Wenger's Arsenal ready to fulfil great expectations

Updated: 26 February 2011 12:54 IST

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal will use the League Cup final against Birmingham on Sunday to prove they are finally ready to turn their vast potential into tangible achievement.

Wenger's Arsenal ready to fulfil great expectations

London:

Arsene Wenger believes Arsenal will use the League Cup final against Birmingham on Sunday to prove they are finally ready to turn their vast potential into tangible achievement.

When Patrick Vieira lifted the FA Cup following the 2005 final win over Manchester United, Arsenal fans would never have dreamed that would be their last glimpse of silverware for over half a decade.

For much of the last six years, as the dust gathered on the shelves in Arsenal's empty trophy cabinet, Wenger has had to defend himself against accusations of naive idealism levelled by those who believe he should have spent big money on star players rather than cultivate his own homegrown talents.

At Wembley this weekend, Wenger's refusal to lose faith with gifted prodigies like Jack Wilshere, Wojciech Szczesny, Gael Clichy, Alex Song and Johan Djourou could well start to pay off in a big way.

The League Cup has never been high on Wenger's list of priorities but victory in the competition he often used as a training ground for his youngsters would provide a much-needed taste of success that could prove crucial as they aim for more significant prizes in the Premier League and Champions League.

Only Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie and Manuel Almunia remain from the squad that won the 2005 FA Cup and Wenger is convinced Arsenal's latest generation would have their appetite for silverware greatly enhanced by a victorious lap of honour.

"What is important is not what happened in the last five years, but what we can do now," Wenger said.

"Success at Wembley can help us to have more confidence for the other trophies that we go for.

"We have a good bond, a good confidence level and are highly determined to do well on all fronts."

Fabregas is likely to be absent on Sunday as he nurses a hamstring strain, while Theo Walcott is definitely out with an ankle injury.

However Robin van Persie and Laurent Koscielny will return after missing the midweek win over Stoke.

Even the absences of key players Fabregas and Walcott can't quell Wenger's total belief in his team, yet if that barren run does come to an end this weekend don't expect the Frenchman to dwell on the achievement.

Wenger may have the demeanour of a university professor but he has a fiercely competitive nature which makes it impossible for him to ever feel completely satisfied.

He can't even remember where he put most of the medals won during his time at Arsenal because the next challenge consumes his thoughts almost before the champagne corks have stopped popping.

"I am a futurist," Wenger said. "I don't know where my medals are, maybe some are at home. I prefer to look to the next challenge."

With Arsenal firm favourites to win the first major showpiece final of the season after losing only one of their last 17 matches, it would be all too easy to write off Birmingham as little more than bystanders at the coronation.

Even Birmingham manager Alex McLeish concedes that his club, who last won a trophy when they landed the League Cup in 1963, can't match Arsenal for individual ability.

But deep down McLeish knows that assessment doesn't do complete justice to an experienced, committed group that fought back to beat West Ham in the semi-final.

"We're not as good Arsenal in terms of passing of the ball in tight areas. But we have to play our own style and that can hopefully upset Arsenal," McLeish said.

"It's 11 v 11, they're not superhuman. If we hit the right levels then we are capable of causing an upset.

"They've not won anything for five years and that has got to be at the back of their minds."

An upset victory for Birmingham would also be the pefect birthday prsent for Blues owner Carson Yeung.

The Hong Kong-based businessman will be at the match on his 51st birthday and McLeish added: "Carson has had a great run since he came in here. It's almost like a lucky mascot thing.

"We would all love to give him the best birthday present ever."

Topics : Football Wayne Rooney Manchester United Arsenal Edgbaston, Birmingham
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