Arsenal tread the Emirates turf this evening in search of League Cup glory. Arsène confirmed yesterday that he will field a side similar in strength to the one which beat Köln. What the XI will be is anyone’s guess but Alexis will feature at some point.
Back in the day – and I am engaging ‘old fart’ mode here – we were used to seeing strong line-ups in this competition. The same XI which played on Saturday generally turned out for the midweek cup-tie. None of this fielding a team who could only play if they’d finished their homework and weren’t grounded.
Last night’s turnout at Wembley dented the competition further. There were more empty seats at Wembley than the capacity of the Emirates as Spurs fans preferred to play the slots at Online Slots Canada. That Tottenham are allowed to play domestic cup matches there is a surprise in itself. Home advantage, no matter how badly they are faring at the moment, if the reach the latter stages is sure to bring howls of protest from opponents.
Still, it’s Tottenham at Wembley; they’ll find a way to ‘Spurs’ it up.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s tie, Arsène confirmed Jack Wilshere will be involved tonight, presumably in tandem with Mohammed Elneny in the centre of the park. It’s a big moment for him; his first start in an Arsenal shirt since Adam was a boy, or at least that’s how it seems.
With his future still up in the air, these games are the shop window. An opportunity to entice a decent club into making an offer in January or more likely, next summer, or Arsenal into extending his deal. I don’t recall seeing any hint of what he wants to do; he probably hasn’t made up his mind himself. Divination by social media suggests it’s away from north London.
On Me Headline, Son
Another resurfacing tonight is Calum Chambers. Thought to be on his way out of the club this summer, Wenger apparently changed his mind and is keen to keep the defender. Plenty already decided he isn’t part of the future here, ever ready, willing and able to kick him when the opportunity arises.
His displays on loan drew praise from Aitor Karanka at Middlesbrough, a theme Steve Agnew the ‘boro caretaker boss continued,
“He’s been excellent. He’s a top defender, but not only has he got great defensive qualities, he has a high level of technical ability.”
There’s a world of difference between the standard required at the two clubs but we’re very dismissive of squad players. International players are demanded as first team back up but unless they are the next Baresi or Maldini, they find themselves rubbished. It’s a typically Arsenal about face way of looking at the situation.
Chambers performances in England’s Under-20 World Cup triumph made the decision to chop him from the squad all the more surprising. Here was a young man whose potential was evident seeing his career being “killed” by Arsène, to use Wenger’s favourite phrase. There were so many doubts over the defence this past summer, you must wonder if any self-analysis were involved as well?
The usual suspects are expected to complete the line-up with, I’d expect, Chambers in a back three with Holding and Mertesacker. The alternative is the perennially ‘big potential’ of Bielik getting a first team opportunity with Chambers at right wing-back. The only other ‘youth’ I can see starting is Maitland-Niles – or Maitland-Nike as auto-correct seems obsessed with calling him. Sponsorship of surnames? It’s coming…
The bench is likely to be loaded with youth. Willock, Jeff, and Nelson are obvious candidates, maybe also Nketiah.
You Set ’em Up, I’ll Knock ’em In
Up front, Arsène has a conundrum to deal with. Theo Walcott will expect to play but the fans demand youth; Walcott or Nelson? Olivier Giroud will porbably lead the line but whither Chuba Akpom? Alexis or Iwobi? With the next fixture on Monday at home to West Brom, tiredness is hardly an issue in any of these circumstances.
The XI I’d expect is:
Ospina; Bielik, Mertesacker, Holding; Chambers, Wilshere, Elneny, Maitland-Niles; Walcott, Giroud, Alexis
A handsome win, I think with youngsters coming on as soon as the final result is more or less assured. Or we reach 65 minutes, whichever is soonest.
If you believe in such things, there are omens to be had. We’ve faced Doncaster three times in the League Cup before. Won all and reached the last four (at least) in both seasons. OK, so we lost to Luton in the final and Wigan in the semi; what do you want from omens? Miracles?
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.