When Jermaine Pennant lined up his last-minute free-kick last night I was extremely worried. The result seemed to hinge on the result of this moment, our good defending and another league sheet counting for nothing if the ex-Arsenal ex-con slipped his shot into the back of the net.
At that moment our early domination seemed to have belonged to a different game. From minute eight to eight-eight we had scrapped in a very Stoke-like manner, even scoring a goal Tony Pulis would be proud of through Sebastien Squillaci, a player that has been unfairly-maligned in recent months.
But no sooner had Pennant stepped forward, made contact with the ball and flashed his shot wide of the post did my worry take on a different form. I pondered the fates of Cesc Fabregas and Theo Walcott, the former gingerly removing himself from play on the quarter-hour mark with a supposed hamstring tweak, the latter stretched off in the second-half with after turning his ankle.
In that I moment I realised that two of our most iconic players were likely not to feature in the Carling Cup final. In that moment winning did not feel like winning at all.
For Walcott to miss the opportunity to contribute to our first silverware in five years is one thing — in truth this season has been his first significant contribution to the club and he will surely get other opportunities — but for Cesc to miss out is another thing entirely. Nobody has given more to Arsenal on the pitch over those trophy-free years than our captain and the thought of him missing the game is dreadful.
It’s only the Carling Cup, yes, but it’s only the Carling Cup in the same way that we are only halfway to beating Barcelona in the Champions League. Sunday feels like a hugely symbolic moment for this group of players and the thought of the team being lead out by anyone other than Cesc is a strange one.
There is still a chance that Cesc could be fit for our trip to Wembley but the reactions from the manager and the player suggest he won’t. As important as a trophy is we have bigger fish to fry and the little Spaniard may again be forced to show his class and say ‘no’ to his team when his heart cries ‘yes’.
Get well soon, Cesc. You too, Theo.
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