BIRMINGHAM CITY midfielder Craig Gardner has accused Arsenal’s players of being “petrified” by his side’s all action approach in Sunday’s Carling Cup triumph.
A farcical last minute Obafemi Martins goal, presented to him on a plate by Laurent Koscielny and Szczesny, ultimately denied Arsenal the chance end to their six-year trophy drought.
But Gardner believes the foundations for victory were laid by City’s high-octane start, which should have seen goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny sent off for a trip on Lee Bowyer inside the penalty area and culminated in Nikola Zigic’s 28th minute opening goal.
“It was brilliant because we started like a house on fire and really got into them – and you could see they were petrified and scared and then it all just went from there,” said Gardner.
“Big Ziggy [Zigic] scored then they got the equaliser, but we always thought we could go on and win it. Even at half-time we were saying it was there for us – and up stepped Oba [Martins] and it was brilliant.
“Stephen Carr hit the nail on the head when he said Arsenal have got more ability in the changing room but we have got more heart.”
Meanwhile, Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who was close to tears at the final whistle, has criticised the Birmingham players who taunted Koscielny in the celebrations that followed the mistake he made in the build up to the winning goal.
As the Frenchman knelt on the turf contemplating the magnitude of his error, Koscielny had his hair ruffled by a Birmingham player – reportedly Barry Ferguson – as they ran past him to congratulate Martins.
Wilshere, 19, wrote on his Twitter page yesterday: “Well done to the BCFC player who slapped Koscielny on the head when they scored, very big of you!”
Earlier in the day, Wilshere had written: “Morning everyone. Still feels like a bad dream but have to move on... This will make us more hungry to win the Prem (Premier League) and bring it to the Emirates.”
Elsewhere, Arsenal’s medical team were yesterday monitoring the damage to the right knee of Robin van Persie. The Dutch international was hurt in the act of scoring his side’s equaliser on Sunday and is set to miss tomorrow’s FA Cup fifth round replay against Leyton Orient.
Arsenal are today expected to give an update on Van Persie’s chances of being fit to face Barcelona in next week’s Champions League last 16 second leg tie at Camp Nou. The Gunners lead 2-1 from the first leg.