A battle of curses can have only one winner.
Since the days of high school English, when something ominous happens in or around the month of March, the Ides of March and Julius Caeser are invoked. “At they have come, but not gone”, the soothsayer told Caeser. The truth of prophesy is somewhere between on its way and already arrived. But there is no need bring Julius Caeser’s foreboding into a Carling Cup final that already has two curses taking up all the space.
As soon as Birmingham and Arsenal emerged as this year’s finalists, new terms were introduced to the match. A Cup final, like a derby, changes the terms between two teams, by scrambling the old narrative with new ingredients. From here things get messy with all the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns.
Birmingham’s gypsy curse should have expired in 2006. Expelled from land to be used for the new St Andrew stadium, the gypsies specified that it would last for a hundred years, but could have meant a little longer than that given where Birmingham City find themselves this season. Over their last six league meetings with Arsenal, they have yet to win, and their poorest result, a 3—0 home defeat, was less than two months ago. Arsenal’s comfortable away win has contributed to an unbeaten league run stretching back to mid December.
But this run of form has disclaimers marbled throughout its tissue. In their preceding six matches, Arsenal have scored more than two goals once—the 4—4 draw with Newcastle. The offense is not clicking, there’s an apprehension going forward; and if it’s not from the start of the match, then it forms through the disintegration of the dominant but sterile opening.
Henri Lansbury may be on the cusp of first team inclusion.
"…who is on the move? It’s Henri."
All but one of Henri Lansbury's first team appearances have come in the Carling Cup. He never seems languid or out of the moment, and plays with a lot of energy. His limited first team experience may be due in part to Aaron Ramsey placing ahead of him. Arsene Wenger spoke highly of Lansbury after his performance against Spurs:
"Henri Lansbury is a type of player who I rate because of his qualities, but as well his mental strength, the timing of his runs. He gives you qualities that are very difficult to find in the modern game.
“He goes always behind [the defence] and he has the timing to get in the box and scores goals from midfield. He is showing that again the other night when you see the cross coming in, who is on the move? It’s Henri.
“I like his attitude, his spirit, his mental strength and of course his qualities. He has not played for a while; he played with cramps until the last minute [against Spurs] and has a fantastic team attitude. I rate him and I like him.”