The first silverware of the season is up for grabs on Sunday as The Arsenal take of The Chavs (Chelsea) in the Carling Cup final.
Despite the fact that Chelsea will field the strongest team available to them and Arsenal will field a tem mainly made up of youngsters and fringe players, it`s sure to be a tight encounter.
The mind games started surprisingly late this year. Usually they would have started as soon as the fixture was confirmed but this year that was not the case. Of course they did begin eventually. Wenger slating Chelsea`s crazy spending and suspect partnership with PSV, Mourniho calling himself the special one and pointing out that Wenger hasn`t won the Champions League?etc etc.
It`s difficult to predict how the game will go. Will Mourniho see playing against inexperienced players as an opportunity to attack? Will Wenger defend and try to catch Chelsea on the counter (ala 05 FA Cup final V United)?
One thing I can predict is that Mr. Mourniho will have told his players to ‘get stuck in` to Arsenal in an attempt to unsettle them. Normally that would worry me but the youngsters are fearless. That`s what has got them this far and it`s what won United the treble in 99 (maybe next year Gooners).
But remember Arsenal fans, whatever happens tomorrow, they`ve done the club, us, the manager and most importantly, themselves proud to get here.
Wenger made a strange, yet relevant comparison between this competition and the X-Factor: ‘You have singers in England going on the X-Factor show for their talents to be discovered,” said Wenger. “If they don’t organise it, you don’t find them.
‘I like it because people are brave enough to come out and say they want to achieve something in their life. They are ready to be committed to do it. They have a target.
‘I like people who turn up and are ready to fight for something, like our young players are. And this competition is the X-Factor Academy for us.
“People say never judge a team on a cup run because it depends who you play. But in this competition we have played Everton, Liverpool and Tottenham so it would be a great reward for us to win it.
“Liverpool was a tough test, Everton was a tough test and no-one can ever predict how difficult it will be against Chelsea.
‘Their game is based on experience and power, ours will be based on mobility and movement. It will be very important for us to try and stop them in decisive moments in the game by taking over that physical power.’
Le Boss went on to say that while the Cup is important to him, what the players take into the future is more important: “I’m very proud of what these players have achieved this season,” he said. “We have not just won we’ve won with style which is our philosophy.
‘But for me the biggest achievement is always the next one. What you have done in your life is not important. If you think what you have won is not as important as the next one then you are finished.
‘I want to achieve what is front of me as well as I can and I really want to win this trophy on Sunday.
‘It will be an unusual achievement if we do it.”
Frank Lampard claims that Chelsea will be playing for the fans on Sunday, rather than the bonuses they will get if they win: ‘I know the fans will travel in their thousands for a massive game against Arsenal, and we will give it our all to win that cup.
‘Any silverware is special, getting that first trophy of the season is important, and there is nothing better than celebrating with our fans at the end of a game.’
Chelsea Team News:
The big shock is that Terry will now play. It was feared (by Chelsea, not Arsenal) that he had suffered ligament damage after being stretchered off after 12 minutes against Porto.
Arjen Robben faces a fitness test but Joe Cole is definantly out while Ashley Cole is unlikely to feature.
Player to watch: Petr Cech
One of the finest ‘keepers in the world. It’s no coincidence that Chelsea’s results have improved greatly since his return from injury.
Arsenal Team News:
Henry, Gallas and Ljungberg are almost certain not to take part.
Jens Lehmann is suspended, although he wouldn’t have played anyway.
On the injury front, Eboue is definanly out. Justin Hoyte and Gael Clichy both face late fitness tests.
Player to watch: Denilson & Baptista
I can’t choose between the 2 of them. Baptista has been the king of the Carling Cup so far. 6 goals in 3 games is pretty impressive at any level but when you’re in a team comprised mainly of youngsters and you’re playing against teams like Liverpool and Spu*s… it speaks for its self.
In every Cup final there’s a hero, for some reason I believe this is Denilson’s time. I don`t want to hype him up too much but it`s hard not to! He manages to combine the finesse of Rosicky, the passing range of Fabregas and the bite of Gilberto. He has already shown that he can pull a few tricks out the bag (see Carling Cup Semis V Spurs).
I really don’t want to make a prediction. It’s going to be a tight, tight game. I’m going to have to go with a 2-1 Chelsea win I’m afraid. Ballack and Drogba for them. Baptista for Arsenal.
Vital Arsenal member Professor Calculus had this to say: ‘I think we will lose, hate being negative and would love to show more faith but I really can’t see this Arsenal team beating Chelsea. Terry being fit has nothing to do with it as our attacks are not in the air anyway.
I really really, really hope that this is the game Walcott comes alive, I want him to burn Chelsea but to be honest I think it’s a fantasy with slim chances of being a reality.
Wenger has done it so many times, just when you think you’ve worked the guy out he pulls off something unbelievable (unbeaten season), so I should know not to underestimate him or his custom built sides, but Mourinho is genuinely fearful of Wenger’s obsession and knowledge of football, he would hate his full strength billionaire Chelsea side losing to a youth side developed from scratch by Wenger, it would be just too much for him which is why I think he will treat this very seriously.
All logic says we will lose which is why we will surely win.’
Vital Chelsea member BlindJak also commented on the match: ‘It`s certainly an intriguing match up. While I think the whole kids thing is one what over stated (as in some of them, although young, are first team regulars anyway) It is admirable that Arsene is allowing them to play the final rather than reverting to a full strength side. Chelsea have pretty much played full strength side through out and I expect nothing different for the final. I do find it hard to believe that your ‘second` string will beat our first team but then I guess Everton, Liverpool and Spuds all thought the same so I`m not approaching this as a forgone conclusion.
Further more with Terry out we have seen that our defence is more vulnerable so I would expect to concede. However if Drogba is once against pitted against Senderos I`d expect the Ivorian to once again terrorise the poor lad (though it should be acknowledged that Senderos had a good game back in Dec).
Personally I think the first half will be all important. Although the kids will start I expect Arsene will have a full fire power bench in case things go wrong. Should Chelsea be bale to exploit any weakness or stage fright from the youngsters (haven`t shown much yet but you never know) then they need to make sure it counts. I think if we take a two goal lead to extra time, then we`ve won it. If it`s a one goal lead the game is still up for grabs as there is the talent on the bench to turn the game. Never mind if it`s a draw.
Should Arsenal have any lead then while we push for an equaliser Arsenal can bring on the fresh legs of the likes of Thierry, Ljungberg, and Hleb to punish any space at the back. The chances are you`d expect Arsenal to win it from that position.
So as I say I reckon first half is make or break for both teams.’