Not as prestigious as it once was, the League Cup, now called the Carling Cup and formerly known as the Milk Cup (way back in the 80s) still throws up the occasional cracking tie. So, when I read that Arsenal would host Liverpool, my mind immediately went back to the last time Arsenal and Liverpool met in the League Cup and Arsenal did a 6-3 over them, at Anfield. That was really a night to remember and to think, if you live in London you could see such a clash for as little as £5. For me, that’s the real benefit of the League Cup, memorable clashes that almost every kid can afford to see in person.
Unfortunately, that 6-3 match is long gone; goal scoring superstar Julio “The Beast” Baptista bagged his quad and then tired of the dreary rain of London, or maybe the food, or whatever excuse he could come up with and bogged off back to Spain and is now in Rome. In fact, not much is left of either of those two teams that met that day, even Almunia, who was backup keeper for Arsenal then, has been dropped and is now third choice keeper at Arsenal.
Given all the departures and arrivals I don’t think the last time these two teams met in the League Cup will matter much to any of them. Maybe Cesc will have a whimsical twinkle in his eye as he sits in the stands, smartly dressed no doubt, reminiscing about the year that Chelsea beat the cup out of our hands — I mean literally beat Arsenal up and took it, like a bully taking milk money. But for players like Merida, Gibbs, Aquilani, Babel and Ramsey this is a chance not to reminisce, but a chance to prove themselves, against another top four team to boot.
Hungry youth playing in a single elimination match against another top club in front of 60,000 screaming fans, that’s a match to watch.
Wenger’s passed a lot of milestones these last few weeks (Sportsboys has an awesome breakdown of Wenger’s tenure) and so why not throw one more on to the pile: today will be his 750th match in charge. We all know the record, W 436 D 177 L 136, on the way to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups and as glorious as that is there are two things missing; the League Cup and the Champions League.
Don’t think that Arsene doesn’t want to win today or that he doesn’t care about this tournament just because he likes to blood youth. The inclusion of Nasri, Eduardo, Bendtner, Senderos, and Silvestre in the squad is a tip that Wenger is taking this match and this tournament very seriously. I can guarantee you that if Arsenal win the Carling Cup, which I said they have every chance to do in the season preview, they will proudly display the trophy in the trophy case and point to that as a jumping off point for more silverware.
The lineup should be straight forward: Nasri, Eduardo and Bendtner leading the attack; Ramsey, Merida and Coquelin in the middle; Gilbert, Senderos, Silvestre, and Gibbs holding the line; and Fabianski starting in goal. Notably absent from that lineup is Jack Wilshere who failed a fitness test on Sunday due to an ankle knock.
Liverpool’s £20m Summer replacement for Xabi Alonso (and one time Arsenal target) Alberto Aquilani will get his first start for Liverpool today which means that there will be two rusty players on the pitch tonight, Nasri and Aquilani.
Irregardless the rust, I expect that both teams will go for it tonight and fight for all 90 minutes. After all, for 11 young men tonight will be their last chance to prove themselves this year — they will leave everything on the field.
Ten Things I Hate About You
10. Too many supporters, even at 50,ooo seats they would be hard pressed to fill the stadium.
9. Why is the jumbotron showing the Spurs celebrating, when the action on the pitch is different? Maybe it’s a continuous loop of their 5-1 Carling Cup win over Arsenal.
8. It looks like at least one Spurs player is moving, that’s one too many.
7. They try to steal the clock end idea from Arsenal but everyone knows Spurs fans can only read digital clocks.
6. Speaking of moving, there should be a blur where their twitchy manager stands.
5. The back of the single-tier stand will never read “Tottenam Hotspur” everyone knows it should read “Naming Rights.”
4. There’s no way Spurs fans could afford real flags
3. It’s unlikely that Spurs would play a night game, unless they’re in the League Championship, don’t they play a lot of their games at night?
2. The Spurs players should be in red and white, since they obviously wish they were Arsenal so badly.
1. There’s no way that the grass would be that green, everyone knows that grass can’t grow in the shadow of the Emirates.
Right, that’s about it for today, despite the regular kickoff time in England, the match is on at 12:45 (PST) because American clocks are special and don’t go back to standard time until next week (thanks George W. Bush!). Pretty much the only way to watch the mach here in the States is via ESPN 360 and a few of us will be gathering at Doyle’s Public House in Tacoma to watch and support. There will be Liverpool supporters there as well but they are the friendly sort and you should come down so that I’m not vastly outnumbered.
See you tomorrow for the Good, Bad, and Ugly. UP THE ARSE!