WHY THE “MICKEY MOUSE’ TROPHY SHOULD BE ON ARSENAL’S RADAR THIS SEASON by Mohamed Rafi
Mikel Arteta’s youthful Arsenal side saw themselves through to the Quarter Finals of the Carabao Cup by cruising past a rather lukewarm Leeds outfit after a 2-0 victory. The details of the game may not be worth looking into (as one would expect a Wednesday night cup fixture to be), but it was worth noting what seemed to be the birth of an unusual desire, a naive longing to win a competition that is so often overlooked as a mere opportunity to groom the youth and transition young players into first team football.
“Why?”, one may ask. Not ‘why the sudden desire to win it’, but rather ‘why is there such a disregard to a ‘major honour’ in English football’. The answer seems to lie in the very fact that it is a hindrance in the already packed schedule of modern-day football clubs and does not offer anything unique as opposed to the other two or potentially three major honours. Can it be considered a standardised system of rankings, promotions and relegations like the English football league system? No. Is it a shot at European glory and a chance to establish your name on the continental stage? Is it the oldest and most competitive domestic cup competition in the world? Well for as long as the FA Cup exists, the answer shall remain no.
The fact that Manchester City have won the last 4 editions of this competition on the bounce says enough about how, in a competition where most Premier League managers would not bother to field their best 11, the bigger your squad is, the deeper you can possibly go. You do not see Jurgen Klopp risking Naby Keita in a mid-week game away at Doncaster Rovers, do you? However, the deeper a team goes into the “mickey mouse” competition, the tide turns, and an air of prestige starts to hover around the prospect of winning a trophy.
As Arsenal enter the last eight of the Carabao Cup, the situation could not be more similar. A little over a year ago, we lifted the FA Cup against all odds. With the kind of trophy droughts that big clubs are experiencing nowadays (I just needed a reason to mention Man Utd.), the importance of winning trophies, ANY TROPHY, cannot be understated.
More so with the emergence of youth in our squad. Only those who lived through the post-Highbury era would know the amount of young talent that we lost due to the lack of belief that we’re ever going to be competitive again. Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, RVP, and the list goes on.
We have assembled the youngest squad in the Premier League and own some of the brightest prospects in English Football, and dare I say, world football, in the likes of Smith Rowe, Saka, Gabriel, etc. They have signed up for this on the back of a promise that they will be led to glory, by competing, and being up there with the big boys in terms of winning trophies.
The hunger and desire of this young core could soon turn into pessimism and dissatisfaction if we do not instill faith in them that they will be competitive soon enough. We do not need to look farther than the captain of our North London rivals, who penned down a 6-year deal and has pressure building on him every summer, because he has a grand total of zero trophies to show for his unbelievable individual career at the age of 28. Not even the Carabao Cup for that matter.
Having seen five years of no Champions League football, and this year being completely out of Europe for the first time in 25 years, Arsenal do not have as much to compete for as the other big names in English football, but at the same time, have what I strongly believe is a team that can push as far as anyone in the domestic cups. At the time of writing this I know we have Sunderland in the Quarter Finals, but I simply cannot stress how big of an opportunity we have on our hands here and how important it could be for Arteta’s project to go “BANG!” as he likes to call it.