Howdy Gooners, looking forward to another match day?
I find this game a fascinating one to predict the team line up you know, because unlike in the league in which a core of 13 or 14 players maximum are realistically going to feature, tonight’s game could have almost anybody starting. There will inevitably be some squad rotation as the manager looks to keep players fresh for the Saturday kick off against Swansea, but there are some positions in which he simply won’t be able to rotate, like in goal for example. So we find ourselves in a position where the Champions League was an opportunity for Arsene to rotate and give games to Ospina, yet this Capital One Cup match up against Sheffield Wednesday, Ospina is injured and so Arsene feels he has no other option than to play Cech.
It does make you wonder about those two Champions League games against Zagreb and Olympiakos though, doesn’t it? I know why Arsene made the rotation, I even agreed with it pre-game, but it just seems horrific ironic that they were much more important than tonight’s match up and yet we find ourselves forced in to playing a first team regular. Only at The Arsenal, eh?
In reality, Cech will not exactly be knackered from his exertions, will he? When you’ve got players like Ozil, Alexis, Ramsey and Coquelin travelling about 10 miles in distance during 90 minutes, you can understand the need to give them some time off. But when it’s a ‘keeper he should be able to play every minute of every game in the whole season.
I actually feel a little sorry of Ospina. He’s made two mistakes since joining the club and because his face doesn’t quite fit the mould – if that’s the correct expression – he’s vilified from a section of our fans. In the Zagreb game I don’t think he did a lot wrong and then he had one howler against Olympiakos. He’s a decent ‘keeper and tonight would have been one of the few upcoming games in which he’d have been a guaranteed start. Still, such is life and at least it gives Matt Macey the opportunity to feel closer to the first team, get experience of that environment and you never know, that might help him in the long run.
As for the rest of the team, I suspect we’ll see the whole back four shuffled, simply because we have plenty of quality in reserve who haven’t been getting games. Gibbs, Debuchy, Chambers and possibly Per might come in, although I’d be tempted to start Gabriel instead. He’s a quicker defender and can play that role of ‘recovery defender’ that Kos often does in the Per/Kos axis, where as Chambers and Per feel more like two defenders who are more positional than pace. They’ll have to defend against Forestieri and Lucas Joao and if I was any sort of good liar I’d make up some information about how they will line up against our back four. But I’m not. I’m pretty rubbish at lying actually so honesty is always the best policy: I have no idea about any of the Sheffield Wednesday players except Barry Bannen, who used to play for Villa and Fulham and is really, really small. I think he played for Wigan too. After an extensive three scouting session online I can tell you that they have a few injuries coming in to this game against us. Whether or not that makes much difference, because their players will be massively up for a game against a team currently level on points at the top of the Premier League, I don’t know.
What I do know, is that a rotated Arsenal team, should still have enough to get us in to the next round of the Capital One Cup. Wednesday might have a brilliant record against us at Hillsborough, they may be unbeaten in their last eight games, but we have a host of internationals in our team who need to be proving to the manager that the gap between them and the players currently in the first XI, is not that massive.
In midfield I think we’ll see rests for Santi and Coquelin, which means Flamini will come in, but I’d be interested to see who partners him. I’ve seen one website suggest that Bielik might play which sounds like it could be an option, but he hasn’t started a competitive first team match yet, so whether or not Arsene throws him in away from home remains to be seen. I suppose if he’s surrounded with a host of first team players around him that will give him more confidence to have a good game, so it wouldn’t be as bigger gamble as might be expected.
I also wonder if Arsene will give The Ox a run in at number 10. Ozil will be missing and with Rosicky and Wilshere still injured and Santi rested, this could be a chance for Alex to get more game time and hopefully build some of his confidence. I think we’ll see Iwobi and Campbell start in the wings and with Arsene talking up the qualities of Joel, I suspect he’s a shoe-in to start. Up top will be one of Walcott or Giroud and I suspect the former, given the latter played on Saturday.
Will we see ‘The Jeff’? There might be some chomping at the bit to see him start in the number 10 role in the Emirates Cup, but there’s a heck of a lot of difference between non-competitive football in a pre-season friendly on your home soil, and a competitive game away from home in Sheffield. I’d expect he might get some minutes, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t as a second half sub, rather than a starter.
This is a game in which we should be winning, but these types of tie have been our undoing in the past. I still get flashbacks over that Gervinho glaring miss against Bradford. Arsene has a good record against non-Premier League teams in cup competitions though, so let’s hope that tonight’s game is another example of that.
Up the Arsenal!