Carling Cup Quarter Final: Arsenal v Wigan Preview

Arsenal host Wigan Athletic tonight in the Quarter Final of the Carling Cup in what is sure to be a frosty encounter. Yet aside from the subzero temperatures engulfing North-London this evening, one would anticipate a fairly smooth passage through to the Semi-Finals. Despite our rather shabby recent home form, Wigan at home is a favourable draw by anyone’s standards, whilst still allowing for the exciting possibility of playing United in our first final at the new Wembley.

In recent years, the Carling Cup has habitually been as low down on Wenger’s priority list as tickling Alisher Uzmanov’s belly-button, yet this year, as we approach our second half-decade without a trophy, first-team players, rather than fledgling Gunners, have populated Carling Cup team sheets throughout the last two rounds. As a result, two potentially tricky away encounters at Spurs and Newcastle were not only overcome, but passed with flying colours as on both occasion 4 goals paved the way through to the next round. Once again Arsene is expected to field a strong line-up tonight, with Van Persie making his second come back from a recurring ligament injury, and Emmanuel Eboue making a remarkably premature return from a knee complaint. Other high-profile names expected to fly the red and white tonight are those of Kieran Gibbs, Laurent Koscielny, Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Theo Walcott. Although it remains disappointing to see the latter continually used as either a substitute or squad player, his inclusion tonight will act as another opportunity to stake his claim for a starting spot on Saturday. After a blistering commencement to his 2010/11 season, an unfortunate injury sidelined the young Englishman for 6 weeks, and despite grabbing 3 goals in 2 games last month, he has since rarely managed to attain a spot in Arsene’s first 11.

Recollections of Wigan’s Carling Cup success over us in 2006 remain deeply ingrained in the memory of a Gooner and, presumably, Arsene Wenger. A 2-1 home victory was rendered redundant that night as Jason Robert’s 119th minute goal propelled Wigan into the final on away goals. Judging by a man who despises losing, Wenger will surely feel compelled to gain revenge for that disappointing result, which despite the rather more pressing concerns facing the team that year, must irk him to this day.

Although progressing tonight, and indeed ultimately getting our hands on a piece of silverware, will come as a welcome amuse bouche to hopefully winning something in May, as I have stated before, the physical achievement of winning a trophy dubbed by thousands as ‘The Mickey Mouse Cup’ is not the main attraction of this tournament. Winning it, as Arsene clearly intends to do this year, would give the team a taste of victory, and hopefully instil a much needed winning mentality into a team who seem almost shy about finishing off opponents and clinching trophies. Winning breads winning, and if we do reach the final in February, who would bet against Cesc, Samir and R.V.P all making the short trip to Wembley, just so they can finally clinch the first of hopefully a stack of silverware in the coming years.

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