Chelsea 2, Arsenal 1

It was a dream start, with 17 year-old Theo Walcott scoring his first senior goal for Arsenal. He put the ball past Petr Cech in his trademark clinical fashion, indicating that this is the start of many good things to come.
However, soon after that Didier Drogba put one back, past Manuel Almunia. In the second half, John Terry was accidentally kicked in the head by Abou Diaby, as both tried to reach the ball near Arsenal’s goalmouth. It was touching to see the whole stadium – both Chelsea and Arsenal fans alike – rising to applaud the unconscious Chelsea captain as he was carried off the pitch on a stretcher.
It was not so nice to see missiles being thrown at Cesc Fabregas as he tried to take a corner. He managed to laugh it off then… but towards the end, after Drogba scored the second goal, Fabregas and Frank Lampard had a heated exchange which had a domino effect on some other teammates as well. Sadly, the match ended with three red cards.
The commentators noted that Chelsea had been exploiting the weakest chink in young Arsenal’s armour – Armand Traore. This became more obvious when Arjen Robben came in as a substitute and terrorised that flank. Traore slowly gained confidence, winning some good balls, but had to be substituted in the end.
I was not too surprised when Jeremy Aliadiere was substituted as well, by Emmanuel Adebayor. He had some good runs which ended with nothing. At one point he was almost one-on-one with Cech but hesitated and could not convert his opportunity into a goal. It is grossly unfair to say this, but if it had happened to Thierry Henry it could have ended differently. Aliadiere has yet to reach his full potential.
It was young Arsenal’s night and while they all looked disappointed at coming in second best, they should remember that they are the ‘B’ team and most of them would have come on as substitutes in other situations. In fact they should be proud that they held their own against the A-list names in the Chelsea team, with only a 1 goal difference. Chelsea had Ricardo Carvalho and Cech to thank for many good saves and blocks, in fact.
Generally, the young Gunners have to control their tempers and mentally brace themselves for setbacks. Every argument leads to wasted time, which is not good for a team which is losing and needs to score an equaliser. Every fight leads to cards and sending-offs, which will result in a weakened team. They succumbed both times.
Fabregas was eager to score but was off-target. His corners and free kicks tended to find their way into Cech’s safe hands. Overall, the young Gunners also need to improve their physical stamina, because they began brilliantly in the first and second halves, then ran out of steam. Chelsea’s experience held out in the end.
But surely the young Gunners have also gained tremendous amounts of experience in this final. How often can a reserve youth team beat other top-flight clubs including trouncing Liverpool 6-3? How often can a 17 year-old score against one of the most expensive teams in the world?
Wenger is preparing this young team for greatness in the future, even if glory is elusive at the moment.