Frenchman backs youth to win cup

HEMMED IN: Arsenal's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski punches the ball away from goal during their English League Cup quarterfinal against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park Stadium in Blackburn, England, on Tuesday. Pic. Paul Thomas. 18/12/07. © AP.
HEMMED IN: Arsenal's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski punches the ball away from goal during their English League Cup quarterfinal against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park Stadium in Blackburn, England, on Tuesday. Pic. Paul Thomas. 18/12/07. © AP.

BLACKBURN - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed his youngsters to win the League Cup and believes the fringe players he has used in the competition would even fair well in the Premiership.

BLACKBURN - Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has backed his youngsters to win the League Cup and believes the fringe players he has used in the competition would even fair well in the Premiership.

Having lost to Chelsea in last year's final, the Gunners are once again in the last four after a 3-2 extra-time win over Blackburn at Ewood Park on Tuesday evening. Wenger, who always uses the competition to give his reserves first-team experience, insisted his second string were doing exactly what he expected of them.

"I believe strongly in them and I'm not surprised by their performances," the Frenchman insisted.

"I'm very happy because the game at Blackburn was also a physical and a mental test and they stood up to it.

"It's difficult to say how they would get on in the Premiership but they are all good Premiership players.

"Their quality is not in question but the only thing you could question is whether such a young side could last the whole season. Quality-wise, it's no problem.

"We want to finish the job. We got the taste of the final last year and now we're in the semifinal again so that shows that it was not a coincidence last year. Now we have two big games and we'll see who we get.

"Last year we got Tottenham in the semifinal and it wouldn't be a surprise if we got them again."

Arsenal advanced despite having Denilson sent off and having surrendered a 2-0 lead, Roque Santa Cruz cancelling out first half goals by Abou Diaby and Eduardo.

Diaby opened the scoring in the sixth minute and Eduardo doubled the lead just before the half hour but Santa Cruz made it five goals in two matches with goals either side of half time.

Blackburn manager Mark Hughes dropped last season's top scorer Benni McCarthy to the bench but insisted he was confident the striker would soon rediscover his form.

Meanwhile, midfielder Lassana Diarra, who has been linked with a move away from Arsenal just four months after joining from Chelsea, has insisted he has no issue with Wenger.

The 22-year-old Frenchman, who has started just four Premiership matches this season, said: "Yes, I wanted to show the manager what I could do but he knows what I can do and that I don't have a problem." - Sapa-AFP

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