No time to talk about nonsense rumours like Aubameyang to Man City, or Willian finally being booted out, because it’s match day! Whoop!
And in recent year’s, even though we haven’t exactly smashed teams in the League Cup, I do tend to like the build up to them I must admit.
I think it’s because in my mind there is less pressure (“it’s only the League Cup”), there is usually rotation, so these matches can always be put in some kind of box to be looked at in isolation and whatever the result we can say that in the grand scheme of things it isn’t the worst thing in the world.
It’s a trip to West Bromwich for myself and Giles this evening and because it’s a school night, I’ll be driving, so it’ll be strange for me not to watch this Arsenal team through the haze of a lager-infused pre-match build up. I’ll probably end up trying to absolutely over-analyse everything. I don’t know if that will be a good thing or not. Perhaps you can judge for yourself tomorrow.
The match itself represents the first opportunity – and probably only opportunity – for us to actually score some goals and potentially win in August. We’ve suffered the ignominy of defeat to Brentford, Chelski, will undoubtedly lose against City this weekend, but tonight is a genuine opportunity for some much needed confidence boost against the Baggies, who ironically enough are only three places below us if you put both Premier League and Championship together. They’ve played four, won three, drawn one and will go in to tonight’s game with the benefit of being on a winning streak. Their fans will see this as the first really ‘big’ game and so I think it’ll be quite a spicy atmosphere tonight, unless of course they are writing off this league and go rotation.
I’m not sure if they will though go full strength though. Their manager Valérien Ismaël has said that it will be an opportunity to give some minutes to players who haven’t played that much, so whether or not that means he goes full rotation or not I don’t know. It could be a bluff on his part but after the start they’ve made to their league campaign and the fact that they need to keep people as fresh for as long as possible in what is always a long ol’ slog of a season in The Championship, remains to be seen.
If they mass rotate, then the hope is that we can bag some goals, because some of the noises I’ve heard are that Arteta won’t be. For us we have a lot less games this season and so a game like tonight – rather than rest a load of players – could even be used to try to build up some fitness in to the legs. For example, Saka is still getting back up to fitness so would another 90 minutes be good for him? He’s of an age where recovery time wouldn’t be a problem so I’d be tempted.
The same goes for Lacazette. Why not give him some minutes? Or share with Auba and give Auba a half even, to make sure he’s good for Saturday’s game against City?
I hope we go with some element of rotation though. It’s always good to see some of the younger players. So for example why not go with this line up:
Maitland-Niles – Holding – Chambers – Tavares
Elneny – Azeez
Nelson – Odegaard – Saka
You could give Laca some minutes shared with Auba, you could give Odegaard his debut and get him back in to the team in a game where he might see some more of the ball, too. Nelson needs minutes, although perhaps you could swap Martinelli for him and play Martinelli wide left and Saka wide right, with the trio providing legs and running power behind the Gabonese or the Frenchman. In midefield we’ve all seen Azeez’s new hulked up figure, so let’s have a look at him and if you’re going with a side like this then you are surrounding the youngster with a wealth of experience and so it could give him an opportunity to shine.
Of course what Arteta could do is give Balogun a shot up top and I wouldn’t be against that either, especially if the return of Auba and Laca results in him seeing his game time drastically reduced. So maybe I’ve talked myself out of a Laca/Auba start and maybe you just have one on the bench with Flo getting an hour to see how he gets on. He’s been getting minutes and Arteta will have probably said he’d get plenty in the start of the season when he signed his new deal, so you’d expect that to be the League Cup. So it wouldn’t surprise me, or annoy me, to see Balogun get some game time this evening.
We probably do need a win tonight to at least give us some semblance of belief that our season is up and running. It has felt like this weird purgatory so far; we’ve officially started the season, but with the injuries, COVID, plus the tough first two of three games, we’re in this weird limbo. Goals and a win tonight will at least give us something to cheer at a time in which it doesn’t feel like there’s that much cheering to be done.
If West Brom do indeed ‘play the kids’ then there can be absolutely no excuses, whoever plays in red and white (assuming we are in fact doing that) in not getting the win. If Arteta’s side lose this, then lose on Saturday, even more fans who were waning in their support for him will start to turn. We are not in Europe this season and so we have one less trophy to go for than normal. We can win a maximum of three and realistically two, because we aren’t getting anywhere near the League Title any time soon. The FA Cup even feels like a stretch so Arteta probably needs this tonight more than the West Brom boss does.
Pressures is on, time for his team to step up.
Let’s hope they do.
Catch you all tomorrow.