Arsene Wenger looks forward after Arsenal’s ‘massive disappointment’ at Wembley
Costly late mistake was ‘a lack of communication and determination’ says Frenchman
Arsene Wenger admitted his Arsenal players were ‘destroyed’ in the dressing room after allowing unfancied
Birmingham City to win the Carling Cup at Wembley.
The Gunners boss had felt, like many, that almost six years without a trophy was surely coming to an end in Arsenal’s first final for four years, but acknowledged that his side had underperformed on the day.
And the Frenchman was left almost speechless by the catastrophic mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny that saw Birmingham substitute Obafemi Martins score the 89th minute winner.
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“Both of them [Koscielny and Szczesny] are destroyed. I don’t think it’s a good moment for me to add anything. We have to lift them up again and help them, that is what a team is about,” said Wenger after Arsenal’s third successive 2-1 defeat in a cup final.
“I am bitterly disappointed. We had some problems to start the game and the number of games we played caught up a little bit on us.
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“It took us a while to get into the rhythm and pace of the game. In the second half we were on top, unfortunately we couldn’t score the second goal and, in the end, we made a mistake that left us no time at all to respond.”
It was that mistake which was one of the main talking points of a game that made up in drama what it lacked in quality.
Koscielny appeared to be set to clear from in front of his goalkeeper, but seemed to change his mind and with Szczesny sufficiently distracted to fail to gather, the ball squirted clear to Martins who simply could not miss the chance of sidefooting into an empty net to win City their first trophy for 48 years.
“It was a lack of communication, determination a little bit as well,” admitted Wenger although he stopped short of properly criticising two players who have had impressive debut seasons thus far in the first team.
“Like always, when the ball is in no-man’s land, someone has to take responsibility and go for it. What was amazing was that no-one was going for the ball from Birmingham.”
Wenger was keener to look forward, and felt that his side will show the character to bounce back, initially in their FA Cup fifth-round replay with Leyton Orient on Wednesday, but after that in the title race with Sunderland due at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday. The trip to Barcelona, to defend the 2-1 lead in the Champions League, also looms a week on Tuesday.
“It is a massive disappointment for the team,” said Wenger. “But we have massive challenges in front of us - the Carling Cup is four games, five games but a championship season is 38. We will not throw 38 games away because of one game.
“I am confident we have the character and the mental strength to recover, and this is a good opportunity to show it.”
The Gunners boss revealed that Robin van Persie was injured when scoring the Gunners’ equaliser on 38 minutes, and could be a doubt with a knee problem for the three games in the next nine days that could shape Arsenal’s season.
Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott, who both missed the Wembley clash after being injured against Stoke, are unlikely to figure in the cup replay against Orient, but may be in contention for the Sunderland game and, vitally, the return leg in Barcelona.