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Arsenal's trophy hunter: Arsene Wenger sees Carling Cup as the key to lift-off

27 Feb 2011 00:44:17

Arsenal's trophy hunter: Arsene Wenger sees Carling Cup as the key to lift-off

'If you win the League Cup, can you honestly say you have won a trophy? We have got out of the group stages in the Champions League for 10 seasons in a row. That is three times more difficult than winning the League Cup five times. And finishing third in the league is more difficult than winning the League Cup.' - Arsene Wenger, February 6, 2010 Precious mettle: Arsene Wenger (left) and Alex McLeish Strangely enough, Arsene Wenger had no desire to denigrate the Carling Cup in such a fashion on Friday. He probably regrets dismissing the value of a competition that is in its 50th year. Even if everyone - Carling aside, perhaps - would agree it has become the poor relation of the four main trophies teams like Arsenal now pursue. But Wenger has finally recognised what two of his fiercest rivals saw some time ago: the value of securing silverware, and the positive impact it can have on a team with an unsatisfied lust for titles. First of many: Jose Mourinho's Carling Cup triumph in 2005 was the springboard to his success at Chelsea Like Wenger, Jose Mourinho had bigger fish to fry in his first season at Chelsea. He was brought in to deliver a first Barclays Premier League title for Roman Abramovich and attempt to replicate the European success he had enjoyed at Porto. But he started by bagging the League Cup, and would no doubt agree it was a useful springboard to the trophies that followed. Sir Alex Ferguson had already achieved unrivalled success, but he too has seen the value of the Carling Cup in recent seasons. Particularly as his team have been going through a period of transition. A trophy, whatever trophy, lifts spirits and drives ambition; gives players a taste for more while also providing them with the vital experience of a grand occasion. Which, come the actual day, the League Cup final always is; come the victory celebrations, too. In fairness to Wenger, what he said a year ago was a spiky response to an all-too-familiar question about Arsenal's failure to win a trophy for what is now six years. But his over-reaction put him in an uncomfortable position on Friday, even if the teams he has selected this season have shown a desire to finally win this trophy. 'I said it's not winning "main" trophies,' he said. 'It's not the main trophy. The most important trophies are the championship and the Champions League. After that you have the FA Cup and, after that, the Carling Cup. 'It's difficult to say whether it's harder to finish always in the top four, or to win the Carling Cup. What's important for us is just to win as many trophies as we can. The most difficult is consistency at the top, and the proof of that is that only two clubs have been able to finish in the top four for each of the last 12 years: us and Manchester United. 'It's true that winning the Carling Cup will mean we don't have to answer that question any more about whether we can win trophies. It'll be important for the confidence of the team for the rest of the season. We have a young squad and this will do much for their confidence. Winning the Carling Cup will be like beating Chelsea, like beating Barcelona - another step forward. FLASHPOINTS Birmingham City 2 Arsenal 2, February 23, 2008Martin Taylor lunges at the ball and breaks Eduardo's leg. Birmingham 1 Arsenal 1, March 27, 2010Sub Kevin Phillips' injury-time leveller sends Arsene Wenger over the edge. Arsenal 2 Birmingham 1, October 16, 2010The Blues are livid as Marouane Chamakh seems to dive to win a penalty. Birmingham 0 Arsenal 3, January 1, 2011Lee Bowyer rakes his studs down Bacary Sagna's ankle. 'It's important for the players. They get that from you, from everybody. They say, "OK, we want to win a trophy to show you we can win one". But I believe to win would give us a lift.' His team are clearly desperate to beat Birmingham on Sunday, which may explain an apparent conflict between manager and captain. Cesc Fabregas seems to think his hamstring injury is not serious enough to stop him playing at Wembley. But Wenger is not ready to risk him, not least because his side remain very much in the race for this season's Barclays Premier League title and have the second leg of their Champions League tie with Barcelona to prepare for. Winning on Sunday is important to Wenger, but not that important. 'If Cesc was playing he could damage his participation in all the other targets after that,' said the Arsenal boss, who is performing a balancing act, juggling what his players want - need, even - with his desire for more illustrious prizes. You could see that conflict in some of his responses. Asked if Sunday 'could be the start of something', he said: 'Look, it's our next game. It's a trophy. How big the trophy is, everyone will rate differently. We will try to win it. That's what we want to do.' But he then said there would be no open-top bus tour; no exhibiting the trophy on his mantelpiece. 'On Monday morning we come in and practise to win against Leyton Orient,' he said, before declaring himself 'a futurist'. 'I'm not nostalgic,' he explained. 'I've given some medals away. Some must be in a cupboard, somewhere. Frankly, I'm not collecting at all.' And why? 'Because one of the things in this job is that you look always for the next game, the future,' he said. 'This job turns you forward. When you go to bed at night, do you look back at the good moments you've had in your life, or do you look forward at what you want to do in the future? 'Some people think about what they've done in their life, the good moments, and others worry about the next day, the future. I'm more what's happening tomorrow.' The future will be brighter for Arsenal if they win on Sunday. Enlarge   Let Cesc lift the trophy, say Arsenal team-mates ahead of Carling Cup finalRobin van Persie to lead Arsenal out in Carling Cup final as Arsene Wenger refuses to bow to Cesc Fabregas' plea to playCARLING CUP FINAL TEAM NEWS: Arsenal without Fabregas for clash with BirminghamRoad to Wembley: How Arsenal booked their place at WembleyRoad to Wembley: Birmingham's path to the brink of gloryARSENAL FC


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