Stone Cold Friday: He Who Dares Rodney, He Who Dares.
He was known as “The Raffles of Peckham”. He was a gentleman safe-cracker. He was a conisiour of fine wines, gourmet of foreign quisine, big art lover, snappy dresser, and big-time charmer. Now he’s simply called Darius…
It’s often said that one of the worst things that can happen is letting a good crisis go to waste. The headline writers certainly think we’re in crisis seeing that Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas are crocked and won’t make it for the Carling Cup final. It’s a body blow they say, one that has rocked Arsenal.
One of the best lessons ever unleashed on an unsuspecting crowd was during the semi-final of the 1995 Rugby World cup between the New Zealand All Blacks and England. It was the misguided focus on a certain Jonah Lomu who uncannily had a Fabregas-esque impact on the All Blacks. Rory Underwood had his hands full in the first place, but England opted to dedicate another man to police mark Lomu alongside Underwood – and it did the trick. Pretty much stopped the explosive winger for most part.
What England forgot was that all the other 14 All Blacks players on the pitch were capable of annihilating anyone in the world who dared accept the challenge of the ‘Hakka’. In truth, they really didn’t need Lomu; he was the classic decoy. England were humiliated and given a master class in how to play Rugby.
Cesc is very important to Arsenal and a peak at the stats bears this fact. Without him though, the team must rise to the challenge and complete the job they have been sent to Wembley to do. Even if there was a small chance of playing him, my take would be that it’s not worth the risk. A much fitter Cesc is required for the home straight.
The captain can most certainly serve the purpose of being our decoy, one who gives false hope to an unsuspecting enemy lying in wait. Lest we forget, Samir Nasri might have something to say to those who dare scoff at the suggestion that he has been the best player in England this season.
Robin Van Persie will also want to remind us all why he has been the most lethal striker in the world since the beginning of the year, with an added incentive of being the stand-in captain at a cup final.
While it’s important to get the “haven’t won a trophy in half a decade” monkey off our collective backs; what’s more important for the team and the fans is that this milestone is crossed so as to cement our belief in what this team is capable of.
Not that we’re likely to hear the last of the trophy drought nonsense – Neil Ashton of that blasted red rag has already confirmed live on air that if Arsenal do indeed win the Carling Cup, the narrative will change to “but they haven’t won a major trophy since 2005”.
Make no mistake, Birmingham are not going to roll over, let us tickle them on the belly, pat them on their heads and send them back up the motorway. Their last trip to a league cup final against Liverpool 10 years ago is something they want to wipe out of the history of the club and Arsenal is fair game to them.
Mike Riley – the cynical and baffling referee chief is already on a mission this season to show us that he has power and is willing to use it. How else would you explain the sheer impunity of giving Peter Walton the same fixture as he did last season where Walton’s incompetence gave Stoke the licence to ‘get in our face’s and for Shawcross to assault Aaron Ramsey.
Clearly, he knows that Birmingham has a history with Arsenal and goes ahead and hands Mike Dean – the same referee who managed the game which Martin Taylor hacked off Eduardo’s ankle.
The team must focus and put the game way beyond the match officials and way beyond Birmingham City. It will be good for the world to experience our brand of Wengerball at a cup final but that is not necessary in my view.
The object of the exercise here is to win the game. It matters not whether it’s a scrappy win; or whether we pass them to death; or whether we wear them down for 75 minutes and then lick them to submission; or whether we smash and grab the game. The players know that they must deliver.
A lot has been said about the possibility of Arsenal winning a historic quadruple. Some may think that it’s a task too far, and to them it must be said – “Ye of little faith”. He who dares wins.
We have to believe that we’re the best and we have to have that confidence. Sunday is a good start and an opportunity to knock off the list of available trophies this season. It’s been a long time coming and we have had to be patient.
We have no divine right to win at Wembley – but we have the team, we have the attitude, we have the desire and we have the hunger. Many have suggested that this season, Wenger has prioritized the league cup and played a really strong team all through the competition.
What most of them fail to recognize is that the vision is coming to fruition, and the strength of the team is a culmination of years of work with our young players who are now mature well beyond their peers. As the other teams are only now catching up with the concept of using the Carling Cup for developing their squad, they’re clearly only playing catch-up to what Arsenal has been doing for years.
Wenger was derided and fingers were pointed at Arsenal for not taking the Carling Cup seriously – and would you believe it, most clubs are now doing what Arsenal started years ago, and we’re bearing the fruits of this endeavour, long before others will catch up with our visionary development path.
The opportunity to win the first cup for this team is nigh. And it will be just one of many to come.