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Double dream

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 09:13 PM PST

In-form Szcznesny convinced Gunners can lift League and Cup titles

Friday, February 25th, 2011 12:42:00

Football

I'M GOING TO WIN IT: Szczesny had to wait until his 16th game to become Wenger's first choice to play at Wembley in the League Cup final

LONDON: Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny believes they are capable of completing a League and Cup double this season.

The Gunners silenced their doubters by moving to within one point of leaders Manchester United in the Premier League — thanks to a recent 10-match unbeaten run.

Their latest triumph was a 1-0 win over Stoke on Wednesday and came just four days before they will attempt to end their six-year trophy drought against Birmingham in the League Cup final at Wembley on Monday (midnight).

Szczesny admits Arsenal's recent good form has instilled a belief in the camp they are good enough to win the league and cup, and warns United they face a tough challenge when they visit Emirates Stadium on Apr 30.

"We believe we are capable of winning the title," he told London Evening Standard.

"We have been very consistent recently. We are doing very well defensively and not conceding a lot of goals. So we fancy our chances of catching up with them and winning the title this season.

"If we keep playing consistently like we have been, then this will make the difference in the title race. They have still got to come here and we believe we can beat them."

And with Arsenal still competing in the Champions League and the FA Cup, Szczesny feels other trophies may follow if Arsenal beat Birmingham.

"It is the first trophy we can win and it can give us the boost to push on to win the next competition," he said.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger usually reverts to his second-choice goalkeeper for the domestic Cup competitions, but he may go back on that policy to field Szczesny given the Pole's excellent form since edging Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia out of the team.

If Szczesny is chosen to make his first appearance at Wembley, it will cap a remarkable rise for the youngster who was on loan at League One side Brentford this time last year.

"I would love to play in the final. It will be my first chance to play at Wembley," said the 20-year-old.

"I went there to watch us lose to Chelsea in the semifinal of the FA Cup in 2009. I loved the surrounding atmosphere and the pressure that day.

"It's a stadium that puts a little more pressure on you and there is something special about it.

"Every player who starts playing football dreams of playing in stadiums like Wembley and there are very few stadia in the world that have so much charisma as Wembley. It would be a big honour and pleasure to play there."

Theo Walcott and Cesc Fabregas, who picked up ankle and hamstring injuries respectively against Stoke, will be out of the clash at Wembley.

Fabregas, reportedly, wants to play as he feels he is fit.

Wenger had earlier said he will not risk fielding the skipper, especially in view of the second-leg last-16 Champions League clash against Barcelona on March 9.

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Birmingham’s birthday vow to owner

Posted: 24 Feb 2011 09:09 PM PST

Friday, February 25th, 2011 12:42:00

LONDON: Birmingham manager Alex McLeish is hoping to give club owner Carson Yeung "the best birthday present ever" by lifting the League Cup at the expense of Arsenal at Wembley on Monday (midnight).

Hong Kong businessman Yeung, who took control of the club 16 months ago, will be 51 when the two clubs clash.

He will be flying in for the final as Birmingham attempt to secure their first major trophy for 48 years — since winning the first League Cup in 1963.

"Carson has had a great run since he came in here. It's almost like a lucky mascot thing," McLeish told Daily Mirror.

"We had a great finish to last season in finishing ninth in the Premier League and now we are in the League Cup final. I just hope if we win this, he will not be looking for me to win the Champions League next year!

"It's been a great couple of years for the owners and Carson's commitment has been enormous. The final will be momentous for Carson, not least because it is his birthday.

"We would all love to give him the best birthday present ever."

McLeish won 19 trophies in Scotland as a player and manager and believes overcoming the Gunners would be on a par with those achievements.

"It would be a massive success in terms of the size of Birmingham as opposed to a massive club like Glasgow Rangers.

"The successes I had in Glasgow were against a fantastic Celtic team. They were two really good Old Firm teams that could easily have graced the Premier League without question.

"During that time, Celtic, of course, took a couple of English scalps in their run to the Uefa Cup final when they beat Liverpool and Blackburn. That showed their pedigree.

"In relative terms, winning the League Cup would be up there in terms of those triumphs in Scotland."

McLeish is hoping Arsenal's lack of trophy success since 2005 will work in their favour.

"They've not won anything for five years and that has got to be at the back of their minds. I know that maybe they won't talk about that openly but I'm sure it will be at the back of a few of the players' minds.

"They'll see it as a massive opportunity as well but I plan to celebrate my first tilt at a trophy in England by winning it."

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