Howdy peeps and welcome to what I like to call the “low risk match day”. It’s a game this evening at home to Leeds United in which Arsenal we hope will of course win, but with it being in the League Cup, the stakes don’t feel as high, so as a result if we end up being knocked out to the The Whites then it isn’t the end of the world.

Of course I am hoping we pummel what could be a very rotated Leeds side, who play Norwich at the weekend and having already picked up a number of injuries, I’ll be surprised if Bielsa drops in his first team for the game. They are missing Bamford, Ayling, Kalvin Phillips is rated as only 50/50 to be fit having missed two games, Koch is out and so is Junior Firpo. Raphinha hobbled off at the weekend although they’ve played down it as anything more than just a ‘knock’ and with that in mind I’d be surprised if most of those players start. So I expect we’ll see a rotated Leeds side and that will no doubt be matched by Arteta this evening.

I’ve seen a few speculate that he could play a strong side tonight to get the win and progress us to the next round and with a full three days of training and rest before we play Leicester on Saturday lunchtime it is certainly an option, but given that BIelsa will likely rotate, this feels like an ideal opportunity to get minutes in to some legs that won’t have played very often. For me that is important because even though we have less games this season, there are still plenty of opportunities for players to get injured and if that happens you don’t want a player coming in their place who has barely played and needs three to four games just to get up to match fitness and form. So matches like tonight must be used – in my opinion – as an opportunity to give some of those fringe players the chance to get on the Emirates turf, play some competitive football and keep that ‘feel’ of the game in their system.

So for me it’s all about rotation and with in mind I would go for Leno in goal, right back of Chambers (because he’s closer to Tomiyasu in style than Cedric, who is also a worse footballer anyway), left back of Tavares (assuming Tierney might be fit to come in at the weekend, but also because Nuno needs to continue his good form and hasn’t played as much), centre halves of Mari and Holding. I’d have Maitland-Niles and Elneny sitting in front of them and then it becomes more interesting to see what Arteta does. Does he want to keep the same style as Friday night and play with two wide players that can drift, with two up top? If he did then you could argue that there is opportunity for a number of players. Perhaps he plays Nketiah in the Auba role, asks Balogun to drop in to the Lacazette role, then has Pepe wide right and Martinelli wide left? Martinelli has done well in the past wide left and I thought he was good against AFC Wimbledon in the previous round, so I’d be tempted to do that. It would also give us the opportunity to provide minutes to all of those younger attacking players who haven’t quite managed to get enough minutes this season.

Of course the big question is how much of a difference it would make with Balogun in that Lacazette role. Lacazette was the connector, he would drop deeper and shift the ball as the man linking the midfield and wide-forward positions, whilst still getting in to the box. Balogun can do the box work but have we seen enough of him to be a good link man? Possibly not. But I think this is about giving him minutes and if he’s detailed to stay relatively close to Eddie, to provide options in the box and to impress at a time in which he hasn’t played much football, I don’t see why it’s worth a go.

That team I just mentioned is almost entirely rotated, but it is not lacking in experience. Leno, Chambers, Mari, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Pepe, Nketiah – all have played a raft of games for The Arsenal and so it’s not like we’d be chucking a load of kids to the proverbial slaughter. Get that formation set, play the same approach as Villa, but with players who are told to prove they deserve a place in the matchday squad.

Arteta goes in to this game full of confidence and I hope he can transmit that confidence to some of the rotated players. I’ve seen the transcript of the press conference yesterday and he talked about a ‘click’ with Aubameyang, with Lacazette, how they are taking on responsibility but also how the players are feeding from the fans support, which is all having a positive knock on effect for the young team too. It was a very positive press conference – which you’d expect after the comprehensive win on Friday – and the mood at London Colney appears to be quite buoyant if you look at it from what Arteta has been saying. We need to maintain that momentum and feelgood factor though and so whilst tonight’s game is ‘low risk’ as I say at the top of today’s blog, winning transmits across the group and if he can play the fringe players tonight and they deliver a performance that gets us in to the next round, then London Colney will be an even more enjoyable place for the players tomorrow when they all check in for training. Imagine how they’ll all be feeling as they do training together on Thursday and Friday if you’ve got the first team still feeling good from the impressive display against Villa, then the rotated players also feeling good because they beat a Premier League outfit in Leeds United.

Hopefully the good vibes and positive feeling can continue tonight and we get in to that fifth round draw.

Catch you all tomorrow.