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Arsenal fans must keep their faith in Wenger


Mike Collett in London on why Arsenal fans should back their manager

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPArsene Wenger is the most successful manager Arsenal have ever had, but unhappy fans have very short memories and incredible as it may seem, some Arsenal supporters were calling for his head on Monday.

Irate listeners to radio phone-ins and message boards posters vented their frustrations at Arsenal’s failure to end their six-year trophy drought after they lost 2-1 to underdogs Birmingham City in the League Cup final at Wembley on Sunday.

The messages said largely the same thing. Why hasn’t Wenger spent money on buying a top class goalkeeper and two reliable centre-backs to provide a stronger foundation for a team brimming with class, talent and invention in midfield and attack?

And, more surprisingly, some said it was time the 61-year-old Frenchman moved on.

from Left field:

Things may get worse before they get better at Liverpool … but there is a glimmer of hope

SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPA damp squib of a performance from Liverpool in their League Cup defeat by Northampton Town was described by The Telegraph today as one of the most humiliating nights in the club’s history.

Given the (lack of) status the League Cup now enjoys that is probably stretching it a bit far – I don’t think it gets close to the FA Cup defeat by Bristol City , for example – but the whole dismal episode did add weight to the theory that things are likely to get worse before they get better for a club that once prided itself on striving for excellence in everything.

UPDATE: Who can steal a march in the Predictions League?


The weekend’s Premier League action was overshadowed by the terrible injury to Arsenal’s teenage Wales international Aaron Ramsey at Stoke. We wish him all the best for his recovery.

Arsene Wenger’s shocked players managed to turn their minds back to the match and their 3-1 victory moved them to within three points of leaders Chelsea and two shy of second-placed Manchester United, who again had the prolific Wayne Rooney to thank for Sunday’s 2-1 League Cup victory over Aston Villa.

United in the nick of time


SOCCER-ENGLAND/CUPNot for the first time this season, Manchester United stunned Manchester City in injury-time and clawed out a win that took them through to next month’s League Cup final against Aston Villa, while making a point to their ambitious neighbours.

Wayne Rooney’s late header was also a reminder that for all the weaknesses of this particular team, even with Cristiano Ronaldo gone to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez off to Eastlands, United retain an uncanny ability to swing games their way in the face of adversity. Against the odds, they are somehow still on course for a treble.

What are United’s quintuple chances now?


Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson dismissed the suggestion in his usual style.

After beating Spurs on penalties to win the English League Cup final on Sunday he was asked if United could complete a “quintuple” of trophies.

UEFA Cup becomes an irrelevance for clubs like Spurs


Twice UEFA Cup winners Tottenham Hotspur are most likely heading out of the competition after a 2-0 first-leg defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk in the first knockout round on Thursday.

The fact they fielded a ‘B’ team was not surprising. Manager Harry Redknapp had already stated several times that Premier League survival and the League Cup were his priorities. After the game Redknapp said: “I had a 17-year-old playing tonight and I will probably have four playing next week.”
The reason they will play with an under-strength team in the return leg next Thursday is that it comes three days after a crunch league match at Hull City and three days before their League Cup final against Manchester United.

Friday afternoon question: Should domestic cups be scrapped?


Real Madrid were knocked out of the King’s Cup by third-tier Real Union this week and Chelsea lost to second division Burnley in the Carling Cup, but which sides were really celebrating?

Chelsea would much rather concentrate on the Premier League while Real need to focus on the Champions League after two defeats.

Retirement beckons for doddery League Cup


Crewe score against Liverpool’s second XI

The League Cup came through a difficult birth and a forgettable youth to enjoy a long, proud middle age but the time has come for this doddery old relative to be shuffled off into retirement.

When it was launched in the early 1960s the new, midweek competition was pretty much ignored by the big clubs, as evidenced by Rotherham and Rochdale reaching the first two finals.