Arsenal played a Carling Cup final against Birmingham City with one hand on the Cup as if at worst, they will keep the half of the trophy, their most negative football in years. Either due to tactics or fear of losing, they adopted an inferior team complex usually exhibited by smaller teams playing for points away from home in huge capacity crowds oh the hosts.
It was quite embarrassing to see them sit and wait for City to come and get the other half of the trophy, which actually happened. The Gunners were expected to go all guns blazing and steamroll City. Not that I disrespect Birmingham, but it was the moist realistic Arsenal trophy this season and their lives should have depended on it.
The entire match, except on set plays, there was hardly two Gunners in the penalty area. More than twice each for Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin, Bascary Sagna and Nicholas Bendtner, they were on the wings soliciting for support in the box without success. Occasionally, the support arrived late. Second man running moves in the attacking third of the pitch were extremely rare and the efforts to play the 3rd man running were non-existant.
This inevitably caused desperation as the Gunners shot from distance, forcing Forster to earn himself the man of the match award. Nasri was never that much in the penalty box. As for Alex Song, we saw how he scored goals earlier in the season, but he was a defensive fixture with dead attacking duties. Jack Wilshire was the most versatile and a little fearless. The rest were so afraid to lose and that is why they lost.
Birmingham on their part, played like they were fulfilling an ordinary fixture. They went out to enjoy football and playing to their full potential without reservations. They would have lost the match and got much satisfaction out of their performance. Ferguson, Johnson and Zigic were crucial when it mattered most. Larson was the most effective player on the day and he was sublime and enjoyed his football.
Arsenal always played like they had to fight another day. That is exactly what happened as they had their minds on extra time. That was never the worry for City. Lee Bowyer, like Johnson, limped his way through, throwing his body on the line. For the poor way they played, it is good that the Gunners lost. Unless they put their act together, the wait for silverware will be really long.