Birmingham City vs. Arsenal: Carling Cup Final match preview

LONDON ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Samir Nasri of Arsenal scores a penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Birmingham City at Emirates Stadium on October 16 2010 in London England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Kickoff: 11 AM EST, Wembley Stadium
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel

Arsenal, for the first time since 2006, will take the field in a cup final with a chance to raise a trophy tomorrow as they face off against Birmingham City in the Carling Cup Final.

For Arsenal, it is a competition in which many of the current starting lineup made their Gunners debuts: Robin van Persie, who will captain the side tomorrow, made his competitive debut in October 2004 in the cup, down through Wojciech Szczesny, who debuted in September 2009.  Many of the first team will have been handed their first taste in this competition over the past seven years by Arsène Wenger, and they will look to make good on his youth policy with a trophy.

Arsenal will be without their captain and creative spark Cesc Fabregas and wing threat Theo Walcott, and Wenger has said that as a consequence, most play will go through 19-year old Jack Wilshere tomorrow.  Given the latter's performance against Barcelona, this kind of pressure seems to only make him thrive.  He will not be alone, though; Robin van Persie's play as a false nine has worked wonders since his return at the new year, and Andrei Arshavin appears to be on an upswing of form recently and can always bring the unpredictable to his passing and creation.  And then there's Samir Nasri, too.

Birmingham, for their part, will be without former Gunner Alexsandr Hleb, Liam Ridgewell, and Scott Dann.  Sebastian Larssson, himself an Arsenal product, and Ent striker Nikola Zigic will lead the charge for Alex McLeish's side.  Birmingham currently sit 16th in the League with 30 points from 26 games and a -10 goal difference, but they took a lead against Arsenal at the Emirates earlier this year, and their direct play could cause the Gunners some problems.

Wenger will probably put out his strongest side possible tomorrow, even though the FA Cup replay against Orient is on Wednesday.  With that in mind, a possible lineup:


Sagna       Djourou      Koscielny       Clichy

Song         Wilshere


Nasri        van Persie       Arshavin

With Bendtner and Abou Diaby available as necessary.

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