A marginal advantage rests with Arsène Wenger; with Arsenal. The Carabao Cup clash with Chelsea on Wednesday week happens at the Emirates. They have survived Stamford Bridge, sort of. Wenger’s side no longer have the away goal security blanket to pull from storage but they did repel Chelsea’s swagger. They met it with a purpose not always present. Now they need to flourish with a strut of their own.
The Carabao Cup and Arsenal – Does it Really Matter?
Last Time Out
Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette had the best of Arsenal’s chances in the first leg of the semi-final last Wednesday. In fact, Arsenal only had eight shots on goal, three of them on target. Chelsea were more coherent in attack; 21 attempts on goal in total, six on target.
More worryingly was Arsenal’s unsteady performance at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday. Jack Wilshere was good against Bournemouth. He demanded the ball, in turn using it wisely. Aware, patient and intelligent in ball usage; it’s no wonder a flight to South-West Russia in June with his name on the passenger list is no longer implausible.
Unfortunately for him, his approach and competence wasn’t met with comparable aptitude by those around him. The defensive line triumvirate of Rob Holding, Calum Chambers and Shkodran Mustafi don’t inspire much, let alone unflinching confidence. Not on a day like this.
Fending for Himself
Alexandre Lacazette now hasn’t scored in nine matches and Arsenal haven’t won yet in 2018. Sure, that’s just four matches. But, it’s also the first time since 1995 that it’s happened. The same season they finished 12th. George Graham was sacked and then the rarest of things. A goal, and an occasion that can be brought to mind by one irritable soundbite of a line: “Nayim, from the halfway line.” Say no more.
All that unravelling ultimately led to Wenger’s reign – one Bruce Rioch later. Studied and thoughtful, but also a driven obsessive. Success, relevant success and the goodwill earned, is evaporating. Like stranded stretches of sea water, the sun dispelling the water, leaving salt to fend for itself. Wenger must now fend for himself. He has been and he is able to. But how much longer can he appease?
Does he Care?
Arsenal Fan TV, more to the point, Troopz, is just one point of reference. Yes, he is just a single voice, but it is interesting to hear him speak. Amid the colourful language and the sharp thinking, there is one thing that stands out from his reaction to the Bournemouth defeat; effort. He doesn’t see the endeavour or the passion. it is relevant because it’s a general theme. Do the players care enough?
Does Wenger care enough? The answer to that is twofold. First, yes, he does. Secondly, and more relevantly, it doesn’t really matter. What those around him feel; that’s what matters.
A Collective Desire
So does the League Cup matter? Does the Chelsea match have relevance?
Ultimately, yes. It matters because winning it would matter. Not because it is the Carabao Cup, but because winning it would be illustrative of a collective desire to fight and win, to win for Wenger. That is where a lot of the doubt appears to lie.
Europa League success seems a dizzy dream for the simple reason that it’s not within touching distance. Beating Chelsea at the Emirates and then playing and beating one of either Manchester City or Bristol City, that’s possible. Not by any means certain. But sometimes objectives are better off being out of reach but in sight.
Next weeks match against Chelsea matters. More than Wenger would care to admit publicly. But since when did that matter?