In just over 48 hours we have our second matchday, having only played Villa on Sunday and now the League Cup against Nottingham Forest just two days later. To put that in perspective it’s like playing a Wednesday night Champions League game and then being on the bill for the Friday night football game on Sky in the UK. It’s a bit of a joke really, because it just wouldn’t happen, but I guess the counter argument is that Emery was probably never going to play the first team regardless of the evening in which this League Cup game was going to be featured.
We all know he’s going to rotate and rotate heavily and he even said so himself on the official website yesterday when the team was announced. The good news is that we might get to see both Bellerin and Tierney play a part and if I was to guess I’d think they’ll give both of them a run out in the second half for 20 minutes or so. Stepping up from Friday to Tuesday and starting seems a little much, especially given the step up in competition from Under-23s to the senior team, but 20 minutes allows the players to feel their way back in to the team and it even makes them available for the United clash on Monday, although again, I’d probably suggest that is from the bench.
But the rest of the team will be heavily rotated. It will be another chance for minutes for Martinez and whilst I’d love to say he’ll probably have a quiet evening, this Arsenal team seem to concede chances whoever plays, so I suspect he’ll be called into action a few times tonight. Maybe that’d be good for him; if he wants to stake a claim for ousting Bernd Leno in goal then he needs to show that he can handle all situations and you don’t really get the chance to prove yourself as a ‘keeper if you spend the whole evening standing in your own box watching the play unfold.
In front of him really intrigues me. Mustafi and Holding must surely play, but will they be the centre two? Emery could also play with Chambers as a right back to give him minutes in prep for United away and that seems like a sensible option, but does that put him at risk of injury? Maitland-Niles serves his suspension tonight so I wonder if he does play Chambers with a view to restoring Ainsley on Monday. That would certainly make sense given Maitland-Niles’ pace and the fact he’ll be up against Daniel James, but it’s a thought process for another day. For now it’s about our back four and I think I’ve been able to pick three from that, but left back will be a question mark. If Tierney had more game time under his belt i’d be suggesting starting him with a view to bringing him off after 60 minutes, but it might be a gamble too far, so does he dip into the under-23s and give Tolaji Bola a try? Might be worth it. Would save Kolasinac’s legs too.
In midfield I suspect we’ll get a complete overhaul and I suspect that means Torreira, Willock and maybe we should give Smith-Rowe a shot centrally. Torreira should be sitting deep, Willock as the energy from box-to-box, then Smith-Rowe with the trickery, graft and forward running, operating more like the 10 in the middle. Of course I think Ozil should be getting some minutes in his legs but we all know that Emery doesn’t like the German and so I do wonder if he offers Smith-Rowe that opportunity to impress.
Then, either side of Smith-Rowe (or, on the off-chance, Mesut Ozil), we could see Nelson and I think Emery should give Saka another shot. He did well against Villa but only got 45 minutes and I think he’s deserving of more game time. The other question is whether we play Martinelli out wide but I have a sneaky suspicion that Martinelli will be leading the line tonight. Emery surely can’t play Aubameyang, can he? It would be playing with fire and given he himself has mentioned that we are playing so soon after the game on Sunday, I can’t see it happening. He could play Pepe but the Ivorian played the full 90 too on Sunday, so for me it will be one of Martinelli, maybe Nelson, perhaps even Tyrese John-Jules, given that he’s been bagging goals at Under-23 level this season. Heck, that works for me, just as long as we rest our main man with the goals right now.
As for Nottingham Forest, they’ve switched between a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-1-4-1 formation this season and I suspect we’ll get the latter tonight. They beat Barnsley at home on Saturday and have built a pretty decent undefeated run so far, picking up six wins and three draws in all competitions. They’ve also turned over Fulham and Swansea, with Swansea currently sitting second, so they’ll feel they have nothing to lose tonight.
Sadly we won’t be seeing the return of ‘The Corporal’ as he’s injured but hopefully we will see him in the stands or something like that. It would be good to get him waving to fellow gooners at some stage, but when focus returns to the pitch we need to see some of these reserves show they are ready to give Unai a selection headache. I’m hoping that in defence that is certainly the case because the way it is now we want those central defenders to be giving him a proper decision to make. We are woeful with Sokratis and LUiz at the back so let’s have Chambers, Holding, hey – even Mustafi, giving those two a run for their money.
It’s not on TV tonight but I’m sure there’ll be a stream to watch, so let’s hope that Arsenal can do the business and see us in to the next round.