Posted on Friday, 25th February 2011 by Alastair Bayliss
Arsenal’s first final since 2006 falls this Sunday, and whilst it serves as a fantastic opportunity to get into the habit of winning trophies again, one has to ask whether it is sensible that Arsene Wenger chooses his strongest side for the game, in light of the subsequent fixtures in the not too distant future.
There obviously is an argument to suggest that he should not pick his best side. Arsenal shall once again play in four different competitions consecutively, starting on Sunday, and of all the trophies that the side and the supporters desire winning, the Carling Cup is the least of them. Of course, the opposition has to be considered as well. Birmingham City have already been turned over twice by Arsenal this season, and whilst they will be up for the game to a greater extent than the previous two, it is perfectly feasible that Arsenal could turn them over even without some key players present.
However, there is the argument that the side cannot afford to lose this game, and consequently Wenger should pick the best side he possesses. This match could go a long way to defining this season in terms of success. A defeat to a lesser side would mean that the monkey on their back (which is the five years without a trophy) would continue to haunt the team. The media would once again speak about Arsenal as a side who could not perform in the big game, labelling them akin to bottlers. The press alone shall probably convince the manager that he should play all the stars, regardless of the upcoming fixtures. Whilst Arsenal can win each and every competition this season, realistically the team has to focus on winning the ones in which they can triumph the easiest and soonest in. There shall surely never be a better chance of winning a competition than on this Sunday at Wembley for the Gunners.
Obviously, Wenger shall not be able to pick his strongest team though. Theo Walcott has already been ruled out through injury, and last night it was confirmed that Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas will not partake in the final either. Therefore his mind may well have been made up for him – should he wish to rest his major players, he can both legitimately claim injury in some cases, whilst perhaps exaggerate the injury in others. Robin Van Persie is an example of the latter – it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that there is a possibility that Wenger simply will not risk him, regardless of the importance of the game. Everyone shall wish to see the best side on the pitch at Wembley, not only because it shall give the side the best chance of success, but also because the integrity of the game and the competition as a whole shall be upheld as a result. The match could quite possibly have repercussions for the rest of the season, and for that reason alone, it seems only likely that the side shall be the strongest it can be. However, what goes through Wenger’s head is only for him to know.
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