Bentdner should have played instead of Rosicky
Congratulations to Birmingham for their 2-1 win over Arsenal in today's Carling Cup final. An even match seemed like it was going to enter into extra time until a devasting mix-up between Arsenal centre-back Laurent Koscielny and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny gifted an open goal tap-in for Obefemi Martins to win the cup for the Blues.
For me, Arsenal lacked sharpness and composure today while Birmingham's players looked comfortable and hungry in sticking to their maximum-pressing game plan combined with hoping to pick up opportunities from long balls to Zigic. The Blues' style won't have them challenging for championships but they can be effective in cup football - as proven this season in their Carling Cup success this season.
From the Arsenal perspective, I was slightly disappointed before the match to see Rosicky start ahead of Bendtner for the final, and I was underwhelmed by the cup final performance of the Czech attacking midfielder. For me, Arsenal's playability shifts down gear when Rosicky starts matches - his movement, decision-making and execution of pass and final ball has not been to a high standard this season, and so it proved again today.
I would have much preferred for Nasri to occupy the Cesc central playmaker position and start Bendtner in one of the wide forward positions. Bendtner has his doubters but there is also no doubt that he more potential to be a goal-scorer and match-winner than Rosicky. In a cup-final starting as favourites you should go with firepower and look to close the contest early, but Wenger looked to choose otherwise today when putting Bentdner in the bench.
Moreover, Bentdner's height in the air would have been a useful defensive asset to be depoloyed against Birmingham's predictable set-piece tactics - which was the source of their first goal where the 6 foot 9 inch Zigic headed home.
Wenger will dwell heavily on this match and I hope he carefully considers whether his team selection was correct. For me, the team selection in the match against Chelsea on 27 December 2010 was the turning point for our season - it was the best team selection I had seen Wenger make in a long time and produced an immense result. On the other hand, this team selection looked to have a flaw in my instinctive analysis of it and in the end the team didn't function and flow as it could through the midfield and attack.
The cost of this was that we were vulnerable to being hit to a knock-out sucker-punch in the final few minutes. Martins landed it and Arsenal can have no complaints.
Well done the Blues.