    Im delighted for the players, especially those who are on their last legs like Bazza and Carr, im delighted for Eck as he is a gentleman and a true leader but ultimately im happy for us Bluenoses. This road is a long one but the end of it is in sight. Keep Right On lads and congratulations.

  • Comment number 92.

    #89

    and what else is the keeper supposed to do with it? bizarre statement! nibs you're acting like a baby spitting your dummy out of the pram. did birmingham not beat you by playing pretty enough football, those bad bad blue men, tch tch tch!

  • Comment number 93.

    ...Blues fan here.

    Hats off to all of the Arsenal fans that have been gracious in defeat.

    First of all, I've seen a couple of comments about how Arsenal would have definitely won had they have had a full strength team. Whilst you would have been much stronger - it wasn't as if Blues didn't have their injuries too. McFadden, who on his day is a match-winner, has been out all season and has the potential to be one of our best players. We were missing Bentley who on his last few performances has looked brilliant and whilst a lot of praise has been heaped on Roger Johnson - we were without Scott Dann. A partnership that got us to 9th last season.

    In hindsight - I'm glad that we managed to win without Arsenal going down to 10 men. It was a poor, poor decision, but if we score the penalty and it goes 1-0, we would have sat back and it would have been a boring game. Also - the media would have just said that we won only because Arsenal were a man down.

    Arsenal had their chances, but were reduced to long-range efforts throughout the game. Although, so did Blues. I remember Zigic being one-on-one in the box but put it straight at the keeper, and Martin's was through late on but was a bit too ambitious, not to mention hitting the post.

    On the day, the difference was that we had a centre back and goalkeeper playing at the best of their abilities, which Arsenal didn't.

  • Comment number 94.

    I just don't understand how a manager who worked with and founded great sides around David Seaman and also Adams, Bould, Keown and Sol Campbell is so blind to the need for a top class goalkeeper and central defensive pairing.

    It's undermining all the good work of players like Nasri, Wilshire, RVP and on other days Fabregas & Walcott in front of them.

    With the profits the club is generating a few million on Jagielka/Cahill wouldn't break the bank and you'd have players who at least reliable. Goalkeeper is a perilous positions but he's pinning his hopes to players with little pedigree. The two German international keepers Adler and Neuer are out there, Lloris would surely love to join the France contigent at the Emirates and there's Steady Eddies like Schwarzer, Robinson & Jaaskelainen who know the league and are better than what he's got.

  • Comment number 95.

    Excellent game and tremendous result for Birmingham. Well done to them. On the balance of play they more than deserved this result.

    Wenger so wanted to cry afterwards.

  • Comment number 96.

    @ Phil McNulty

    Thanks for the excellent blog, Phil. I'm a middle-aged Birmingham fan, so this is the first time I've ever had the pleasure of reading an account of my team winning anything significant - it's quite a novelty! I live overseas now, so my only regret is not being at Wembley to enjoy the occasion.

    BTW - I'm sometimes slightly embarrassed by the antics of my fellow blue-noses (we're don't have the most sophisticated support, truth be told), so it's also a novelty looking through the comments here to find that it's some of the Arsenal fans who are being less than gracious.

    @ HaHa CharadeYouAre

    You are absolutely entitled to your opinions and may express them however you wish - this is the BBC after all.

    But you need to appreciate that Arsenal and Birmingham City have vastly different agendas. All clubs have to manage a different burden of expectation and, more immediately, a minimum standard. Why do they differ? Because of differing budgets, sizes of catchment area and because of heritage.

    For Arsenal, I imagine that the minimum achievement supporters will bear this season is to finish top 4 (ahead of Spurs) and to have a decent run in one or more of the cups. Job done. In the longer term, though, the expectation is to win either the Premier League or the UEFA Champion's League, if not both.

    For Birmingham, the minimum we can bear this season is 17th in the league and nothing in the cups. Well, we've won the League Cup, we're still in the F.A. Cup and we have a decent chance of finishing 17th or higher, so it's going okay. Our long-term expectations/desires? Just to stay in the Premier League as long as we can.

    Why do I say all this? Because this is what you need to understand: For our team to be two points ahead of the relegation zone, to have won a cup and to have qualified for the Europa League next season is beyond our expectations. For your team to have lost the cup to Birmingham and to be four points behind Manchester United is below expectations.

    You will never know how great it is to be a fan of a club like Birmingham and see them win something. It means everything.

    I wish you and your team the best of luck over the next few weeks. Frankly, if Arsenal beat Barcelona next week I'll be delighted for you and for English football. Good luck.

  • Comment number 97.

    @ Bellion-Wonderland

    *94 It's undermining all the good work of players like Nasri, Wilshire, RVP and on other days Fabregas & Walcott in front of them.

    _______________________________________

    I dont think Arsenal necessarily need a new top class defender just we need the defenders we have to perform.

  • Comment number 98.

    Great cup final and full credit to Birmingham. I feel like the writing was on the wall when everyone kept going on in the media about how we have it in the bag before the game even kicked off. Both teams ran hard, had good chances and even though I'm upset we lost I enjoyed seeing the way the battle played out. And to be honest, it means a lot more to the Birmingham fans than it does to some of our fans who still don't rate the competition and were looking down on the opposition. I know the media are getting a kick out of seeing us lose but I feel we've improved a lot on the field while keeping stable and we'll be here again!

  • Comment number 99.

    Before I start I will openly admit that I am a Spurs fan and wanted Birmingham to win.

    However before you ignore the rest of my post because of that, I will also be honest to admit, (and have done before), that I cheer the Arse on in Europe and to be honest just wanted to watch a decent game of football and if Arsenal deserved to win then it certainly wouldn't upset me too much.

    Well what was I hoping for?

    Well I was hoping for a 1-0 Birmingham win with a Lee Bowyer goal from a Zigic flick and some manful defending by the blues, (and lots of posession and no end product from Arsenal).

    What I actually got was a game in which Arsenal should have been a man down and a goal down within minutes of the start, (why do the big boys always get these decisions?), and a decent game of football thereafter, (really caused by Arsenal having so few players actually turn up and play just to their potential.

    While RVP scored a lovely goal, and Wilshere smacked the bar just before that, (and looked to be carrying him team-mates for long periods), it shouldn't be ignored is that Birmingham also played some lovely football and created probably more chances than Arsenal, (Fahey hit the inside of the post, and Zigic not finishing when through 1 on 1, (together with penalty and red card that was never given), offer more substance and hint at a goal than Arsenal seemed to offer all game.

    That's not to say that none of the Arsenal players played well. Djorou was good and Wilshere always seems to be good, but the bull-backs were poor, RVP was struggling with an injury after the goal, Nasri seemed to miss the likes of Cesc and Theo, Song, (who I like seemed to just get overawed and over-run etc etc etc.

    Contrastingly, in a midfield trio of Gardner, Ferguson and Bowyer, Birmingham surprisingly, (at least to me), dominated the middle of the pitch for long periods with clever passing, (a la the Arse almost at times).

    Stephen Carr seemed to be just left free on the Brum right to offer himself as a constant out-ball, (something that I have seen nobody pick up on), and he was soooo often seen overlapping the Brum right-sided midfielder, (can't remember who but was it Fahey?), and it was almost as if Wenger had told his players not to worry about Carr as he was old and slow so what you had was just about the most experienced player on the pitch often left alone, (in quite an advanced position), allowing Brum an easy attacking out-ball. Now Carr didn't do a lot, but he still had an excellent game just in constantly getting open and offering himself as an option. It just seems to completely pass Wenger by and something that I am still astonished by.

    The simple fact is that very few of the Arsenal players matched their opposite numbers on the day, I thought Djorou and Wilshere were the best Arsenal had on view), but despite the score-line, they were very much 2nd best in terms of performance.

    I think what summed it up for me was when RVP, (not obvious captaincy material in the first place), was withdrawn in the 2nd half, he passed the arm-band to Rosicky, and while I laughed aloud at that decision, I then went through the team and realised that the only real person with any sort of leadership "nous" about him...... was 19 year old Jack Wilshere.

    Compare that to Birmingham who seemed to have a choice of players who might skipper a decent side,

    Carr at right-back.
    Johnson at the back.
    Either of Ferguson or Bowyer in the middle.

    It is too easy to blame the gk or the defender, (an't be bothered to try and fail to spell their names). What is missing is a leader, (especially at the back), who would have asked for a higher line in the first place and not let them fall back on the GK like that.

    It is sometimes less about technical ability and more about character in these games, and from a club who so recently had such character in abundance in that team of the 90's or 00's.

    Forget the 90's back 5 as just a given, imagine you had been able to select Sol (on 1 leg), or Toure or Gallas yesterday I think you would have won.

    You have lost 3 centre-backs, (for whatever reason), who are proven performers at the top level, and have replaced them with.... potential.

    When are you just going to go out and buy a proper centre-half to play with Vermaelen on Djorou. The GK made a mistake but I think he is good. The defender, not so much.

    Well played Brum.

  • Comment number 100.

    Good win to Birmingham and well deserved. Arsenal will bounce back and are still in contention for 3 trophies so they can keep their heads up. Despite his error for the winner, i still rank wojech among the best young Goalkeepers in the league. The true test of his potential will be in our next game when he ahs to make a decision. If he is as confident as he appears then he will have earned the number 1 shirt for next season.

 

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