It’s round 2, and it’s hard to argue it feels as important as Monday’s first round in the Premier League. However, it’s the 4th round of the Carabao Cup, which is an opportunity for Arsenal to progress forward, and continue to have matches within their schedule that allow them to give minutes to those young players that live for this opportunity.
Just last year, Arsenal ran into Liverpool within this exact competition, in this exact round, and you won’t need me to remember the 10-goal, 5-5 thriller that everyone witnessed. The result didn’t pan out in Arsenal’s favor when they lost in penalties, so we can hope for at least one alteration from last year’s affair.
Arsenal have had a few days to lick their wounds and will look to have learned something from their defeat. Not only to take into tomorrow’s matchup back at Anfield, but for the long term project before them. It was Arsenal’s first loss of the season, but one that provided learning opportunities aplenty.
How to handle the press, the importance of maintaining the gameplan, communication work, and faith in themselves to compete for a complete game against one of the world’s best. Arsenal were thoroughly beaten, but baby steps were made, progress was there and some days that is an important aspect to remind yourself of.
But look, there are plenty of days to rehash that. In fact, Sunday morning we can come back and take a look at both Liverpool games as we consider the Premier League matchup with Sheffield United. For now, there is a match to be played and a lineup to consider. Revenge is in the air and I want it oh so badly.
Last time out in the Carabao Cup Arsenal faced Leicester with a pretty rotated side.
Leno; Kolasinac, Luiz, Holding; Saka, Elneny, Willock, Maitland-Niles, Nelson, Nketiah, Pepe
I think it is fair to assume the side could look very similar, bar a few alterations. With Runarsson up and running, tomorrow could very likely be his debut — quite the match and stadium to make it in. Additionally, with Kolasinac linked with a move away to Leverkusen, it would make sense if he is changed. Could this be Gabriel’s day to shine back in the side?
I Imagine Luiz will stay in the mix simply because he plays most fixtures for Arteta when healthy, but curious whether or not this will mark Saliba’s debut — I truly hope so!
In the midfield it would make sense if things were relatively unchanged. Saka was phenomenal, Elneny and Willock got the job done, but with Soares listed as healthy, we could see Maitland-Niles make way.
Up top, Nelson has more than earned his place, Nketiah is likely to retain his spot as Lacazette’s rotation, and I imagine with Willian still leading the way from the right wing, Pepe will get the call in this match.
This leaves us with:
There are a few spots that obviously could change. Saliba has yet to start, so that could be changed. Additionally, if Arteta looked to the weekend as a match that Luiz should be ready for, Holding could flex in centrally.
Ceballos was on the bench on Monday, which could be argued as a reason for him getting the call, but his brilliant 30 minutes have demonstrated to me the fact that he should be a regular piece of Arteta’s plans for priority games. However, it should be noted that Ceballos came into that match for Granit Xhaka. It was a bit of a surprise given the fact that Xhaka rarely is replaced in the middle of matches, and rarely misses time. It’s because of this that we could end up seeing Granit enter the middle of the park to add a bit of experience.
Whether Arteta selects a lineup similar to what is laid out above, or makes a few changes, I think one thing can be assured — Arteta will pick a very strong bench. It seems as though he likes playing rotated sides, but has a need to assure himself by selecting an incredibly strong bench. Versus Leicester City in the third round, his bench consisted of: Bellerin, Willian, Ceballos, Lacazette, Saliba, Xhaka, and Runarsson.
A bench of similar stature would make a lot of sense and be consistent with his past selections.
Matches like this make guess how they will go tough. When the sides get rotated, a few stars have the ability to create fireworks and really open the game up. Look at last year’s as a prime example. A goal every 9 minutes, starting with an own goal from Mustafi in the 6th minute and ending with a late equalizer from Origi in the 90th. That is nearly start to finish goal scoring on a scale few would have predicted.
I don’t believe Arteta will let it get that open. He certainly will want to see his younger players exemplify his tactics and create chances the same way Saka and Nelson did against Leicester, but the idea of having a backline be so poor and open they concede five, sounds like something of Arteta’s nightmares.
While Liverpool’s youth is very impressive, I believe our youth and secondary squad is actually bit stronger. I am going to go with: