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Monday, February 28, 2011

Familiar Arsenal frailties cost them dear again

I’m not sure what will be more galling for Arsenal fans, the fact their wait for a trophy goes on or that the defeat to Birmingham was so avoidable - yet predictable.

Gunners fans were imploring Arsene Wenger to buy a commanding centre back to compliment (and for much of this season replace) Thomas Vermaelen as well as a reliable goalkeeper.

A defender didn’t arrive and in the end the Wenger refused to pay the £3million asked by Fulham for Mark Schwarzer, instead sticking with the error prone Almunia and Fabianski as well as the youthful Szczesny.

To be fair to Szczesny he has performed well in recent weeks, in particular against Barcelona in the Champions League clash at the Emirates. But a young ‘keeper is always liable to make mistakes, especially with an inexperienced defence in front of him. And that cost Arsenal big time in the 89th minute at Wembley on Sunday. Fans following the goalwire livescore would have been gutted.

As the pundits said after the game Laurent Koscielny should have put his foot through the ball when it was flicked on by Nikola Zigic, but a lack of a communication between defender and ‘keeper resulted in a horrendous error that gifted Obafemi Martins the winner and will take a while to both forget and recover from.

Not that they have long to recover – Leyton Orient await in the FA Cup on Wednesday, Sunderland in the league on Saturday before a trip to the Nou Camp the following Tuesday. There are some crucial goalwire latest scores to be followed in the coming weeks.

The season may yet bring reward given the opportunities still on offer from now until May but the familiar weaknesses in this Arsenal side – constantly prevalent throughout the six years of their trophy drought – were brutally and humiliating exposed at Wembley on Sunday.

That will only turn the heat up on Wenger, the man who could have done something about it but doggedly chose not to.

He may also be regretting his comments about this competition last year given the reaction of his players and the fans after the final whistle:

“If you win the League Cup, can you honestly say you have won a trophy?”

I bet you wish you had the choice to decide Arsene.

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