I think I’ve said this before, but I do like going to the League Cup games, because to me they represent an Arsenal match with less pressure and worry than a usual league game. Or FA Cup game. Or Champions League match. It’s an opportunity to see a few of the rotated players in action and at a fraction of the price of a normal ticket. I paid for four tickets what I’d usually pay for just one  Category B game. 
So to me it just feels like a game that you can enjoy for the pure football part of it. Of course, if we lose to Reading tonight, I’ll be sweary Chris during and after the match, but right now I’ve got all of the excitement of a match day with none of the worry.

Arsène gave an update on the team and availability yesterday and by all accounts the only real worry we should have is the fact that Santi still remains out. Arsène didn’t – from what I have read – give any kind of indication of when he’d return and with rumours of his Achilles being restrung with a ball of old twine, I like you, have very real concerns that this could be a regular occurance this season. Let’s just keep everything crossed though, eh?

The side itself will probably line up with Martinez in goal and not Ospina, I think, because I think Arsène wants to give the Argentinian a little bit of hope that he’s got a future at the club. Personally I don’t see how, but Martinez played in the game against Forest and I just wonder if Arsène reckons that Ospina will get enough game time in the Champions League and the FA Cup too.

As for the back four, I’m expecting all change from Saturday, with Gibbs, Holding and Gabriel sure to all start. The question mark only remains at right back. Debuchy has no chance of a look in I don’t think, and why should he? So I think Maitland-Niles will get another chance in front of the home fans, with Jenkinson a possible return option from the bench. It will certainly be a welcome one if he can return and I’m sure he’ll get a rousing reception. 

Midfield will be very interesting, because we’ve got injuries and suspensions, so this isn’t like when we played Forest and Arsène could rotate his squad easily. With Cazorla injured and Xhaka suspended, Coquelin and Elneny could play, with The Jeff just in front of them. But Arsène has some thinking to do, because if one of Coq or Mo gets injured or suspended, then we’re at a slightly worried stage. I wonder if The Jeff will be asked to play in the middle alongside one of those guys, with someone like Willock playing further forward? Alternatively, we could see The Ox dropping in to the centre and Willock out wide, with Lucas and Giroud possibly starting. 

Arsène has suggested that Iwobi will play, so the temptation might be to give him the No.10 role and see if he can impress like he did last season against Burnley, which is probably something I’d think about. But given the possibility of Willock wide right, it would make sense to have an established player on the left. What a difference a year makes, eh – Iwobi classed as an established first team player!

As for Reading, they’ll come to the Emirates with the shackles supposedly off, says their captain McShane, and I guess I can understand that. I don’t think it means they’ll look to do anything other than hit us on the break however. Middlesbrough have – annoyingly – provided a blueprint for teams coming to play us and I don’t expect that to be different today. What I do expect, however, is that the rotated players in the Arsenal team will have a point to prove. Lucas, Elneny, Gibbs, the Ox and Gabriel particularly should be looking at this as an opportunity to make the manager think harder about who he selects at the weekend against Sunderland. So what I’m hoping for is the team to be popping the ball around with the confidence of a side that is playing well at the moment, even if it isn’t technically this collective of players. 

A win today helps to keep the momentum building. It doesn’t matter that it’s a competition or a match in which the significance isn’t as high – winning breeds winning – so we need to hope the players can continue that so they can go in to Saturday’s game against the Mackems still on an unbeaten streak.

Up the Arsenal.