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PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 February, 2011, 12:00am

Arsenal are the only English team still in with a chance of winning four trophies this season and tomorrow night they have what should be the easiest opportunity when they face Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

But doing things the easy way is not really Arsenal's style, as their recent results testify. Having beaten the mighty Barcelona 2-1 in a tumultuous Champions League tie in front of 60,000 fans at the Emirates stadium, four days later they were held 1-1 in the FA Cup by Leyton Orient of League One, watched by a crowd of just over 9,000. From the sublime to the ridiculous hardly does them justice.

The Arsenal players have talked openly about the quest for four trophies, which goes against the 'take each game as it comes' ethos usually heard from managers and players. While the ambition is to be applauded, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger could be forgiven for thinking that just one trophy would be a start.

Wenger has not brought anything to the Arsenal trophy room for six years, which is their longest lean spell in the past quarter of a century. The Invincibles of 2003-04 have been succeeded by teams who have repeatedly come up short at the critical moments. Arsenal have won nothing since their FA Cup success of 2005, which was not exactly the most glorious in the club's history after they played out a stupefying goalless draw, had a man sent off and eventually clawed to victory 5-4 on penalties.

In the intervening years they have lost a Champions League final and a League Cup final (in both of which they also failed to end the match with 11 players) as well as finishing Premier League runners-up once.

Perhaps the floodgates will open if they can just break the losing habit and they won't get a better opportunity than tomorrow's final of experiencing that winning feeling again. Whereas in recent finals they have faced Barcelona and Chelsea at the height of their powers, Arsenal this time take on the 15th-placed Premier League team.

The higher-placed team from the league standings usually come out on top in finals and Arsenal must feel confident of having more than enough to beat Birmingham, even without injured captain Cesc Fabregas.

This season Arsenal have won both league meetings, 2-1 at the Emirates in October and 3-0 in the away fixture on January 1. At Birmingham they were on top virtually throughout and looked as if they could score at will.

The key players in Fabregas' absence are likely to be Samir Nasri, who has scored in both games against Birmingham this season, and Jack Wilshere.

After earning rave reviews for his performance against Barcelona, Wilshere has another chance to show he is much more than a holding midfielder. If he can play high up the pitch and set up quick interchanges of passes in and around the Birmingham penalty area, Arsenal should create more than enough opportunities to win. Nasri looks the best value as first goalscorer, having netted 14 times this season at around a goal every two games. The only slight doubt about him is that he is a streak player and he has not scored for five games.

Robin van Persie is the obvious alternative and there is no doubt the Dutchman is in hot form, having scored in seven of his 10 appearances in 2011.

The problem with Arsenal is that they do not always deliver on their promise of goals. And that might be where the worry sets in for Arsenal backers looking for bigger odds than the straight win at 1.42.

Although this match is on neutral territory at Wembley, Arsenal can be considered the home team in the sense that they will be expected to make most of the running while Birmingham play a tight, containing game. In recent months, however, Arsenal have made heavy weather of breaking down the opposition in those circumstances.

In their last 10 home games against Premier League opponents from outside the top six, Arsenal have won eight but just three of those victories were by two goals or more. So, while they look a solid win proposition, there is a risk in backing them to secure an easy victory. That means associated bets such as the HaFu also carry an element of risk - Arsenal have been ahead at half-time and full-time in just four of those 10 games.

The results of past finals also indicate that tomorrow's match might be closer than expected. Only three of the last 15 have been won by two goals or more in 90 minutes, with six finishing all-square.

Birmingham, who are the only Premier League team yet to score more than two goals in a match this season, know that their best, and probably only, chance lies in stifling and frustrating Arsenal. They are good at doing that, with just five defeats in 26 league games by two goals or more.

The value, then, is likely to lie in swimming against the tide of expectation of a comfortable Arsenal win. That means considering bets such as a half-time draw and a full-time Arsenal win, under 2.5 goals and Birmingham +1 on the Handicap HAD. Really brave backers could go for a draw-draw on the HaFu or even a 0-0 result.

The draw-Arsenal result is the one that appeals most. Even if it's not a classic, at least for Arsenal it will be a trophy at last.

Shortlist: Schalke, Queen's Park Rangers, Espanyol, Dortmund, Rennes, Cagliari, Palermo, Villarreal, Bilbao, Stoke.

Top five bets

1 Schalke home win

Home form has been good all season and rate well for a win

2 QPR on handicap

Only two away defeats in 16, both against top-six sides

3 Espanyol home win

Still unbeaten at home against teams below them in the table

4 Dortmund away win

Huge odds for a team 13 points ahead of hosts Bayern Munich

5 Stoke home win

Should score and have won seven out of 11 at home when doing so


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