The last two months have probably been one of the most challenging runs to go through as a fan in a long, long time. As a player or coach, it will have been two months of sleepless nights, trying to fix the mistakes, find the errors, and reset the form. With each loss, each mistake, and each frustration, pressure has multiplied and tensions have risen.
It doesn’t take a tactical genius to simply say, Arsenal can’t get things right at the moment. From Arteta’s selection, to foolish red cards and own goals, to just about every other aspect that leads to losses, Arsenal are finding ways to lose games. 7 Premier League losses in their last 10 leaves Arsenal with 8 losses on the season — just two behind their total loss tally from last season, just one-third of the way through it.
To say it’s grim times, would be an understatement. So maybe having a match like today is just what Arsenal need. That’s not to say that Arsenal won’t want to win, it’s clear that Arteta is a manager that puts a lot of value in cup competitions, but dropping out in the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup against Manchester City probably doesn’t rank in high on Arsenal’s priority list at the moment.
However, using this game to select a very changed side, test internal solutions to the team’s problems, and distract themselves from the frustrations of Premier League could be very beneficial. An aspect Arteta talked about in his press conference.
“This is what we want to use it for,” said Arteta, “as well it’s a competition we want to try to win. We have two difficult opponents before in Leicester and Liverpool, we managed to beat them both and now we are playing at home and we are one step closer to Wembley. So it is a really nice game to play, as this is the type of game we are looking for through the season.”
The Carabao Cup won’t be enough for anyone to feel content about the state of the club, nor would winning it magically make the season a successful one, but taking advantage of the matches in order to play some youth, some players returning from injury, and those looking for form is a real opportunity. A team making a run in the Carabao Cup yet being relegated? A story the league has heard and one that Arsenal will not wish to add to.
Finding ways to involve youth today is a must. Finding players that can help strike the balance between inexperience and hardworking and experienced but in frustrating form is something Arteta has to be capable of doing.
Arteta talked about his relationship with his assistant managers, saying, “I am very hard on myself, believe me. We have a really open relationship and discussions to evaluate everything that we are doing constantly. What can we change? What can we alter? What’s working? How can we maintain them? How can we give players a lift? How can we be more stable in the club? It’s a lot of things being discussed all the time, not only with them.”
They are great questions to be asking. I mean, they are ones you would hope that would be asking themselves on a daily basis, but at some point, they need to find the answers that lead to success.
Manchester City aside, Pep Guardiola aside, results aside — Arsenal need to focus on themselves today. Hopefully we see a selection that reflects that concentration. There’s nothing huge to play for today, but everything to gain if some of the rotated squad can answer those questions when it comes to the Premier League.
Hopefully as fans we can find a way to enjoy a match with much less pressure or frustration.
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