gun__1214840871_emirates_nightmatchThe Carling Cup will never be enough for Arsène Wenger. It is one of the Arsenal manager’s long-held ambitions to lift the trophy for the first time. After all, it would give him a domestic full house and also end five supposedly ‘barren’ years without silverware of any kind. In the history of Arsenal, and indeed any other major club, that is nothing special. Yet, at a modern Big Four brand, it is made into a major issue. The statistic is trotted out with regularity to drip, drip, drip a little more pressure on the Frenchman when it is deemed relevant. However, despite a strong recent record in the competition, the Carling Cup is still more laboratory than exemplary for Arsenal. Winning it would be “a trophy” but that alone would never represent a satisfactory season for Wenger. “No, [it is not enough],” he told “I find these kinds of statements [about winning a trophy] always very superficial. “In these [intervening] years we went to the Final and Semi-Final of the Champions League. That is a much bigger achievement than winning the Carling Cup. “If it was [about winning] the Premier League and Champions League then I would say OK. But I never could understand this comparison.” That means matches such as tonight’s against Liverpool will always remain competitive testing grounds for Wenger. You only have to go back to the last time these teams met in this competition for a decent illustration. When Arsenal thumped Rafa Benitez’ side 6-3 at Anfield in 2007, Manuel Almunia, Alex Song, Theo Walcott and Denilson propped up the side. All were unproven back then but have gone on to greater things. In fairness, this evening’s side is not so inexperienced. The likes of Mikael Silvestre, Philippe Senderos, Aaron Ramsey, Lukasz Fabianski, Samir Nasri, Eduardo, Fran Merida, Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs all need games because of injury or lack of first-team opportunities. Carlos Vela only misses out after picking up a knee injury. Yes, Sanchez Watt, Gilles Sunu, Craig Eastmond, Kyle Bartley, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong fit the ‘raw youngster’ role to perfection but, given the previous list, they are likely to populate the bench. If Liverpool’s side at Leeds in the last round is anything to go by, Arsenal will be in the unusual position of fielding a more experienced side than their opponents in this competition. However Benitez was under huge pressure before his side’s victory over Manchester United on Sunday and it is possible that he will want to go with experience to re-enforce that with another win this evening. Certainly we are likely to see the debut of Alberto Aquilani, one of their major summer signings. Before the game, Wenger admitted he trailed the Italian for a time. Ironically the midfielder is exactly the type of experienced international who would have satisfied some of Arsenal’s critics. Wenger stuck with talent reared inside the Club and forged in the fire of the Carling Cup. Despite a couple of disappointing draws in the last week, he has been rewarded with a solid start overall. “If you look at the success-rate of the players we educated and brought through in the last ten years it is absolutely amazing,” said Wenger. “And nobody realises that. “One of the reasons is that we played young players in the Carling Cup. They gave us belief and strength to give them confidence so we have, I believe this policy has been extremely successful. Not maybe in terms of winning the Carling Cup, although we were in the Final and Semi-Final, but because it allowed us to give good preparation for players to play in the Premier League. “In the Carling Cup we always want to play at home on a good pitch so we can give a chance to our young players against a good side. That is the best way to see how good they are. “Against Liverpool I will play a side with a good chance to qualify,” he concluded. “But I want to play some players who are on the fringe of the team to see how well they can do in this kind of game. “The players can gain confidence in themselves and the fans can gain confidence in those players.

“For me that is very important.”



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