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Arsenal kids bring excitement back to Carling Cup
05 December 2003


The Carling Cup, or League Cup hasn't had any appeal to me in recent seasons. Mainly down to the club showing no interest I suppose. Sure we get a quick insight into the younger players, something we don't usually get going to watch the 1st team. All in all cold winter nights in a half full Highbury lose their usual appeal when Grimsby or the likes come to play our youth team.
In a season full of exspensive visits to Highbury, something has to give, and when faced with a choice, The Carling Cup usually misses out.

But this season there seems to be a different feel to it all.

Althought it would be madness to say the usual battle with ManU (with Chelsea joining in thsi season) for the Premiership has become boring, this part of the season is always full of mainly body punches leading up to the real battle in the last few months. Ground can be gained and lost but there is no panic until we get near March, and so it has been for 5 odd seasons now. The early parts of the season are usually watched with interest and of course passionate support, but we all know the drill by now. The Champions League usually offers it's usual promise of "maybe this will be the year we prove a point". Again the real business doesn't really take place until the new year. So how refreshing it has been to have something new to focus on.

Wenger as usual has in his words "put his faith in the younger players" and put them out for Carling Cup games. In the past when he has said that, it has always made me laugh. We all know he is resting big named players for the main event, and we can't really blame him for that. But this season his faith in the youngsters has given us all something new to get excited about. We all knew we had some very good youth players coming through the ranks, but this season they have excited us and done better than I am sure even Wenger expected. And it's been great.

After drawing Wolves in the 4th round I am sure I wasn't alone in thinking it would be great if the kids got through this round, but didn't really pin much hope on it. Wolves of course would be going for it, a cup like this gives the smaller clubs a chance of a cup run and some much needed money. But our youngsters didn't just get through, they hammered a full strength Wolves side 5-1.
Suddenly this cup's exciting again.
It was enjoyable seeing then come past Rotherham, beating them on penalties, but the result against Wolves has got me really into this cup again.

How good would it be to have our second string get to the final, or even just the semi-final.
West Brom stand in the way of that, and after seeing them beat the ManU second string, I am feeling very confident that we can get to the last 4.
ManU's reserve team looked years off what wehave coming through the Highbury ranks and that was great to see. West Brom did their job and got through, they worked hard but didn't exactly out play a poor  ManU reserve team.

This sudden interest in how we do in this cup has come as a welcomed change. Like I said, the excitement of the Premiership, FA Cup and Champions League are all still there, but the sheer interest as to just how far we can go with a bunch of kids is turning into fantastic entertainment.

Of course we do have that add side issue that might suddenly come up. Wenger picking some of his big names the further we go. A cup is a cup and I am sure Wenger would want to win it if we suddely become only a game away from the final.
But I hope he sticks with the promising stars of tomorrow right to the end in this cup. That is where my interest in this cup lays at the moment, seeing how far they can go.
Getting to watch the kids run around with everything they have, trying to take the extra chance that has been handed to them to impress.

I just feel that the second Arsenal start to take this cup seriously again, I might start to think of it as just "that cup that adds to the already full fixture list" again.
Part of that train of thought does of course come with the fact that it only offers a UEFA Cup place as reward, having Arsenal take part in the Champions League for so many seasons on the bounce now, you do get spoilt.


I would love Wenger to now keep faith with the younger players and keep this as their cup now. I think there are a lot of Arsenal fans who would now like to see the same. It's exciting, and yes we are very lucky that we support a team who is able to do this.
The West Brom game comes during another busy time for the club, we will have come off the back of a Champions League game and a Sunday League game. That should be enough for Wenger to field the youth again.

Fingers Crossed.

andyw@theginge.com
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