Arsenal travel to West Brom this evening to play in the third round of the Capital One Cup, the Gunners have named a young squad, with key players rested including: Szczesny, Gibbs, Sagna, Koscielny, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil and Giroud. Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott miss out due to injury problems and are set to return after the International break.
REPORTED STARTING XI:
Gnabry Eisfeld Ryo
Monreal Vermaelen Mertesacker Jenkinson
Bench: Viviano, Flamini, Bellerin (RB/RM), Olsson (CM), Iwobi (Winger/ST), Akpom (ST), Park (ST)
Is this good enough? Arsene has gone with a strong defence and two experienced defensive midfielders, whilst he has rested his attacking players. This is a shrewd move, with not much depth up front and key games against Swansea and Napoli on the horizon, the likes of Ozil, Giroud, Ramsey and Wilshere cannot afford to pick up injuries. It’s certainly a risk resting those quality players, especially when the likes of Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla and Theo Walcott are injured so cannot fill in. Instead, a host of youth players will get their chance to be blooded in, but an away game against a Premier League opponent will provide a tough challenge. Bendtner makes his return tonight and Ryo, Eisfeld and Gnabry are set to gain more experience after brief cameo appearances from the bench for the first team. Much encouragement can be taken from the trio’s brief spells in the first team, as all have shown glimpses of quality and Arsene will hope more come tonight.
What is re-assuring is the quality and experience in the defence and centre midfield. Emiliano Viviano is set to make his debut but ahead of him are Monreal, Vermaelen, Mertesacker – all with plenty of games for club and country under their best. Then an experienced duo of Flamini and Arteta will keep the midfield defensively sound and Jenkinson is no stranger to the first team. I think the plan will be to keep it tight and use the young players on the wings to play a more counter-attacking fast game.
The worry for me comes on the bench. Fabianski; Bellerin, Hayden; Olsson; Iwobi; Akpom, Park. Plenty of raw talent on that bench, but nothing that’s going to send fear into our opponents, and if we find ourselves behind with 30 minutes or so to go, it’s hard to see how we are going to change the game from the bench. The key tonight is that Arsenal keep it tight and hope the young players have a good game. They scored from three set-pieces at the weekend, and it might just so happen that this is also Arsenal’s most likely chance to score tonight. Prediction? I wouldn’t like to guess, I never predict the Arsenal to lose and I’ll stand by that. I’ll call a 2-1 Arsenal win. Gnabry and Vermaelen with the goals.
Photo of Alex Iwobi by Kieran Clarke