Fall Where They May? Is it ‘Just the League Cup’ or is it Another Round in the Fight for Who Reigns Supreme in North London?
What Will Wenger Do? What would you do?
The answers to these questions, most likely, lie in the eye of the beholder. Arsene Wenger is the guy who will answer them, so what does he see?
First off, there are some exigencies which must be acknowledged. We’ve lost two in a row and losing a 3rd–to Tottenham–even if there is another opportunity to get back to winning form in just a few short days, would lead to a very uncomfortable Thursday and Friday, sort of the exact opposite of that Thanksgiving Day holiday we have over here in the States every November. On the other hand, if we can take a bite out of the bird–that silly blue cock standing on a ball–we’d have a lovely respite from these troubled times.
Moreover, between our actions in the transfer window, injuries, and now due to red cards handed out by Mike Dean, a referee said to have ‘danced’ when Tottenham scored a goal against us (he didn’t, I don’t think), Wenger doesn’t actually have too many choices. I believe we can rest and rotate, but maybe only just a bit.
‘Actions in the transfer window???’ a certain segment of Gooners must be asking. Don’t you mean ‘inaction?!?’
Well, yes, there was inaction in terms of buying outfield players for the first team, but I’m also talking about loans. Promising young guns who might have played in the Capital One Cup matches are off on loan. Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden, Gedion Zelalem, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Serge Gnabry, Wellington Silva, Jon Toral, Dan Crowley, Emiliano Martinez…the list goes on and on. Have I forgotten anybody? Of course I have: Wojciech Szczesny, Carl Jenkinson and Yaya Sanogo are all still Arsenal players even if they’re playing their football elsewhere these days.
Then there are the injured. Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshere and Danny Welbeck are all recovering from surgery, while Francis Coquelin was subbed at halftime at Stamford Bridge after hyper-extending his knee earlier in the match. His knee appears swollen, according to the manager, but there is no evidence he will be a long term absentee.
Finally, Santi Cazorla will have to sit the Derby out due to the two yellow cards flashed at him by Dean at Stamford Bridge. On the other hand, a measure of justice has come our way with Gabriel Paulista’s red card having been overturned by the Football association on appeal.
Can Wenger cobble together a solid 11 and some subs who might make an impact? Let’s also remember that this match is the 4th of 7 in just 22 days! Some players might benefit from a night off. We travel (again) to play Leicester City, currently sitting above us in the Premier League table–and getting an extra day of rest as their CapOne Cup match (also at their home stadium) was on Tuesday night–a mere 65 hours (or less) after this one concludes. At least they had to go to extra time to beat West Ham.
Despite all the boys out on loan we do still have a reserve team and some of them might get a chance to run with the first team. Unfortunately the player from that group who impressed the most in pre-season, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, is out with a long-term injury. That means the most likely youngsters who might feature are Alex Iwobi (who scored a very nice goal in the Emirates Cup) and Glen Kamara. Yassin Fortune, who came from Lens with JRA, might be another shout. Anybody else? I don’t follow the reserve teams closely. Are there any other young guns who might be ready to make the step up?
Of course, Arsenal have a slew of veteran players who could also use some game time. Mathieu Debuchy and Kieran Gibbs featured at fullback in the loss at Dinamo Zagreb a week ago as did goalkeeper David Ospina and deep-lying midfielder and team Captain, Mikel Arteta. Mathieu Flamini, who was not allowed a move to Galatasaray of Istanbul, has yet to play a minute of first team football. Per Mertesacker, who has been sidelined with a chest virus, hasn’t played in over a month. Could the BFG finally be ready to come back in? Calum Chambers did reasonably well as a half-time sub at Chelsea. Might he get a run?
Further forward, Joel Campbell, another who looked close to leaving the club in the transfer window, could get a call. Still, some of our regulars will have to play. Who will it be? With Santi serving a ban, Aaron Ramsey might move into a central midfield spot. Who will round out the attack? Surely at least a couple of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud have to feature. Perhaps Wenger will go all out for the victory and start ALL of them.
That seems unlikely. Here’s my best guess at the group I think will start:
Bench: Macey, Monreal, Gabriel, Flamini, Iwobi, Campbell, Walcott
That line-up would be 8 changes from that which played at Chelsea, which seems a bit much, even if some of them are enforced. What say you, fellow Gooners? How would you play it, and thus, who would you have play it? To me, this match–drawing our hated rival at their ground in the midst of this run of tough matches and even tougher results–is exactly what the Doctor–if he were a responsible physician–would NOT have ordered. So it goes, however, and play we must.
Since it must be played, why shouldn’t we win it? As we all know–by sheer dint of us being Arsenal and them being Spurs–no matter who we play we’ll have the advantage in quality. So, let’s go for it and get the victory. Anybody remember the last time we drew them at this stage of this competition? That was back in 2010 and we won 4-1 on goals from Henri Lansbury, Samir Nasri (two) and Andrey Arshavin. A similar scoreline or otherwise netting a few goals would be a nice tonic given how tough they’ve been to come by thus far this season.
Go on then…