Nasri and Chamakh undergo special trainingDoes it really matter? Am I bothered? Judging by my mood and that sinking feeling in my stomach, it certainly seems to matter this morning and yes I'm a bit bothered.. Set against the War in Afghanistan, World Poverty, Global Warming, Planning Permission for the New Stadium and one or two other pressing matters, probably not. Out of a Cup we didn't really want in the context of Champions' League what's the harm in giving a game to a few youngsters and one or two who need pitch time and going down to a very good, not so inexperienced Arsenal side.
At half time I muttered to no-one in particular and with a shake of the head, 'They're too good for us'. They gave a superb display of one touch attacking football and could easily have been two or three ahead. Gibbs was wrongly ruled offside and a penalty could have been given for a rash push by Ekotto.
At fulltime I thought ' Fair play to the lads they've hauled themselves back into this and if Lennon hadn't taken an extra touch we might have nicked it. Not that we deserved to. Extra time was a step too far. Two penalties, one rather harsh, the other fair enough saw us off. We fell asleep for the fourth from a free-kick but by then our heads had dropped and it was all over.We seemed drained by the effort of the second half and only Sandro gained in authority.
Keane's goal put us back in the game but he was offside when he took Naughton's pass and the keeper should have saved his weak shot, but he looked better than he did on Saturday. Palacios was shaded by his challenger and we gave the ball away with amazing frequency. Nothing new there though. So we battled back well but were basically outplayed. Wiltshire will be an able replacement for Fabregas if he leaves for Barcelona and was the stand out player. They beat us through superior skill and although we matched them for effort in the second half and can argue over diving and poor refereeing we cannot claim that we should have won, though we might have.
Did Nasri and Chamakh dive? Perhaps, but if you touch experienced or experienced enough players in the area they are going to go down. There is too much at stake particularly financially for cheating not to be an option in sport and although the referees are tasked with the job of policing it in the end it's down to the players themselves.
What did we learn? Livermore, Naughton and Caulker are promising young players. Sandro could be a force in a month or two's time. Pletikosa looks no better than Cudocini. Giovani is not a right winger and would have been better playing off Pavlyuchenko. Bentley may not be good enough. If you play Lennon he should be used more but he is not yet back to his best. Wenger balanced his team better than Harry who seems to have kept his promise to give a few players a chance but went about it in a somewhat 'gung ho' fashion.
So does it really matter? Am I bothered? Well it was Arsenal and it makes a difference. Of course if we beat West Ham on Saturday we can just plot it as another mark on the learning curve. We don't need the aggravation of a minor Cup; the Premiership and the Champions' League, in that order, are our priorities. But it was against Arsenal and Wenger's team showed how much more he wanted it.
So did what we learned outweigh the shame of such a defeat? In a sense nothing can compensate us for losing to Arsenal but it was 'only' the Carling Cup and Harry hopefully has a better idea of the depth of his squad; who might step up and who may never quite make it. There were ten changes from last Saturday and Modric, Van the Man, Gomes, Ledley, Hutton, Gallas, Crouch, Keane and Huddlestone might all be back for West Ham.
I believe that Harry was right to take a chance on this competition and have been arguing for some rotation and for younger players to be given a chance. This was the ideal opportunity. The inclusion of say Caulker or Sandro in a suitable Premiership game for 30 minutes in the near future might be a good idea but to include so many novices against Arsenal was perhaps a gesture too far. The score certainly flattered them and 3-2 would have been a fairer result.
So yes my heart says it does matter and I am botherd even if my head tells me that it doesn't and I shouldn't be. It will last a long time in the memory and will be recalled by Arsenal fans for some time. The only consolation is that they didn't score a fifth. We still have Ar5ena1.