Arsene Wenger revealed goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and centre-half Laurent Koscielny were left “destroyed” after their last-minute mix-up cost Arsenal the chance of Carling Cup glory and gifted Birmingham a famous victory at Wembley.
Extra-time was looming when Szczesny spilled Nikola Zigic’s knockdown after Koscielny’s mis-kick and substitute Obafemi Martins slotted home in front of the Blues fans to send the Midlands club into Europe as Wenger’s quest for a first trophy in six years went on.
It was, though, no more than the Blues deserved following a battling display as Arsenal, without injured captain Cesc Fabregas and England winger Theo Walcott, once more failed to deliver when it mattered most.
“Both of them [Koscielny and Szczesny] are destroyed,” said Wenger, “We have to lift them up again and help them, that is what a team is about, that is part of the game.” On the costly mistake, Wenger said: “It was a lack of communication, determination a little bit as well. Like always, when the ball is in no-man’s land, someone has to take responsibility and go for it. What was amazing was that no-one was going for the ball from Birmingham.”
Zigic had headed the Blues in front on 28 minutes. Robin van Persie equalised with a volley, but would later go off carrying a knee injury which could see him miss the Champions League clash in Barcelona on March 8.
However, the Arsenal fightback failed to materialise as Wenger’s men could not make the most of their possession and eventually hit the self-destruct button with no time to respond. Wenger continued: “I am bitterly disappointed, like the whole team. We had some problems to start the game, the number of games we played caught up a little bit on us. It took us a while to get into the rhythm and pace of the game.
“In the second half we were on top, unfortunately we couldn’t score the second goal and, in the end, we made a mistake that left us no time at all to respond.”
Arsenal were crestfallen at the final whistle, but Wenger must now lift his side for an FA Cup fifth-round replay against Leyton Orient before the return leg of their European tie in the Nou Camp to ensure another season which promises so much does not once more end in bitter disappointment all round.
“Congratulations to Birmingham, they took advantage of the mistake [and] they took the trophy which hurts us tremendously,” said Wenger.
“We have to be proud of our attitude, continue with our belief, pick ourselves up and face the other challenges we have.”