Jan Molby was the first one that I recalled when I thought about it. No, not players who spent time at Her Majesty’s Pleasure but footballers with curious accents. Molby with a Scouse accent always struck me as funny in much the same way Peter Schmeichel’s Mancunian twang did.
I’ve never thought any more about it since then, it’s part of growing up, I suppose. Until yesterday when Nicklas Bendtner spoke. The clipped Teutonic tones kept surfacing during his interview to the point where I was convinced that I was listening to Herr Flick.
Even weirder than that was the humility on show for his part and the face that a reporter seemed to think we wanted to know if he would celebrate should he score tonight.
So the EFL Cup gets under way for Arsenal tonight. It’s not to be confused with the equally worthwhile EFL Trophy. The Football League marketing team has gone all out to sell their competitions. If they are struggling, the Premier League will be only too happy to help; they seem to have no problem selling the soul of football down the river.
It’s been a while since we travelled to Nottingham Forest for a game. I genuinely can’t remember the last time we played there, it must be approaching 15 – 20 years ago. Given how high Forest peaked in my youth and young manhood, it’s a long time for them to have been out of the top flight of English football. They always threaten to have a good season but rarely deliver.
All of which is setting us up for an almighty fall. Changes will be wrung and I suspect the only summer arrival not to play will be Shkodran Mustafi, depending on Gabriel’s fitness. If the Brazilian is ready, he will start, forming a partnership with Rob Holding in a back four which has never played together before. With Cech rested, it’s going to be a case of ‘Getting to know you’ very quickly for the defence.
In midfield, Xhaka and Elneny will most likely get the chance to prove that they are the best midfield pairing at the club whilst it’s time to unleash Jeff although Arsène may play Iwobi from kick-off, at least. In the centre, Mesut Özil is the unfortunate first team regular left in situ whilst Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be able to show off his full repertoire of overhit crosses from the right whilst Lucas Perez looks on forlornly.
It’s back to the ‘good old days’ of full squad rotation but at least these players have a touch more experience about them than the reliance upon youth of years ago.
The match is one of mixed emotions. I hate Arsenal losing but the League Cup lost its sheen long ago. It’s nice to have a cup run but in the trophy stakes, it’s one where after the initial disappointment swept along by nostalgia, I wouldn’t be sorry if it didn’t feature in our fixture lists at all. With no European prize for the winners, the pointlessness of two EFL cup competitions is laid bare for all to see.
But until that happens, we plough on. Forest have a few familiar faces including Henri Lansbury who scored a terrific equaliser at Villa Park a week or two ago. Pereira’s dribble set the goal up and that’s something Arsenal will no doubt be aware of.
As I write this, I recall us beating Nottingham Forest 2 – 0 at Highbury on the way to Wembley in 1986/87. It was the trophy which kick-started the Graham era of trophies. Perhaps Arsène should consider that this season if he wants to sign off with a cup. If he doesn’t want to sign off, a cup is always a nice little trinket to have, no matter how unimportant it is in the grand scheme of things.
Tonight’s line-up may be something like:
It’s a side good enough to win but will require Oxlade – Chamberlain to work hard defensively to provide cover to Mathieu Debuchy whose positioning was awful last season. You have to hope that the Frenchman has recovered his confidence not just for tonight but for his career’s sake. He will find it hard to impress watching club’s if he is all over the shop.
Interestingly, Arsène seemed to be speaking about Carl Jenkinson as the cover when he returns to fitness which makes me wonder if Debuchy will be moving on loan in the January window. Idle thoughts for another day. Or the next round of this competition, whichever comes sooner.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.