Arsenal are in Carabao Cup action tonight, as we face Leicester City at the King Power Stadium later on.
With Liverpool coming up next in the Premier League, it’s an interesting one for Mikel Arteta. If the trip to Anfield were at the weekend, I suspect we’d see a side with no risks taken whatsoever. The fact that it’s Monday night means we have a couple of extra days to recover, so we might see some players involved who normally might sit this out – even if they’re on the bench.
There are players who could use this game to get some match fitness into their legs; there are players who haven’t featured at all this season, or indeed for some time, who will be looking at this game as some kind of signal regarding their own futures. If, for example, Matteo Guendouzi and Mesut Ozil don’t feature in this one, what does it say about their chances of being selected for more important fixtures? What about someone like Nicolas Pepe who hasn’t started in the Premier League yet this season, as Willian has taken his place? A performance which gives Arteta pause for thought in that regard would be good for him and for us.
There are also young players who will chomping at the bit to play and who should be involved as we look to rotate, and potentially a debut for new goalkeeper Alex Runarsson. There are some injuries to contend with. Cedric, who would surely have played otherwise, misses out with a calf injury, while Sokratis, Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe remain sidelined. It’s still too soon for defenders like Calum Chambers, Pablo Mari and Shkodran Mustafi so it could mean a debut for William Saliba.
On the young Frenchman, who featured for the U23s last Friday night, Arteta is again making it clear he’s a player for the future even if he’s been less involved than some people might have expected:
I think William is doing really well, adapting to the country, adapting to our club, and we have to bear in mind that he had a really challenging season last year with the amount of injuries that that he had. He is going to be really important in our future and things sometimes take some time. And we have to respect that.
So, we could see a team like: Runarsson, Maitland-Niles, Saliba, Luiz, Kolasinac, Saka, Elneny, Willock, Pepe, Nelson, Nketiah – but also find room for Ozil, Guendouzi or even Lucas Torreira if Arteta was so inclined. There might even be a place in the squad for one or two from the U23s to make the bench depending on who else is involved and who we’re not inclined to risk.
On the competition itself, it feels less relevant than ever given the hectic nature of the fixture schedule this season. The manager insists he’ll be sending a team out to try and win the game but suggests we’ll take it more seriously if we make progress towards the later stages. He says:
We’re going to take the Carabao Cup seriously, that’s for sure. And, obviously, with the fixtures that we have, the number of games, it is very…