So it appears as though our reward for a comprehensive victory over Nottingham Forest is an away trip to Anfield for the fourth round of the League Cup in October. After the scousers youth team overcame MK Dons we were drawn against them and, weirdly, I’m kind of glad we are. Not because I think we’ll beat Liverpool – far from it in fact – but because it will provide us with an opportunity to see whether those young Arsenal players can step up in a more difficult environment, with better players, as the underdogs.
It will be a good test and we should be pleased that we have a chance to see what some of them are made of. And besides, let’s be honest, with City and Liverpool in the competition it was always going to be tough to win it anyway. I saw one person describe it as The Manchester City cup and given their squad its hard to disagree.
Elsewhere in the competition Man United drew against Rotherham and then went through on penalties and I’m sure I saw a stat which said that United haven’t scored an open play goal in the first half this season. I’ve also heard noises about how poor Lingard has been and how United are missing Rashford and potentially Martial next Monday. Their squad is ravaged and looking like it’s totally out of form.
But we all know Arsenal are coming to town and so I’m looking forward to seeing Lingard get his usual goal against us, Martial and Mason-effing-Greenwood bag goals and for the latter to ‘come of age’, followed by our usual defeat at Old Trafford.
It’s almost become embarrassing. I don’t think there’s another team that has gone to Old Trafford as many times as us in the league and not at least won once. But we’ve all got a little more used to it now so I suppose we just have to suck it up and take it when it comes.
That is of course unless Unai Emery has a master plan. Or unless he changes something from the last few league games, because it hasn’t really been working, has it? Perhaps that’s a personnel thing and I can understand why some fans are calling for changes after the midweek rout that we inflicted on Forest. But as we all know Forest at home and United away are two different animals entirely. In an away game, a big game, a game in which the pressure is on a little more, the manager might opt for experience and I suspect that means returns for many of the senior players.
Where I think he could consider a change or two is at the back. We’ve been leaking goals as it is so to bring in the in-form Chambers and perhaps someone like Kieran Tierney, might work well against United, so I wonder if he’s tempted. Certainly after Tierney showed just how full of running he is against Forest. There’s also almost a full week of training that he can do before the game itself so it gives us another opportunity to get his engine up, running and purring for the trip to the North West.
I suspect it’ll be tomorrow when he gives his press conference and the hope from us fans is that we hear him talk about how impressed he was with the young players, how some of them have forced him in to rethinking the starting XI, how some are ‘knocking on the door’. Whether that happens in Manchester would remain to be seen, but it would send a message to those that have been playing regularly in the league:
Play well or don’t play.
And that’s what we all want as fans. We want there to be repercussions for poor performances. We want there to be a meritocracy in place. It drives players on more and ensures they are kept on their toes, always motivated to improve.
I don’t think Emery is delivering that at the moment though. The persistence in Xhaka, the hauling off of Özil for Ceballos on Tuesday, these sort of things tell us that the manager is just like many others: he has his favourites and if you’re in the “in” crowd then you get a bit more of a pass. The best example of that is the different treatment of Özil and Xhaka. Both have had poor spells but Özil was hooked very early last season. Xhaka is going through one now but I don’t believe anyone thinks he won’t be picked on Monday night.
For all of the words of Emery, there appears to be little substance when it comes to this idea of meritocracy, not from where I’m standing.
But hey, I’m not going to jump on this hipster bandwagon and start calling for his head, because frankly it’s just not needed this early in to the season. We just need this Arsenal team to feel like it’s clicking. And we need to feel like Emery has found that solution to ensure it does.
Catch you all tomorrow.