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How Birmingham can unsettle Arsenal

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 15:15 UK time, Friday, 25 February 2011

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger believes something has changed in his team this season.

"We have matured, certainly, because we can win a game when we are less creative and less fluent, with intelligence and calmness," he said after the 1-0 Premier League win over Stoke at the Emirates on Wednesday.

"One or two years ago when we were not on our top game we dropped points, but on Wednesday you could see the team realise, right, let's not make a mistake and I must give a lot of credit to my players for that."

Recent performances against Newcastle aside, there is growing evidence the Gunners are riding storms in certain games to emerge on the other side with the equanimity that Wenger talks about.

The Stoke victory was a good example and the last time the north Londoners faced Sunday's Carling Cup final opponents, Birmingham, they also had to come through a difficult spell.

New Year's Day at St Andrew's was a stern test for Arsenal with some fierce challenges dished out by the hosts, but the 3-0 win over Alex McLeish's side was achieved with a maturity to give fans an added belief.

That resilience will be tested again when the Gunners get their first taste of a Wembley showpiece since the 1998 FA Cup final, without their injured captain Cesc Fabregas or Theo Walcott.

Again it will be a game of perhaps different styles as figures show the two teams appear at different ends of the table when it comes to the percentage of long passes they play in the Premier League.

Long passes over 35 yards in Premier League show Birmingham and Arsenal are at opposite ends of the table

But if Wenger's side cannot be roughed up anymore where else might Birmingham be able to find a weakness in the Gunners' armoury?

Former Arsenal centre-back Martin Keown believes that Blues will still try to break up their opponent's rhythm by being quick to close down their midfield.

However, Keown argues that by sitting back, as Stoke did on Wednesday, Birmingham will be making a mistake.

"The answer is to have an attacking threat," the BBC football pundit says. "Personally I think you need to play a couple of strikers to really test Arsenal when you are in possession of the ball. The more you sit back, the more they are just going to attack you.

"Something they do seem to struggle with, I believe, is people making good runs from midfield, which is what Barcelona did to great effect but they just couldn't finish off their chances.

"Arsenal play a high line in defence and they don't pick off runners from deep but there are few teams prepared to be ambitious enough to play that game against them.

"People tend to sit in and take a rest once they gain possession but it's a case of attacking when you get the ball."

Given the amount of possession that Arsenal tend to have it is no wonder that players need to regain their composure before launching a counter attack.

Yet recent evidence suggests taking that approach does provide good results. Over the last two seasons, the Gunners are second-worst, behind Wigan, at conceding Premier League goals via counter attacks.

Another route to goal for Birmingham could feature the pinpoint deliveries of Sebastian Larsson and the 6ft 7in frame of striker Nikola Zigic, via set-pieces.

Serbian forward Zigic was on target when Arsenal beat the Blues earlier this season and it is clear that McLeish's team use him as an outlet.

"I would play Obafemi Martins and Cameron Jerome up front, especially at Wembley with the big open spaces that exist," Keown argues. "Also, I don't think Wembley is a set-piece pitch because it is too big. You cannot reach the penalty areas with effective balls from too far away.

"It's all about denying space and playing a pressure game and playing percentage balls into deeper areas. Then you can rely on free-kicks and corners to be effective.

"If I was a centre-half playing in this game it wouldn't necessarily bother me too much if Zigic was playing. But if you have got pace and power playing around you then you've got more of a problem. That's what Martins will bring because he is rapid.

"Lee Bowyer can make decent runs from midfield to join them and Craig Gardner has got an eye for goal too. Birmingham can play, certainly, but they may not have the strength of belief in themselves to do that."

As for Arsenal, Keown believes they can cope without the injured Walcott, who often provides their greatest source of width and was a menace at St Andrew's in January.

Whether the same goes for Fabregas is another matter, but Keown dispels the myth that Walcott is vastly different from his possible replacements.

Player touches from the game at St Andrew's show how Walcott and Samir Nasri, in particular, rarely hug the touchline.

Player touches show that even Walcott comes inside often to link play

"Arsenal have Andrey Arshavin who can play in a wide position very intelligently, and Nasri has done that to good effect too," Keown explains. "No player at Arsenal is told to stay in a wide position, they are only starting positions, and for me Walcott is a better player when he comes inside.

"You don't rely on crosses from Arsenal players; it's about linking up intelligently. Yes, Walcott's pace will be missed because he terrifies the opposition, but don't underestimate Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky, who may well come in instead."

The Carling Cup final will be Arsenal's seventh game in February but Keown says - if they are fully committed - they will be too strong for Birmingham.

And he thinks that if the north Londoners manage to claim their first piece of silverware since 2005 it will only underline their fortitude, which has been doubted by others for so long.

"I just think winning on Sunday will get people off their backs because if you're not winning things people consider you to be second best," Keown adds. "The players will consider themselves to be winners but it's that trophy that proves it to everybody else and that's what they need right now."

You can also discuss more tactical issues and suggest future ideas on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    It's all well and good to say that the pitch is so big that you'd do better with wide running players but, ultimately, are Birmingham really going to get goals with those tactics? I still believe their best chance is working up to a set piece and getting a decent ball into the middle of the Box. Not necessarily pretty to watch but if they defend well it's their best chance at victory...

  • Comment number 2.

    The problem for birmingham is we have one of the best gameplans in the league to counteract their style. We tend to dictate the game for most of the 90 minutes and if we take the lead early on it means they have to attack in numbers allowing us more space and a better counter-attacking option. The reason this works well against them is their lack of pace. They also do not create many chances from open play. If we can defend well as we have been doing for the last two months by and large then we should win the match.

    But it is a final and you can never say never.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think it would be dangerous to play a high-pressure game in midfield when the pitch is so big. It only takes a winger to skip past his man and Birmingham will be in all kinds of trouble.
    As an Arsenal fan, I readilly accept that they can ebat us, but I have no idea how, with the playing staff at their disposal. I agree that Jerome and Marins are their best bet, but it would leave them open to coutner attacks and maybe short in midfield, against an opposition midfield that keeps the ball well. I suppose its down to a cavalier spirit which you should really ahve in a final anyway. If you're too pragmatic, and you lose, yuo'll regret it

  • Comment number 4.

    Birmingham played the best football, so far, of all the "lower" premiership teams at Emirates this season, certainly better than Stoke this week. With Bowyer, Larsson and Zigic on form, they will be a threat. I just hope that we will be able to create good chances without Cesc and Theo. We haven't looked as dangerous this season without them

  • Comment number 5.

    Good read.

    I do believe there is so much at stake for both teams and it will be a good final. However, Arsenal missing Fabregas is a big blow. It's easy to see how influential he is as the game went flat when we played Stoke once after he was replaced. I still think Arsenal have enough players to win this game, especially with VanPersi and Koscielny returning from injury.
    I do hope Almunia doesn't start at goal, that will make me even more nervous than missing Fabregas. It would be interesting to see Rosicky come in for the injured captain and the rest, in my opinion, is a straight forward line up.
    The only other wish I have is that Ramsey was match fit as he can provide that creativity we lack when Fabregas is not playing. It's going to be a tough fought game, but I still see Arsenal over coming Birmingham. Go Gunners!

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with the idea that the best way to beat Arsenal is to play two up front. Whether it is Zigic and Jerome, Zigic/Martin or Jerome and Martin doesn't really matter, the biggest question is will McLeish have the courage to start with two up top?

    I fully expect him to play one man up front, most likely Jerome. The best way to win for B'ham is to attack Arsenal with two strikers rather than concede possession easily with only one striker. Equally, the most likely way to lose is to have four in midfield and have Arsenal overrun them. I think McLeish will try not to lose rather than try to win.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is Fab hamstring always same leg. Is it chronic?

  • Comment number 8.

    What i see happening in this final is Birmingham essentially trying to bully Arsenal for a win making for a very dull final. Birmingham will attempt (as the stats show in the table in the article) to pump the ball up the field towards Zigic and hope for the ball to land to a blue shirted player. They will try to strangle any creativity from Arsenal. Having said all that it hasnt worked so far for them this season against the Gunners and if Arsenal score early it could be 3 or 4 nil. But i think the blues will win this one with a freekick (which is their best chance of scoring) near the end of the game.
    cue the Arsenal excuse of they did not let us play football..... should they lose.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think Mcleish will start with a 4-4-2 with Zigic and Jerome/Martins up front. It's widely known that the Arsenal defence struggle against long balls over the top(Ipswich away being an example) and both Jerome and Martins are rapid. With Zigic we also have the obvious option of long diagonal balls into the box, but I feel he has a lot more to offer than that. With Arsenal's defending of corners/free kicks sometimes being chaotic to say the least, Zig's knack for being in the right place at the right time may be the difference! Blues played pretty well at the Emirates at the start of the season, infact the only reason we lost was due to Chamakh diving for the penalty. Arsenal are obviously the better team on paper, and hardly anyone outside of the club believes we can win, but I honestly believe Blues can beat anyone on their day.

    2-1 to Blues and Fergie to show the Arsenal midfield how it's done.


  • Comment number 10.

    Lol Alistair Magowan is back!!

  • Comment number 11.

    if Brum want to beat Arsenal, play 4-3-2-1 Zigic the 1 and Jerome & Martin the 2...easy.

  • Comment number 12.

    Blah blah blah. Brum have no chance and every neutralknows it. 3-0 to the Arse.

  • Comment number 13.

    I can’t understand why a lot of the coverage seems to be writing Birmingham’s chances off. Yes Arsenal are favourites but let’s not get ahead of ourselves - Birmingham are a very decent team who are more than capable of beating Arsenal on their day!

    Birmingham should play to their strengths which are playing deep and tight, take chances from set pieces and hitting Arsenal on the break. Like any cup final I expect the game to be tight and frantic. Birmingham have a pretty tight defence and if they go 1-0 up they’re very capable of parking the bus and making life very difficult of Arsenal.

    Hope it’s a good game, an Arsenal fan

  • Comment number 14.

    Although I don't think this final will be a classic, I believe that the contrasting styles will keep it interesting. Birmingham have a great chance with Fabregas missing, and I hope they do win. I think that Alex McLeish is a good manager and often his achievements at Birmingham get overlooked.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tactics , injuries etc will not determine the outcome of this match. What nearly always determines the winner is pedigree of winning trophies .Underdogs like Birmingham can play Arsenal off the park and still end up losing; they can even have a referre who is fair and gets all the main decisions right and still lose .How many times have we seen an underdog play really well in a final and almost, almost get the result until the underperforming big side gets a lucky break. I would love to see Birmingham win-it would be SO good for football , yet I fear for all their efforts , like so many before them ,they just won't be able to do quite enough to beat a Big 4 team in a final.

  • Comment number 16.

    Fabregas not playing for Arsenal is a massive loss. I expect Wenger to play the strongest starting XI. I guess Birmingham may also play their strongest starting XI as well. Arsenal are strong favourites and should win on Sunday and end their long silverware drought record. I hope the Wembley pitch is good.

  • Comment number 17.

    6 of the 8 goals Birmingham have scored against Arsenal in the Premier League have been from set pieces. Say what you like about the size of Wembley but there is no doubting that this is a weapon for Birmingham.

  • Comment number 18.

    Most likely Arsenal will stroll to a fairly comfortable win, whether the scoreline reflects it or not. Van Persie has been scoring freely, Nasri's having a great season, Arshavin looks like he might be getting back towards his best, Koscielny seems to be cutting out a lot of his mistakes, and if Szczesny plays they'll have a goalkeeper high on confidence and in good form. They will certainly miss Fabregas and Walcott, but they're not so reliant on those two that they'll fail without them. Moreover, this would be their first trophy in six years, which would be a huge boost to the only realistic challengers for the Premiership title this year. Birmingham will put up a hell of a fight, but I don't think they'll be good enough to nick it.

  • Comment number 19.

    That Chart should read "Delap 20.12%". Every throw-in from stokes ends up being a long pass.

    Birmingham have acquired some good attacking players over the years, Zigic, Larrson, Hleb, and now martins. Whether they will be used for an attack or just an outlet to relieve pressure (as well as to try to win a set-piece upfield) remains to be seen.

    Arsenal has been beaten at home this year to Newcastle, WBA, and Tottenham by playing attacking football while defending as a unit. So it's not a foregone conclusion that they only way to beat Arsenal is to stop them from playing.

    It's a cup final so i hope to see some good attacking as well as defensive football. But if it ends up being 10-men behind the ball all game then it will be horrible to watch.

  • Comment number 20.

    "infact the only reason we lost was due to Chamakh diving for the penalty"

    omg, are you still banging on about that? tell your defender not to stick his leg out needlessly in the box, asking for trouble, really.

    I can see birmingham winning this. i'm really worried about diaby in mid field. the mans a ticking time bomb that can go wrong at any moment. i can just see us being really flat and conceding a sloppy goal early on. if we#re on our game and van persie gets quality service, we'll win, if we have one of our 2nd gear days, i fear the worst.

  • Comment number 21.

    "omg, are you still banging on about that? tell your defender not to stick his leg out needlessly in the box, asking for trouble, really. "

    OMG, are you still defending a diver? Tell your forward to be a man, stay on his feet and score his own goals instead of giving them to Fab from the spot.

    The defender sticking his leg out needlessly is neither an invitation to, nor an excuse to dive. Although for Arsenal players, opposition players being on the pitch is both invitation and excuse to dive...

  • Comment number 22.

    I fear for arsenal's chances without cesc, so wenger's tactics will be crucial. Please do NOT start losers like diaby, chamakh and bendtner. the goal getting should be left to nasri, arshavin and van persie. wilshere, song and rosicky should be in the middle and the back four must be the solid sagna, koscielny, djourou and clichy with wojzchiek in goal. bendtner, denilson, diaby, squillachi, gibbs, eboue and almunia should be on the bench. any other formation will be a gamble by arsene as usual. rambo will be back in time for the camp nou and can fill cesc's role if the latter is still not fit.

  • Comment number 23.

    "OMG, are you still defending a diver? Tell your forward to be a man, stay on his feet and score his own goals instead of giving them to Fab from the spot."

    ROFL. you need a reality check, mate. i'm sure no birmingham player has ever dived or tried to deceive the ref, yes, really.... if a player needlessly sticks their leg out right in front of an on running forward in the box, do you really think he isn't going to go down. i'm sure a birmingham striker would of jumped over the leg and tried to score, yes, of course. grow up.

    get used to it or go watch a different sport.

  • Comment number 24.

    It's not exactly hard to see how the game is going to go, arsenal will dominate possession and birmingham will sit deep and try to soak up the pressue with at least 10 men behind the ball, it's how everyone except barcelona plays against arsenal. It will be a matter of whether we are clinical or not in front of goal and whether our defense will defend well against set pieces if we do that then we will win the game, no doubt about it. The arsenal players just have to see this as a another game and put the fact that we havnt won a trophy in five years out of our heads the barcelona game is a bigger game than this and the fact that we are not even playing a top four team makes the game even less significant.

  • Comment number 25.

    Reply to gooner8. It is easy to see why arsenal fans seem conceited and arrogant to supporters of other clubs. I hope your players turn with up with a similiar attitude as yourself, seeing this game as insignificant and one eye on the Barcelona game. Blues certainly will have to be on top of their game to get any sort of result, playing at high tempo and breaking with pace, using possession wisely. Letting Arsenal have possession and sitting back soaking up pressure would be very dangerous.

  • Comment number 26.

    Addendum to magic seagull. Sadly your view of players simulating fouls is what is making people watch other sports.

  • Comment number 27.

    When I'm sat down watching the final on Sunday, I'll take a moment to reflect on how people are watching other sports. Actually I won't XD

    How many people do you know have stopped watching football because of diving? I've not met one person and I never will meet one person who gave up watching their team play. What tripe, really.

  • Comment number 28.

    I'm asuming here but are you one those fans that think that tackling(fairly) has no place in football? Maybe feigning injury to gain an advantage is ok? Players surrounding the ref and brandishing imaginery yellow cards? When I sit down to watch my team on Sunday I hope they play the game fairly and with integrity. Surely this is what any fair fan would want?

  • Comment number 29.

    To add to the above, if arsenal are such a great team(which they are) why would they need to cheat? It seems from most of the above posts Arsenal only need to turn up to win.

  • Comment number 30.

    Birmingham City will have to play similar to Netherlands in the World Cup final to stop Arsenal - commit fouls quick and regularly and stop Arsenal getting in rhythm! Birmingham will certainly fancy their chances from set pieces with Nikola Zigic, Liam Ridgewell and Roger Johnson to aim for, but I expect Arsenal to control the possession and play the game in Birmingham's half. Ultimately, I expect Jack Wilshere and/or Samir Nasri to take control of the game, and they have an on-fire Robin van Persie to feed. Arsenal win.

  • Comment number 31.

    I agree with another post I read here, I mainly see Arsenal dominating possession and Birmingham laying back. But as Arsenal fans know so well, possession doesn't always equate to a goal. That said with a team with the attacking prowess of Van Persie, Nasri, Wilshere, and even Song. I doubt Birmingham will do more than give a few scares.

    Cheers to a great game,
    and hopefully a great win for the Gunners.

  • Comment number 32.

    i think arsenal are beatable without fabregas and wallcot but blues will have to put out a strong side ithink:
    Zigic,Martins subs:Taylor,Davies,Murphy,Bowyer,mutch,Phillips,Jerome

  • Comment number 33.

    Everyone seems to forget that a Cup Final is exactly that-a final, a one-off. Knowing this as a player completely changes your mentality than it would as a league fixture.

    Neither Birmingham nor Arsenal will necessarily be playing with a similar mentality to how they usually play in the league. Goal difference and points dont come into this, they are irrelevant.

    Remember that aside from also being their first trophy in many years this could mean a European place for Birmingham if they win, while Arsenal need a trophy to kickstart a domestic trophy winning run (similar to Man Utd in 1990 FA Cup final) and possible cycle of dominance in the English game. This is all set-up to be a fast paced end-to-end contest.

    Just because Birmingham get men behind the ball in the Premiership doesnt mean they will apply the same mentality in a one-off final: this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play in a final for some Birmingham players.

    Arsenal may also not be playing the fast-flowing confident game we assume. Yes, that is way they have played against all kinds of opposition from the lower teams to the so-called greatest (ie Barcelona), but this does not mean that it will be easy for them. Pressure is a very unpredictable thing and can do funny things to players. The pressure of needing to win that trophy could cause the Arsenal team to play a more cautious approach, to themselves soak-up the pressure and hit Brum on the break. We cannot assume that as the more aesthetically pleasing side that they will win by default. As I said pressure is a funny thing.

    Lest we forget that the last time Birmingham got to the Final of this competition they went 1-0 down early on but came back and held Liverpool to a 1-1 draw, extra-time and then only lost when sub Andrew Johnson missed his penalty in the shoot out. I think it would be naive to write-off Birmingham as a weaker side and assume they wont be up for this game.

    This game should be treated as the microcosm that it is. I expect it to be a very interesting contest and hope we see goals and good, fast flowing attacking football from both sides a la the 2006 FA Cup Final of West Ham vs Liverpool which either side couldve won. I hope we dont get another Man U v Chelsea drab, boring stalemate....

  • Comment number 34.

    Anyone who believes Arsenal only need to turn up to win is making a grave mistake, also implying that this game is insignificant because it's not against a Barcelona or top four team is highly deluded and a bit more then just a little condesending.

    I grew up in London and was fortunate to attend a number of Wembley finals, I remember struting confidently up Wembley way in '78 when we were a shoo in to lift the trophy against Ipswich, two years later I had a similar, yet not so cocky, feeling that this would be our day when we faced heavy underdogs West Ham in the final. The rest is, as they say, history.

    The form book goes out the window for these games, league position and status means not a jot when it comes to a one off, winner takes all final, that's what makes it so interesting for the involved clubs fans and the neutral viewer. B'ham will not bow down to us because statistically or on paper we are the so called stronger team, they'll be up for this game and the tag of underdogs will suit them fine.

    I'm hoping for a good match with an Arsenal victory, but I'm taking nothing for granted.


  • Comment number 35.

    If you want to have a result against Arsenal, I feel you have to not leave them breathing space in midfield and hit them hard on the counter attack.
    Can Birmingham do it?
    Will the size of Wembley help them?
    It's horses for courses. Arsenal are clear favourites for the match.

    In Arsenal's favour is their thirst for a title after 6 trophiless seasons and their powerful passing game.
    Against Arsenal, all I can see is their tiring after weeks playing both midweek and on weekends. Against Stoke, they created so few chances. It also has to be a downside missing Fabregas and Walcott. Will Birmingham be able to limit Nasri's and Arshavin's activity on the pitch? I have reservations.

    Still, Birmingham will have a fresh team out on Wembley tomorrow, in contrast to an Arsenal team in the middle of a hectic period in the season. Has it been done before? Many times. The most vivid in memory is the way Greece won in 2004 a whole turnament, brushing aside a sequence of big national sides, playing a team of nobodies with fresh legs but united as a team.

    All I hope for is a good match and let the best team win.

  • Comment number 36.

    The wide pitch will work in Arsenal' favour who love to get their full backs Clichy and Sagna up to support their wide men. Also, I think that this final could allow Arsenal to add a new dimension to the way they play if they put Bendtner and Chamakh up front who pose a great aerial threat. I think Arsenal had definitely missed that "Aerial threat" because of the departure of Adebayor not so long ago. All I hope is that Arsenal play their football and show all the critics that long ball rugby tactics never win you games or cups for that matter.

  • Comment number 37.

    It could well be a tale of two goalkeepers at Wembley. Foster knows the stadium and has had good matches there before with Man Utd, whereas Arsenal have a new kid, who looks promising but will have to handle being in his first final. I think if Birmingham can hassle Arsenal in midfield they may just edge it. 2-1 to Birmingham say I.

  • Comment number 38.

    How dare you say Arsenal fans should get off their high horse and...

    Oh wait, wrong blog.

    I think it's safe to say the Birmingham are a much better team than some gooners are giving them credit for. Don't let the history between us blind you to the fact that they are team that give anyone a run for their money on a given day. They've strengthened their attack during the transfer window with survival and this final in mind presumably so they will be coming all out on attack to win this cup final.
    It's been a long while since we touched a Cup final but I hope we approach it with only this game in their mind and not any other fixtures, or else it could all turn to sh*te.

  • Comment number 39.

    Wenger seems not to miss an opportunity on presenting his side as clear favourites. Did it at Leyton Orient and his side got a replay. When you feel confident, you don't feel the need to advertise it.

    I'm curious what the odds are on a draw leading to penalties.

  • Comment number 40.

    In as much as I believe Arsenal is entitled to a silverware this season, it is always a good thing for "Lower Premiership" club to win something too. Zidic, Martins and Jerome should all start because there is no point in being cautious in a final game, it is either all or nothing. Game on !!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    Being an Arsenal fan, this comment might be slightly pro-Arsenal.

    Having waited 5 years since we were last in the final and 6 since we last won, I think that the players will go out wanting this more than ever. However, Birmingham do have a chance. Our 7th game of the month; having played Barcelona in the Champions League and FA Cup matches (and replays).

    I don't think that it's going to come down to Birmingham's natural football which will get them a win. If they can demand Arsenal to run more and move the midfield; then they will tire them down. As long as they take their chances they can win. They do have a bit of luck on their side. Fabregas and Walcott injured is a major blow to Arsenal which I think means we can't attack as much as we want to.

    The other thing that Arsenal do is make it harder for ourselves against 'smaller' clubs. Just like we did against West Brom and Sunderland and Newcastle. This could bring Birmingham delight in winning this match.

  • Comment number 42.

    Morning all

    As some have suggested here I don't think this game is cut and dried despite Arsenal being favourites. Lots of factors come into play including injuries to Fabregas and Walcott, the number of fixtures Arsenal have played recently and the fact that for many of the players it will be their first English final. That may cause a few jitters.

    As for Birmingham they have some very capable footballers and Craig Gardner is one of those runners from midfield that Keown says Arsenal sometimes struggle to pick up. Lots will depend on McLeish's formation and team before they go out. It is a final so should he go all out with two strikers or try to contain and change things later in the game?

  • Comment number 43.

    Did you know that the Wembley pitch is only the same size as Molyneux, which is the 5th largest in the Premier League? It is also only 1 yard wider than both the Emirates and St Andrews pitches!

  • Comment number 44.

    Arsenal > Birmingham

  • Comment number 45.

    Arsenal and Birmingham eye Carling Cup victory

    Carling Cup final
    Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Sunday, 28 February Kick-off: 1600 GMT

    What year would that be? Today is the 27th

  • Comment number 46.

    The table contrasting the "percentage of long passes" made by different clubs is interesting, but made rather meaningless without the total number of passes made (ie, in statistical terms, the base). I suspect Arsenal may be very high in a table of "number of passes made", and so may make many more long passes than this table might lead naive readers to suppose. Who is to say whether Birmingham make more long passes than Arsenal? It may just be that the Gunners make very many more short passes than Birmingham.

  • Comment number 47.

    It was nice and sunny earlier on at Wembley.
    Birmingham fans seem to have gone early and pedestrian paths looked dressed in blue. Arsenal fans start going there but rain is going too. What a difference in the weather in one hour's time!

  • Comment number 48.

    the pressure is firmly on arsenal and they know it if birmingham are given time and can exploit arsenal's weakness then they can win

  • Comment number 49.

    FT: Arsenal 1-2 Birmingham
    Birmingham win the Carling Cup!

    Arsenal had the best chance to win silverware this season so far and they blow their chance.

  • Comment number 50.

    Ahhhh, credit to Birmingham. It was a hard-fought game by both teams. Unbelievable goal to concede in the dying minutes...

  • Comment number 51.

    YESSSSSSSSSSSSS birmingham won haha arsenal

  • Comment number 52.

    Same old arsenal under Wenger, constantly winging.

    The irony being that they were most successful in their recent history when they adopted the most cynical football in the league, under George Graham. They Adam and Keone would beat players out of the game, as would rocky rocastle and the ginger one. They would play the offside trap. They would intimidate like know other team....just read various biographies of footballers at the time and see who they fear most,,,Arsenal, and guess what, the Arsenal fans loved it! If anything, Stoke is a tribute to the arsenal of old. Yet Arsenal fans have forgot their history and act like Madame Bouquet, all better than thou, the purveyors of pure football. Its so nouvo riche, even more so then chelsea....of course, arsenal fan being so stuck up their own **** would fail to see this


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